Drama lurks behind the scenes for any rock group, but for new-wave/dance-pop band Neon Trees it goes beyond typical touring headaches or label tug-of-wars.
First of all, the members of Neon Trees are all Mormons, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t all that keen on secular music that might tempt its followers to shake their booties. Secondly, front man Tyler Glenn just came out, dropping the bombshell to Rolling Stone that he’s gay in the March 25 issue.
The church considers gay sex a “serious transgression,” right up there with rape, murder and theft.
Amid this revelation, Neon Trees will light up Revolution in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday [May 29] on the strength of its third studio album, April 22’s Pop Psychology, featuring the upbeat hit Sleeping With a Friend. The band’s other hits include Animal and Everybody Talks.
Neon Trees drummer Elaine Bradley talked to Miami.com about the show, a couple of her musical idols, and, of course, Tyler’s Coming Out.
Was Sleeping With a Friend a conscious decision to go more dance-pop?
No, I think it just kind of happened. We’ve always been a dance-y band, but maybe just a little darker in the earlier days, so it wasn’t as shimmery [laughs]. But I think we’ve always enjoyed a good dance song and a good catchy hook.
At Revolution, will we hear most of the new album?
Yeah, I think we actually play nine out of the 10 songs off the record. It brings a lot of life into the set, so we’re really excited about the show these days.
What else can we expect from the show?
Well, we’ve really upped our production, so we have a lot of extra stage pieces. We have two auxiliary musicians who travel with us, and we have some outfit changes — we definitely got a little more Vegas [laughs]. Although we’ve never really been a jeans and T-shirt kind of band.
Has your religion influenced the band’s sound in any way?
I don’t think so, no. I mean, it definitely is a part of who we are, and even on different levels for each of us, so I don’t think you can say it influences anything at all. We always were very consciously not a religious band, and we were just people who happened to either be religious or not, and we’ve tried to keep the band a neutral, nonjudgmental type of place. Because we’re all on different rungs of the ladder, you know?
Is Neon Trees fully embraced by the church, or is that a non-issue?
I don’t think it’s really an issue. I’m not sure the church embraces things like that, or doesn’t. And we kind of keep it very separate, like an employee who’s very religious, but keeps it separate when they go to work for Nike. We kind of treat it like this is our job, and it’s our passion as well, but we’ve never wanted to be a preachy band or, like, a beacon for Mormons. We live our lives the way we want to live them, and we recognize that we are role models whether we like it or not, so that definitely matters. But as far as the band being a platform for religion — it never has been and never will be.
Was there much of a backlash when Tyler came out?
Yeah, there’s a lot of backlash, but it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
I think that the way he was able to come out in Rolling Stone – that they gave him so much room, like a few pages rather than just a blurb — he was able to really explain himself. I think what’s really special and unique about Tyler’s coming out is, he’s not drawing a line in the sand, if you will. He’s saying, “Hey, I feel this way and I believe this way, and I’m trying to figure it out.” So basically, he’s being really honest, like every human would. And I’m not sure that there can be much of a negative backlash when somebody’s throwing it out there like that — he’s not saying, “Well, now I can’t believe in my religion!” or “No, I have to deny that I’m gay!” — he’s saying, “Hey, I’m both of these things, and I’m trying to work on it, and I don’t know what that means.” And that’s such an honest and candid way to go about life — he’s trying to be honest with himself, and that’s the crux of happiness.
So with all this positive feedback, it seems like he’s doing pretty well with the whole thing?
Yeah, but I think he’d be doing well whether people cared or not. He’s gotten to a place with himself that he’s happy with, and he’s happy with who he is. And so I think that’s kind of pretty natural buffer to be OK even if other people weren’t OK with him. But it’s been really nice and refreshing to see all sorts of people responding in a positive way, religious people and nonreligious people alike.
As a female drummer, who are some of your idols?
Well, growing up, I think John Bonham was the first drummer that I really cared about. I got a few Led Zeppelin tapes from my older brother when I was 7, and I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s just so cool!” And Kashmir was one of the first songs to give me goose bumps, and I remember rewinding and rewinding that song. So that was probably the first drummer to get me excited about drumming. But when I was younger, I didn’t really consider myself a drummer — I played guitar in a band for years and years. It was never really a thing. I remember Hole with Patty Schemel and I thought it was cool that she was a girl and you couldn’t tell by listening to the records. Because you never want that — you don’t want somebody to be like, “And that’s a female drummer!” [laughs].
Is this your first time in Miami?
No, we love Miami. We’ve done some opening slots in Miami, and we did the W pool party a couple of years back. So we’ve been there quite a lot, and we just love the city, we love the feel, and we love the beaches, and we’re super-excited to come back.