Music News & Reviews

Neon Trees ‘step up’ live shows on the heels of third album

“‘Pop Psychology’ almost didn’t happen.”

It’s a reference on the band’s website regarding the difficulties Neon Trees faced when creating their third studio album. The creative process will always differ vastly from band to band, and Neon Trees, a band out of Provo, Utah, is no exception to the rule.

But Tyler Glenn was able to turn his personal struggles into lyrical and musical triumph, as evidenced by the upbeat tempo and sound of “Pop Psychology,” and drummer Elaine Bradley gave The Sun News words to back that up.

First, she wanted to clarify Glenn’s situation a little.

“It seems people assumed that [things were worse than they were] since Tyler was going through a rough patch,” said Bradley. When a band takes a break, however long, it can start to cause concern in the fan base that things might never go back to normal. Bradley and her bandmates were never worried. “I think the only thing we were concerned about was that he get to a healthy place,” she said.

Glenn, the band’s lead singer, was worn down by the grind of touring and the pressure that came with it, and decided to cancel everything the band was doing with their blessing so that he could focus on finding personal happiness and peace. He began seeing a therapist and soon found, along with the healing process, the drive and desire to write new music. And so, in January 2013, he began writing songs that ultimately became “Pop Psychology.”

“I think Tyler, in the beginning when he started writing, I think he maybe thought it was going to be a more serious album because of the subject matter,” said Bradley. “But I think that seeing a therapist and learning to be happy, that there’s a sense of triumph and a weight being lifted and a carefree feeling that came about because of the stuff he was working through.”

Bradley’s words are backed up by an album that is consistently based in pop.

“We’re this rock band that loves pop songs. That’s kind of what we write,” explained Bradley. “I think that comes through on this album a lot more than the other two albums. We had to totally pull apart these songs and really dig in sonically. I think that’s a luxury we had because it wasn’t being done in the public eye.”

And that’s probably the secret to the upbeat feeling one gets from listening to “Pop Psychology.” Unlike most recording artists, Neon Trees opted to keep this album a secret until the last possible second so that they could mold it into what they wanted it to be. Glenn’s break turned out to be a blessing not just for himself, but for the band as a whole.

“It actually created a really nice bubble to just kind of take the pressure off,” said Bradley. “We didn’t tell anybody that we were doing an album. We kept doing shows because we didn’t want to disappear. We just decided we didn’t want the pressure. It ended up being the most comfortable recording process.”

In addition to “Pop Psychology,” which was released in April, the band’s new tour started on May 19, and Bradley was just as excited to talk about that as she was the album.

“First of all, please come,” she says in a message to the world. “We’re playing nine or 10 songs from the album, with a few of our old songs mixed in. We really have spent a lot of time stepping up our live show.”

Asked what life on tour was like, and if the band had ever received any advice from other bands they’d toured with when they were rising through the ranks, Bradley offered a unique perspective.

“I don’t recall any specific advice, but I think we’ve learned the most from bands by watching their live show and watching how they treat their crew,” she said. “I think My Chemical Romance is our first real example of a bigger band who reached out to us and were very accommodating. They were so nice and open. Taylor Swift is another really nice person,” she said before adding, “I think we learn more from how they act than what they say to us.”

Bradley also has an experience most don’t get while touring in that she spent the majority of the band’s last tour playing while pregnant.

“I mean, I got pregnant at a really inconvenient time. I was pregnant while we were recording ‘Pop Psychology,’” she said. “I knew we weren’t going to be able to stop touring and wait for me. The motivation for playing pregnant was that I didn’t want anybody playing my stuff. I got back as quick as I could. I was only out for like three months.”

Neon Trees started as a band opening for the Killers in 2008, and each year has seen them grow by leaps and bounds. Now they’re headlining tours. Now they’re a band others strive to emulate.

“I would encourage everybody to come out and experience it and have a good time with us.”

And who doesn’t want to have a good time?