Utah-based rock group Neon Trees are ready to crash land with their debut effort Bad Habits. After impressing us, we couldn't wait to catch up with frontman Tyler Glenn to talk about the long and patient wait the band has had to endure before being recognised majorly, and their current tour of the UK as they support Angels and Airwaves.
CM: Hey Tyler, how you doing?
T: I've been quite busy. However, it may sound strange but we like the weather here. It's been really cold over Europe so it's kind of warm here [laughs].
CM: So let's go all the way back to the beginning. Where does the title of your band come from?
T: It comes from my youth. Me and my friends used to go to this restaurant that had neon palm tree lights so we started joking around saying that we should start a band called 'neon palm trees'. We started it, and it was a bit of a fun for a week but then nothing really happened. Later, when we needed an actual name, it was the aesthetic that we were looking for.
CM: Did these friends that you had end up being members of Neon Trees?
T: No, not at all. But I still speak to them so that's exciting.
CM: You played for a while in your hometown Provo. How was that for you and how long did it take for you guys to get recognised majorly?
T: We really really loved those early shows in 2006-8 where we played locally. When we first started, we would play almost every night of the week wherever we could get a gig, and that was crucial because it was the time that we learnt to become comfortable. I loved the fan-base we built locally, and this really kept us going whilst all our friends' bands were breaking up or moving on. We started touring regionally, especially on the West Coast for two or three years. Those tours would fail miserably in terms of money and getting fans but it was about building our backbone.
CM: Have there ever been any times you felt like you have had to compromise what your band stands for, for the music industry?
T: We never had a creed other than wanting to be big performers, or we never had a pop-punk agenda. We have never had a selling out mentality because we wanted to be a band that reached out to people. We want to do it with integrity, and I feel that we haven't compromised that. But of course there's people you have to be nice to but that's enjoyable to me. We've not burnt any bridges and that's important.
CM: All four of you are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Has religion played a vital part in the production of your music?
T: I have an awareness of my spirituality and it's a private, personal thing that's very important to me. I write what I know because I was bought up that way. But I've never lyrically written in a way that would make someone feel that I'm pushing it on them. We've kept an awareness of the traps that you can get into on the road, and we've stayed away from that, so that keeps us continually hard-working. We recognise that it's not the days of past in rock n' roll, so we don't need to live that traditional lifestyle to be rock n'roll.
CM: How was it touring with The Killers?
T: It was great. It was only a few West Coast shows in 2008 but we were so excited because it was a real opportunity for us to play in front of really large audiences with fans that were excited about their favourite band coming back. There was a great buzz in the air. We did really well; people really enjoyed it and so it created some hype for us, which is good to ride on for a while.
CM: In comparison, how is it supporting Angels and Airwaves due to there being a different fan-base?
T: They're very cult-like, in a good and devoted way. I've noticed that they're not immediately warm to the idea of 'I'm going to love you right away', so with that, it's given us the opportunity to really put it out there 100%. We constantly aim to do that for every show, but with these, we've got to stretch. We toured with 30 Seconds to Mars last year and they have a similar type fan-base; it's very devoted. If you get to borrow a fan-base like that for a half-hour every night, it's great because you go away having some really new fans.
CM: Talking about giving it your all, I heard about your fall off stage in Holland which knocked out a tooth. What happened?!
T: It was actually a warm audience in Holland and they were very engaging. I was performing, as much I do every night, but there were these wires at the front of the stage. I rolled off on the front and my face cushioned the fall on the barrier. I was out on the floor for about 25 seconds but then they woke me up. I was like 'I need to continue'. At the time, with my tongue touching my teeth, it felt like all of my front teeth were gone - it was horrific, but we had two songs still in our set and I didn't want to stop. I was a bloody mess and it probably looked gnarly but it felt good and now it's fun to look back on. People respected it which was cool. I didn't do it to get respected; I just wanted to continue. I'm getting my teeth fixed [laughs].
CM: How's your first visit to the UK treating you?
T: I really loved Glasgow; it was an interesting crowd. I also liked Birmingham [last night]. There was a sense that we had to break an iciness because obviously we're the opening band and they'd never heard of us. But you recognise this, and you do your show and by the end, I was absolutely blown away with the reception; everyone seemed to dig it.
CM: Tell us about the making of your album, Habits, due out for release on February 23rd
T: Essentially, Neon Trees started off as an electronic-dance band and we wanted to emulate bands like Depeche Mode and Ladytron. But we ended up getting the rhythm section and that's when the band really took shape with our rock roots showing through. I think it's a hybrid of that old sound we were trying to achieve and a new twist. What we love about British music is that it's really exciting that an artist like Morrissey can be considered as a pop star - pop stars in America are different. So for us, we love pop music from the 70s and early 80s which has been a direct influence on our sound.
CM: Do you have a favourite track from the album?
T: I'm excited that I am able to say that I still like the record after living with it so long. It changes every now and then. Currently, Your Surrender is my favourite track but I love 1983 and Our War.
CM: Your single Animal, out now, has now sold over 2 million copies in the US. Do these sort of statistics still surprise you?
T: They do because I'm not the numbers guy in the band so I don't constantly look at charts or ask what we've sold. I think that's good because there are a few members that enjoy that, so for me, I have to concentrate on the fan-connection and what we're going to do next, in terms of writing. But, still, you do become more conscious of chart success, without even caring to be. So it's nice to hear that every now and then.
CM: Can you tell us what the next single will be?
T: In the States it's 1983, so we're going to continue that over here.
CM: Are you recording material for a sophomore effort?
T: Not currently, but I still write. Luckily, I'm the kind of writer that writes anyway. I write through experiences. I enjoy that as a hobby, regardless of being a songwriter as a job. We have songs, but there are no plans yet. I think that the idea is that to allow this year to continue to build, and obviously our album has just been released in Europe.
CM: Retrospectively, what was the lowpoint of your band's career?
T: Before our record came out, there was a low point. You go through this weird mentality where you're signed and you're promised certain things. And then you're told to make a record but you don't know if it's going to be released or when you write the record, it's not really what you want it to be. So you keep going back. That was a weird time. There was a lot of inner fighting and we were unsure. But the moment we actually started to get down and write Habits, it all kind of went back up.
CM: Finally, what's been a highlight?
T: For me, I don't have one moment, but the biggest thing I feel that we've achieved is a real, true fan-base that is continuing to grow. For me, that's the most exciting things. I've been able to meet amazing kids and people, and I get to see how the music that have written has touched people. As much as I am all about loving style, fashion and what's hip; I love music's power of how it can affect people.
Thanks for your time Tyler