By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Palomo came up with the band concept and name and the skeleton of the song on his own. "Grey taught me some stuff, working with software," he says. "Then I went to Mexico for a few weeks, and when I got back I had this project with me. While I was out there sort of working on my laptop, I came up with Ghosthustler, came up with the name, and then we collaborated over the course of a couple of months."
Palomo says the creation of a tune like "Parking Lot Nights" is a sort of futuristic enterprise. "Jamming in a band, there's this sort of ubiquitous element of everybody working on it at the same time; it's like trial and error," he says. "With the laptop stuff it's just one person at a time: you sit down, you belt out some stuff on a MIDI controller, you tweak the synth a little bit, and then when your ears are kind of dead, the next person sits down and they work on it."
And tweak it they did, until it flowered into a zingy piece of retro-electro-disco pop.
Ah, but we can't talk about the song without talking about the video too. What's so amazing about "Parking Lot Nights" is that most people first heard it while simultaneously watching the video, so there's no separation between the visual and the sonic. They are tightly interwoven, and as such, neither can be taken on its own.
The video, directed by a guy named Pete Ohs, opens with a shot of a staticky, crappy TV from the '80s/early '90s; an old Nintendo sits atop it, with one controller hanging down, as if someone had finished playing and was too lazy to put it up. The TV's fuzz quick-cuts to images of young hipsters being punched in the face by a hand encased in some sort of futuristic glove in time with the 1...1, 2, 3 electronic bass drum beat, which in turn is cut with the thick, jagged initial synth riff. A natural response to the beat might be, Is this disco? (The answer is, yes, partially. But we'll get to that in a minute.) An equal possibility: Is this synth pop? (Again, yes. We'll get to that too.)
The TV bit cuts quickly to a scene from the point of view of someone driving a car. One hand, still wearing the white glove, is on the wheel. We do not see the driver. The glove is creamy white with buttons on it that are futuristic in the way people in the '80s thought the future would look—you know, technology that appeared streamlined and slick to folks back then, but to us appears clunky and awkward. It's sort of a cross between a motorcycle glove and an NES. Oh, you realize, it's a Nintendo Power Glove.
As the car zips through generic city streets, the glove-hand banging away on the steering wheel to the beat, we cut back to the TV screen, filled this time with Palomo and keyboardist Gideon, who wields a small portable keytar. Palomo is gorgeous. With his dark curly pile of hair and exotic eyes, he resembles a hybrid of Entourage's Adrian Grenier and Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti. Gideon stays more in the background, head down, his short brown beard framing his chin. It is a simple image, really, just Palomo lip-synching, "Your mind shakes and your body aches," in a simple, scratchy melody, inter-stitched with more glove-hand/driving cuts.
Then the music changes, so of course the visuals do too. The song shifts into a bouncy breakdown as the car pulls up into a parking lot, where a handful of youngsters mill about. The rubbery bass line bounces like a warped basketball, the lighter accent notes cascading on top as the glove continues its punching rampage. Then there's the breakdancer, who is given time to pop and lock before...getting punched in the face.
It goes like that for a bit: band, parking lot, punching, driving, band, culminating in another breakdown, this one replete with handclaps, until the parking lot denizens are zapped by the glove's laser beams. Then we see the last image on the TV screen...and the glove-hand, holding a remote aloft and clicking off the TV.
Influential local blogs Gorilla vs. Bear and WeShotJR caught wind of the song, as did the even more influential national blog Pitchforkmedia. Buzz branched off from there, the infinite octopus arms of the Internet reaching music-savvy Web surfers, bloggers and MySpace addicts, until suddenly it seemed everyone with a mouse and some bandwidth was posting it.
The quickly generated local lore surrounding the song has spawned some confusion as to exactly how Pitchfork got wind of the tune. "The thing that very few people know is the Pitchfork thing happened before Gorilla vs. Bear, and right after WeShotJR had barely mentioned us," Palomo explains. "But I'm pretty sure it was one of the forums I had posted 'Parking Lot Nights' to, where Jessica Suarez—she writes [Pitchforkmedia section] Forkcast—she just happened to be browsing through and contacted us via MySpace. That was before really any of the buzz happened, so a lot of people think it was Gorilla vs. Bear, but it's kinda the other way around."