It starts with a whisper: exclusive interview with Neon Trees vocalist Tyler Glenn

It starts with a whisper: exclusive interview with Neon Trees vocalist Tyler Glenn

Paul Patane, Senior Reporter

One of Neon Trees’ most popular songs, “Everybody Talks” features lead vocalist Tyler Glenn wailing into a microphone, “It started with a whisper!” With the band’s new summer tour, “An Intimate Night Out with Neon Trees,” that line holds true as the group is taking on a smaller-scale, less visually loud approach.

From Provo, Utah, Neon Trees is an American alternative rock band with a flare for pop and new wave. Their breakout came when they toured with The Killers in 2008 and they’ve been touring and recording ever since. Now, they have three hit studio albums and have toured with groups and artists including My Chemical Romance, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Taylor Swift.

The group has played at multiple venues in the Twin Cities, including headlining at historic First Avenue in June 2014. In March 2013, they performed at Xcel Energy Center when they toured with Owl City and Maroon 5 that year.


Oracle: Beginning on June 6, your band is playing a series of concerts labeled “An Intimate Night Out with Neon Trees.” What was the motivation behind doing a smaller, more personal tour when your band has played in many large, marquee venues that have sold out?

Glenn: I think we were kind of at a place in our career where we weren’t ready to put out a new album quite yet. But we also weren’t putting out any songs from the record from the last album. We were going to take the year off but I think the band just got bored. I’ve been writing a lot of music but I don’t know if we were ready to put it out yet. The band kind of approached me with the idea of touring in the summer and I didn’t want to tour unless we had some sort of purpose. So the idea came that we do a more intimate run over the summer, choosing venues where we can actually see the fans and meet the fans after. And maybe play some old material and make it a really fan-centric show. I wrote this song called “Songs I Can’t Listen To” that I really, really, love. And we decided to put it out last week, and I guess that’s the gist of it.


O: You’re no stranger to playing in the Twin Cities, having played in both St. Paul and Minneapolis, including last June at First Avenue. Do you have any favorite memories that stick out from previous concerts in the Twin Cities?

G: There’s a, I forgot the name [Triple Rock Social Club], we’ve played it twice, but it’s a smaller venue just outside of the main city. Me and Brandon, our bass player, got into a big argument off stage. I remember we were in a van and we were towards the end of a really grueling schedule. We were able to come back to that venue again right before we put out our last record, “Pop Psychology.” The day we played that show is the day I also came out as gay in Rolling Stone. It was a special show because it was the first show I did after I announced my identity, I guess, to people that cared. I remember afterward meeting a lot of people and it’s a very scary thing to come out, especially as someone who is a little older. I’m 31, and I’ve lived my life with a lot of regret and I think that was the first moment that I felt like me. I’ll always remember it took place at that venue. That’s just a special tie to that city for sure.


O: In March 2013, you played at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with Owl City and Maroon 5. Not only was that a high profile arena tour, but it seemed to be a major transitioning point for you and your band as I know you were dealing with some personal issues at the time. What do you think that tour experience in particular meant to you?

G: It meant a lot. It felt like it was the right combination of bands. I think we were more the rock band on that tour but we’re still very much a pop group as well. Just blending the fanbases was really cool. Maroon 5 is obviously a massive band that’s been around for a long time now. I was never bored on that tour. I never felt like we had a bad show on that tour. It might be one of our favorite tours as far as supporting a band and opening, and it was really fun. The arenas were packed every night, so it was like we were out at the perfect time and it was really cool.


O: For anyone who has never been to a Neon Trees show, you put on a unique experience to say the least. In addition to having a distinct sound, your showmanship and energy level as a group is off the charts. From set design to costumes, you have a complex, bright and loud aesthetic. For someone who has never been to one of your shows before, what would you like them to take away from your concert at the end of the night?

G:I think every show is different and we kind of design every tour to be unique, even though we’re playing some of the same material. This last tour that we did on our record for “Pop Psychology,” it was definitely meant to be loud, bright and aggressive and work with all sorts of color and character. I think this tour coming up is still going to have the Neon Trees vibe of being an entertainment show, but I think it’s going to be a lot more focused on the music. And I think the lighting and costumes will almost support the music. Sometimes, I think in tours past, maybe what I was wearing or what was going on onstage sometimes took away from the music sometimes because there was just so much going on. At the very least, I hope people take home that they had an enjoyable night out and forgot what was bothering them for a little while.


O: I feel like every time I see a photograph or video that has Branden Campbell in it, he has a different bass guitar. Do you have an idea of how many bass guitars he has in his collection?

G: Yeah [laughter], too many is probably the answer to that. I know currently, he has at least, I know over twenty. There was a time he had too many and he has sold them or given them to other people or whatever. I think that’s like literally his, other than his kids and his wife, that’s his favorite thing in life, the bass. That kind of shows so that’s cool.


O: Do you and the rest of the group have any particular songs you really love to perform live?

G: I think it changes every tour and obviously it changes with every record. I know recently when we’ve done a few shows, just one-offs here and there, it’s cool to see the songs from our first album, other than like “Animal,” that people still really love those and they don’t get boring to me when I just sing them or when we get to perform them. So to me, since that’s our oldest stuff, it’s still enjoyable, and has new life every time we do it. I think for me that’s the stuff I’m loving lately. It’s fun too because I think I’m a better singer than I was when we recorded that album, just because I’ve learned a lot more. It’s fun to give it a new spin now that I’m a little more seasoned. It’s enjoyable.


O: In addition to playing this summer tour, what else do you and the rest of the Neon Trees members have in the works?

G: That’s a tough question because we’re kind of in the middle of deciding what we want to do. We have a music video coming out for our new song, “Songs I Can’t Listen To.” That should be out right before the tour. I’m excited about that one a lot. It doesn’t look like anything else we’ve done before. Elaine, our drummer, is pregnant. She’ll be having that baby, her third, in September. We will be doing a few one-off shows and stuff in the fall, but we’re kind of at the point where we’re deciding if it’s right to tour again or record music. You’ve asked me at a time where we’re kind of deciding.


O: You mentioned Elaine Bradley. Not only is she a terrific drummer, her vocals are co-featured in several of your songs including, “Unavoidable.” What is it like for you when she comes out from behind her drums to sing alongside you for a live audience?

G: It’s cool. It adds a new perspective to the band, I think. From an outside perspective, people think we’re kind of this eccentric rock band or a pop band. When she comes out, it adds a level of depth, and I think our older fans really like it too because I think it reminds them of duets from the past. I think my parents said it reminded them of a Donny and Marie thing, which I think is kind of cheesy, but it adds an element to the show that maybe we wouldn’t have if people just listened to the album. I think it’s kind of neat.

The “An Intimate Night Out with Neon Trees” Tour begins on June 6 and will run through July 26. For more information about their show and prices at Varsity Theater, check out: