By Helen M. Ryan
KROQ Radio claims they “will rule the universe.” The Killers hand-selected the relatively unknowns to open for them on their 2008 North America tour. Yet these elusive young musicians don’t even have an album out yet (their debut, “Habits,” is due in stores and electronically March 16,2010).
So who is the band that has made so much inroad onto the music scene in such little time? Neon Trees.
Never heard of Neon Trees? Ask your teenager. Neon Trees, from Provo, Utah, is part pop/part organic rock played frequently on alternative rock radio stations. Loosely formed in 2001 in an early incarnation, Tyler Glenn met guitarist and fellow co-founder Chris Allen while they were living in Southern California’s Temecula area. Neon Trees’ current lineup includes Tyler, Chris, Branden Campbell on bass and, breaking the mold, a rocking young female on drums – Elaine Bradley.
The new-wave sounding band has been getting ready for the official launch of their debut album with major label Mercury Records. The first single from the album, “Animals,” has already received a fair amount of airplay and created noise among fans and music bloggers alike. “We’re excited about our album”, says Tyler. “You only get one chance to put out your first record – and we want it be our best effort”.
During the calm before the storm, LA’s the Place’s Helen M. Ryan got the inside scoop about music, passion, touring, and happiness in a chat with frontman Tyler Glenn before he headed off for a much-needed week of rest. The vocalist, sporting a side-shaved hairdo and easy demeanor, intends to use this week with his family to prepare for the upcoming hullabaloo around “Habit”’s launch. “I’ll be wearing sweat shorts for a week”, he says. “And not doing my hair”.
Read the complete interview with Tyler below.
Magic from Deadbeats
Helen M. Ryan for LA’s the Place: When did you develop a love for music?
Tyler Glenn: I was four years old when I first started listening to Michael Jackson and Eric Clapton…those groups I heard in my parents’ living room. My parents saw me dancing and said, “that boy has rhythm”. Then I starting writing own songs (around 6 years old). Mostly show tunes.
LATP: When did you know you wanted to make music?
TG: I was not good at sports and learned I didn’t have to be in sports. My mom put me in dance classes and I fell in love with the music and rhythm…and started singing along to music. In middle school realized could be in band, write songs and have bands play them. Of course, we were terrible with our garage bands but we tried.
Chris and my fathers worked in same office building and we knew of each other. We never hung out because we were a few years apart. Neither of us had many interests. Chris’ dad knew Cris wanted to be a “rock star” and I wanted to be that, too. Our dads met and suggested we hang out and write songs together. We wrote a bunch of songs and they ended up being kind of rad (at the time). I loved the chemistry we had when we made music. There was a certain magic when we wrote.
I followed Chris when he moved to Utah to go to college so we could continue to make music. I was trying to distract him from school, almost. We played and played and played. And it grew from there. The rest of our current group joined in 2007.
The Passion Behind the Music
LATP: How did you stick to what made you passionate? How did you not let others’ doubts distract you, and not be talked out of music? What advice do you have for others?
TG: I realized that the starving artist lifestyle is real and knew I would have to sacrifice a lot. I knew I would have a lot of people doubt me. But I saw that this was so possible in my own mind. It was exciting because I was kind of wishy washy in my own life… But with music I could make a goal and stick to it…and reap the fruits of that labor. I realized, too, a lot of friends come and go and your family says you should maybe go a semester of school. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work or go to school, but you should commit. I gave myself two years and if it wasn’t going anywhere by then, I would stop. But at the end of two years we were writing very well.
Advice? Make a goal and believe in yourself and believe that it’s possible. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in anything else. Sometimes I still don’t. But with the music and being on stage, I do. I am in my element.
The Big Break: Touring with the Killers
LATP: How did you get on The Killers tour?
TG: It was a weird time when we were all broke. We were back living in Murrieta, writing. We wanted to be closer to LA because our manager was there and he was helping us with developing our music. We focused on that. Then we played a very small show for ten people in Las Vegas. Ronnie from the Killers was there and he saw that we played no matter how many people were there – and we played to a bigger audience. He called and asked us to open on a couple of dates.
LATP: How was the experience?
TG: I didn’t have too many expectations. I actually expected to be treated – well – less than we were treated. We were the opening band. “Get them on, get them off”. But it wasn’t like that. It was a great forum to play for a huge audience and the band was super nice. We received comments from The Killers’ camp that we were the best-received opening band they had had. We were doing something right and felt, “This is rad”.
LATP: What was the reaction you received after The Killers tour?
TG: It was a big deal and shook up some of the labels that had a little interest in us. What’s this unsigned band from Utah doing opening for one of the biggest bands in America? Mercury invested the most time with us, and fostered a relationship.
LATP: What’s your inspiration?
TG: Bruce Springsteen. I really discovered The Boss in ’01 or ’02. Bought every album. Bought books and books and books. Watched interviews. He’s a huge influence on me. He and Michael Jackson are examples of the kind of pop star that can turn heads and make people scream. I think that’s so powerful, in a cool way. It’s about making people feel good. I want people to feel that happiness. I am a big fan of rock stars.
LATP: How do you write? What inspires the songs?
TG: It’s different with each song. 2-3 of the songs were written by the band in our practice space. Some songs were hard to write because they were pre-written, and about dark things. Animal and Your Surrender, for example, were “in studio” writing, and created that way. Everything is personal and comes from real places…made in a way that people can still relate to. I was taught, “write what you know”.
Aspirations – With a Twist
LATP: Who would you like to work with? Not necessary an idols, but who would make an interesting mix with you?
TG: I’ve wanted to work with Alicia Keys. She’s an amazing artist. She doesn’t need a lot of the glitter and glam. Lady Gaga brings credibility back to pop music. An MO that we also have – bringing credibility …bringing back the art to pop music A female vocalist would be something. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’’s – someone with a spark that’s unique to them.
LATP: Future plans? Any interesting in acting?
TG: I love entertaining. I was always in plays. I get the same passion from acting as I do music. I do know I have found an extreme passion for cooking, too. I get the same rush cooking in kitchen and creating a meal as I do being on stage. I am euphoric when I am creating and using ingredients that taste good. It would be fun to make a cookbook or have a little café or something.
LATP: Many big bands and artists are vegans. I’ve learned that you are, too.
TG: Yes, for eight years. I was always kind of a vegetarian (since about age 13). I dabbled in veganism and decided to commit around 18 or 19. I wanted to be healthy and lose some baby fat. I started reading and learned the benefits of it, environmentally. I’m not a radical environmentalist…I just loved the way I felt after I switched. It felt right. I am be one of those vegans that would never force it on an anyone else but would advise people to look into it.
I don’t believe in wearing fur or killing animals for that. I have a spiritual side that believes animals are on the planet for a reason. I think if people chilled out a little more and became more educated – even if they didn’t completely stop eating meat or animal products – just became more educated – the world would be happier and cleaner, and people more healthy.
The Future’s So Bright…
Though the band is young, there is a lot of promise on the horizon. In addition to their “Habits” release, the band is performing at South by Southwest, and appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live. As for the stresses of fame? Though their official web site name is “www.fameisdead.com” the band’s stance on that will be put to the test as their fame continues to grow.
“We’ve made a lot of strides”, says Tyler. “The band is really excited. There are more opportunities each week. A cool new show, a new tour. It’s a good stress”.
Learn more about Neon Trees at