Nov 14, 2023
Neon Rayon’s music is full of infectious grooves, electrifying synths, and heavy danceable beats.
We’ve all been there: We hear a band and we’re instantly hooked. It does happen, and in the vast and ever-growing world of music, certain bands emerge to capture our attention and resonate with our energy in a way that touches our soul. That band for me right now is the indie outfit Neon Rayon out of New Jersey. With infectious grooves, electrifying synths, and heavy danceable beats, Neon Rayon redefines what it means to be a modern-day electronic rock band.
Formed in 2022 around the iconic Asbury Park area of New Jersey, members J. Nixon (bass and vocals), Alex Holland (guitar and vocals), and Bob Paulos (the big ship commander, aka the electronics guru) round out a visionary group of musicians who are seamlessly combining genres in ways that are innovative and enchanting. With releases “CHiPs” and "IM:Sb" the band crafted well-written, tightly produced blends that compel you to listen on repeat so that each time, you can discover something new about what you’re hearing.
Neon Rayon reminds me of early Ministry meets Front 242 meets A Split Second. Their music showcases creativity and originality in an industry full of musicians looking to gain recognition. And thanks to my dear friend and superstar photographer Jeff Crespi, their tunes are now included as part of my own personal playlist.
I reached out to Neon Rayon and was able to chat with J. Nixon and Alex about their beginnings, influences, and challenges so far. Here’s what they had to say.
MaM: Thank you, guys, for speaking with me today. Tell us a little about your beginnings and more about the band in general.
JN: [Well,] in 2022, Alex, Bob, myself, and our friend, Matt, got together to do a Halloween set [as a cover band] of Jay Reatard stuff. [As you may or may not know], he passed away a few years ago, and he left behind a couple of great records, and we wanted to do those songs [live]. We got together to do three shows. [It was] a house show, and then two club shows. It went well, and so we decided to make a real band. Bob and I got together for practice and Matt couldn’t make it, and he was the drummer, so we decided to try out a drum machine and then it just came together very naturally after that.
MaM: How did you choose your band name?
AH: I had been kicking around with a solo project before the band, and I just thought of it in terms of a name of something and I’m really into fashion. I noticed the tags of many of the shirts I was wearing always said, “Made of Rayon,” so I had this idea for the name Naked Raygun and then I had the idea of putting the two words Neon Rayon together, so it just means colorful fabric. But I felt the two words together sort of make up this space-age kind of queer-type thing. I held onto it and then when we didn’t have a name, I asked the guys if they wanted to use this name I had been thinking of, and they agreed.
MaM: How did you all get your start in music?
AH: I knew J. because we played in a couple of bands together, but I got my start in New Brunswick, which is basically the basement show scene. I started playing in bands in that area but then moved over to hanging and playing in Asbury as well.
JN: I started playing when I was 14 or 15 years old. Anything I could get my hands on really. A little Casio keyboard or a guitar or a drum pad or anything but then settled on bass because everyone needs a bass player (laughs) and I liked it. I played in some ska bands out in California in the Orange County area as a kid, and then I moved here as a late teenager and started doing a bunch of really basement bands (laughs). I mean, we never really put out recordings or anything, and then the first real one was a band called Hunchback and we were on Don Giovanni Records. I started doing all kinds of musical projects, honestly, anything I could get my hands on, and then now, this, which is my favorite right now.
MaM: … and it’s freakin’ incredible! How would you describe Neon Rayon’s musical style?
JN: I would say it’s electronic dance with a punk infusion. Basically, it’s just music we want people to move to. I would say it’s electroclash. We’re really inspired by bands like Suicide, Peaches, The Faint, and Le Tigre. We’re all big Le Tigre fans.
MaM: That is incredible! I wish I could catch them live. So, what I got from your music was catchy industrial pop with a rock vibe.
JN: My feeling and approach with it were always to do something that is punk that people would dance to but pretty much keep it basic. I mean, we do get a little complicated with some of the programming, but I don’t want to be a prog band, you know? (laughs) Catchy and still edgy, I guess.
MaM: What is the story behind the title of your latest single, “IM:Sb”?
JN: Oh, it’s not really that interesting, but go ahead. (laughs) Alex?
AH: All of our songs are very collaborative, and Bob would start with a drum beat or a sample to kind of build it from there. There would be times where we’d be like, ‘What are we gonna call this one?’, so we [said], ‘Let’s call this one, ‘Sexbot’’. So, when we were writing it, I started calling it ‘Inside Me’, but Bob and J. would call it different things, so we were calling it [both] ‘Sexbot’ and ‘Inside Me’, and we decided to just do both. We’ve had this idea for a while where we wanted to just do acronyms for the titles. Eventually, it became ‘IM:Sb’.
JN: Honestly, I think it came from having to have a file name to save on the equipment that Bob is working with.
MaM: Who do you cite as your biggest influences and why?
AH: I think for me it’s just this sort of a revolving door, but at this moment, Suicide and Alan Vega because when we started the band, we were going to have a drummer with a drum machine on the side and I was inspired by bands that didn’t have a template of drums, bass, guitar, vocals. Like kind of going past that. For me, three big bands: Suicide, Big Black, and Alan Vega’s solo stuff.
JN: For me, Big Black and Devo, who is my absolute all-time favorite band.
MaM: Really? I love Devo! Do you guys like Kraftwerk?
JN: Oh, for sure. We were just Kraftwerk for Halloween.
AH: I would also like to say that another influence for us is a lot of Chicago house music from the late 70s/early 80s. What is so inspiring about that is that J. comes from the world of punk where you just pick up guitars and go. I was researching house and dance music and that’s how they started, too—by getting different machines to make their beats—and that was so inspiring because it doesn’t matter about your technical prowess. Just go and make music that you’re just happy with.
MaM: How do the lyrics come about for your songs? What inspires that?
JN: Oh, this is all Alex.
AH: It has been an interesting process because, for me, it has always been a bit introspective. The melody is the most important thing, or the rhythm, and then the words will come through that. If I’m feeling crappy, the lyrics write themselves. Introspective, though. And I want people to connect with them if they feel similarly. Self-expression of what you feel. If people can sing to it, then that’s cool, but I’m hoping they can feel a connection to it.
MaM: What would you say sets your music apart from others in the genre?
AH: We blow out speaker systems.
JN: We have done that!
MaM: There ya go!
AH: It’s funny because I think what sets us apart is our energy, but I do think our instrumentation … [and] the fact that we are a punk band, but we do have these synthesizers and we do have this drum machine. We sort of just make our way and make our sound to do that. Bands are like a penny a dozen. We always want to give a great show to the audience, and we hope that people love the material. We are just a loud band.
MaM: So, what’s next and where do you see yourself headed in the future?
JN: We’re finishing up an EP that will have five songs and we’re in discussion with a label to put it out digitally, but we’ll have it released by Winter or Spring. After that, we’ll begin work on our full-length [album].
AH: Yeah, and then we were talking about essentially doing more shows and cultivating a scene to check it out.
Neon Rayon’s music serves as a reminder that true artistry lies in the ability to push boundaries, experiment fearlessly, and connect deeply with one’s audience. I feel we’ll be hearing much more from Neon Rayon in the future, so stay tuned.
*Many thanks to Jeff Crespi for the photos!
Nicole Brice loves music. Plain and simple. Do you have something you think she’d love? E-mail us at email@example.com.