Neon Trees Interview
After commercial breakthrough with their hit single “Animal” off of their first album Habits, Neon Trees continues to induce their new wave sound onto everything they produce. Based in Provo, Utah, they started playing in 2005 and waited three years before The Killers’ drummer saw their performance in a Las Vegas club. This resulted in Neon Trees opening for The Killers on tour and being discovered by Mercury records. They will be performing at the Gothic Theatre in Denver on June 15th. Neon Trees drummer, Elaine Bradley, took some time before they started the tour to talk about the band and her new pregnancy.
This is your second child to have while being on tour?
Well this is my third child and second pregnancy. I had my first in 2012 and then we adopted a baby girl who was born last year. Then this one is due in early September. So we’re just packing on the children.
Does being pregnant affect your role in the band while on tour?
Not really. Other than maybe having to take a pee break in the middle of the show. Basically what it does is it makes my job slightly less comfortable than it normally is. It’s not the ideal physical state to be doing this in. But it’s not like a real detriment. At least it hasn’t been thus far so I hope that will continue for the whole two months of tour until I get home. Then it can get as uncomfortable as it wants.
You decided to do a more intimate tour by going around and playing smaller venues. What was the thinking behind that?
We got to talking about it and one major thing was that we just missed being in front of our fans. Like we have a really special type of fan. It’s not just one type of person. But the way that they are and the type of energy exchange that happens between us and them at our shows is just really special. And so when we were talking about our plans for the year, we were kind of like, “You know, we would really like to just do a tour. Not a huge long tour. Not a gigantic tour. Just a tour to get back and play for people. And for people to have that experience and give that experience.” I think that was the main motivation for wanting to do it. We miss them. We miss seeing people and having people sing along. We love it. We love playing live.
You just released a music video for your new single “Songs I Can’t Listen To.” Is that a preview to a new album or just a single all on its own?
It’s a single all on its own right now. (Laughs) It’s one of those things where we felt like going on tour and we felt like writing one. So we did. And we kind of didn’t think too much about what that means or what it should mean or what’s going to happen beyond that. We kind of just said, “Oh, this is what we want to do right now. So this is what we’re going to do.” And it’s nice to be in that position and say, “Okay well we feel like this song is good and we’re releasing it.” We’re happy that our label let us do it. And we’re happy for people responding pretty well to it so far. We’ll see about what’s next when it happens.
How does the song writing process work for Neon Trees?
Most of the time it’s Tyler with his lyrics and melodies. He’s just our real neck for the songwriting craft. And he’s just gotten better and better. So he’ll bring us an idea and we’ll get to put our spin on it and make it a Neon Trees song. But most of the time it’s definitely Tyler. It’s kind of integral to the Neon Trees’ sound and we are all happy to play our rolls in that sound. I think we came up with a song and finished it in a way that we’re all very proud of and very happy with it.
I know there was a lot of news with this last year when it was announced, but how has Tyler coming out affected the band and Neon Trees’ music in general?
I don’t know if it’s affected us too much just because, frankly, his sexuality I don’t think has ever really mattered to us. Straight or gay. Like as far as the band it hasn’t really done anything. But I think songwriting-wise it has allowed him to be a little more honest. I think that was his whole intent to him coming out because he was starting to write these songs about personal experiences. And although lyrically they may be applicable to gay, straight, male, female or whatever, they were about very specific things in his life. And I think he just wanted to be honest fully and not partially. So, yeah, I think it just allows him to have a more honest platform as a songwriter and a lyricist. I think it’s been a really good thing.
How does having a religious background, for all the band members, guide Neon Trees’ career or lifestyles a musicians?
Well I definitely think that really early on it played a role in how we set up the band. We decided that no matter what kind of page that we are on personally or what we’re doing in our personal lives, which is really only our business as long as it doesn’t affect Neon Trees… What we were going to do on the road was be a sober band. We’re going to not drink or do drugs or whatever. I think that, honestly, although it probably spawned from our religious background, was really the smartest business decision we have ever made. Just because there is such a clarity in that and such a safety in that. We’ve seen far too many people just get swallowed up in that type of lifestyle. And we pride ourselves in working really hard. Often times we would get up at four in the morning to do some ridiculous morning promo and then have a late show and marvel at each other. I don’t know how bands do this type of thing AND get wasted all the time. It’s hard enough. I definitely think that our religion probably shaped that but it ended up just being a really wise thing to do in the first place.
What would you be doing if not for Neon Trees?
I would probably be doing music of my own or delving into acting of some sort. I don’t know, maybe I’ll do that later. I’ve always been in to performing of any kind. I’m not one of those people who would go do something really noble and admirable like being a teacher. I think I would not want to do that.
Neon Trees has toured with some pretty big bands that raised attention to your band. Who has been your favorite band to tour with?
Well I think my absolute favorite tour was the Maroon 5 tour we did in 2013 at the beginning of the year. They were really good to us, and treated us really fairly, and their audience was great. It was really fun playing arenas with them. It was also so refreshing to have a band that… And you know Maroon 5 is unbelievably big. Like they’re like one of the biggest bands and their stratosphere is really high. But having them be such nice people was really refreshing. So that made it a really fun tour.
What is your favorite aspect of your live shows that you bring to your fans?
I think all of us have this strange compulsion to play music. Especially to play it in front of an audience. So there’s this special energy that comes out. And that is often reflected in the crowd as well. Just this exchange of energy between the crowd and the performer that you can’t replicate in any other way in life. I think we bring a lot of energy and we also rely on the crowd to bring a lot of energy. Like we’re in it together. And that’s a really fun aspect to the show.
Who is your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
I don’t know if I ever really decided on one. My immediate favorite when I was a young child was Michelangelo because I think he was everyone’s favorite because he was the cheekiest. But then there’s something about Raphael with his weapons and his red color. (Laughs) I don’t know if you know this but when we were in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade we were on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle float. It was epic! I got to be Leonardo so I wore a blue jacket and Tyler wore red and Brandon wore purple and Chris wore orange. So we all had our corresponding Ninja Turtle and it was pretty exciting.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
It’s two things. Number one: You have to be honest with yourself. You have to know whether or not you have talent. And I think that’s really hard for people to hear, let alone actually being introspective about. But once you establish that you’ve got something worth sharing, my second piece of advice is to just go for it and work, work, work, work, work, work. That’s what makes it a difference between a hobby musician and a career musician is their amount of effort they’re willing to sacrifice and put in.
How would you set Neon Trees apart from other bands in general?
I don’t know. I would hope there is something special about us. (Laughs) I think there’s both a fun and an honesty to our music that I hope is refreshing. We’ve never been about just having cool sounds. We’ve always wanted it to mean something and to be relatable and I think Tyler does a great job lyrically of being both playful and meaningful. I would hope that people recognize that there’s an honesty to our music that you don’t always get with sugary, poppy music.
Do you want to say anything to your fans?
Thank you and keep coming to the shows and we will keep having a great time. That would be what I would say. (Laughs)