Over the past few years the Neon Trees have quickly turned into one of the more popular bands in America. Their diverse sound has made them beloved by fans of all genre of music. On July 12, Neon Trees came to Philadelphia to play one of the Radio 104.5 Free Summer Block Parties , and the Gleaner’s own Mitch Larson had the opportunity to talk with Tyler Glenn, the band’s front man. They talked about everything from the band’s religion, to Glenn’s sexuality, and of course the music of the Neon Trees!
1.) Neon Trees have a pretty diverse sound that is very accessible. Your music gets played on all of the local pop stations, the alternative stations, and the contemporary stations. What does it mean to you to have music that is so wildly popular, where pretty much anyone can listen and enjoy it?
It’s exactly what we hoped. I loathe having to be stuck in a box or a genre or a format. It’s worse when people care so much that it distracts from them enjoying the song or the show for what it is. Im happy to have achieved some sort of level of success in universally appealing to people. But there’s plenty of people that love us, or even know us, and that excites me too.
2.) All four of you are members of the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-day Saints. How does your faith impact or translate into your music? As well as your life on the road?
I think it impacts our touring lifestyle more than the music. While some of the songs content dips into sexuality, I don’t think it’s ever seamy. Mormons have sex too. There’s songs about hope and questioning identity and existence. Those songs are linked to my attempts at finding balance between my faith and my humanity.
3.) Back in April you publicly came out as gay in an issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. How much does it mean to you to be able to be a role model for the gay community?
It’s meaning more and more. It’s really profound when fans have told me their stories. Gay or straight, I think that people have found a connection to my coming out because I’ve been honest about my search for acceptance and identity whole maintaining my connection to spirituality.
4.) Shifting the focus back to the musical aspect, your latest album, Pop Psychology, has been a big success both critically and commercially, what were your biggest influences while writing and recording the record?
My friends are my muses, so a bunch of the songs we’re about our realities of being 30 and not in love and grappling with the addition of technology into our love lives and communication. Also my therapist helped me a lot, and I wrote songs about my identity, and finding and accepting that identity this past year. A few of the songs we’re also about sexuality, and true experiences of mine regarding that.
5.) What do you find is the hardest part of writing, recording, and putting together a record?
Long hours in a studio can be hard, but this was my favorite experience recording.
6.) The song “Sleeping with a Friend” in particular has been a pretty huge hit, what was the inspiration behind the song?
A friend that turned into a fling that turned into a loss. I had to keep that story private for a while, but songs let you tell stories you couldn’t always plainly say in a conversation. So this song let me tell this story. It’s now a cautionary tale wrapped in a dance soul pop song.
7.) When you were writing songs like “Everybody Talks” or “Sleeping with a Friend,” did you have a feeling that they would go on to be massive hits? Or is it something that happened organically, after the entire album was completed?
I think all of our songs feel big because we design them that way on purpose. I never know if they will be huge radio songs, but I do live the way they sound when they are being played over the airways. Animal was unexpected soley because we didn’t know what having a radio hit meant.
8.) Do you have a favorite city to perform live in?
Milwaukee is pretty wonderful without fail. We don’t know why it’s such a great city for us but it’s always great.
9.) Do you have a favorite song to play live?
Living in Another World, First Things First are some if the newer songs that feel really great live
10.) This is your 2nd time playing in a Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party, is there anything different about playing the show for a 2nd time?
I think it’s an entirely different show because of the location change and our new set, so it’s very new to us even though we played the event. One thing I notice about Free shows is the surprising amount of energy. You’d think it’d be the opposite but free show audiences seem somewhat more grateful and excited that they get a night out being entertained. At least that’s our experience.
12.) You seem to turn out music pretty fast- are you always constantly writing and prepping new material while you’re on the road?
I’m a writer because I love it, so yes I’m constantly writing songs.
13.) What’s next for Neon Trees?
The Pop Psychology tour wraps for the summer at the end of July, and we go over to the UK and Europe to release the record over there and play. Expect a Fall run of the tour in new cities in the US announced soon.