Neon Trees. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you have heard their smash hit ‘Animal’. They’re one of the most amazing groups to hit the scene this year… in fact maybe even EVER… but that’s just my opinion. We caught up with the gang in Chicago for an honest and insightful interview. Join us for an inside look at NT and the answers to questions you never even thought to ask.
When touring, what is one thing you always take care to bring with you on the road?
Branden doesn’t hesitate. “Baby wipes.”
Tyler then says, “He does, you want to know the reason?”
Branden gets flustered and says, “I’m going to leave it at that.”
Tyler smiles, “This is behind closed doors Neon Trees.”
Elaine then chimes in, “This is the tell all. The same reason you use them for babies, they can work for adults.”
“It’s important to stay clean on the road. Pretty soon, I’m going to be like Madonna and ask for a new toilet seat and a bidet when we are on tour.”
Seems like that could get tricky on the tour bus. We have heard there is barely enough water for the shower let alone a bidet…
“Midgets with squirt guns,” Branden says.
[All of us burst into laughter. This is just one of many reasons I am enamored with this group of individuals. They are so down to earth. There are no pretenses.]
Tyler then says, “I always bring crazy glue.”
“For the same reason,” laughs Branden. [Again, the laughter erupts.]
“No, I like to get crafty with my jackets and stuff on the road.”
Elaine: “I always bring my iPod, because it’s nice to have some personal head space.”
Chris then smiles and says,” I always bring a book and my computer to watch random movies and twilight zone.”
Tell us about your pre-show rituals.
Branden takes the lead on this one, “We get together in a huddle or the band cuddle as we call it, and we sing the bridge to Love and Affection.”
“We sometimes launch into ‘mamma say mamma saw mamaco saw’ and we beat the walls, it gets us hyped!” Tyler says.
“We also have a prayer as well, we believe in some higher power and we want to have a good show. It’s reinforcement for us. We sometimes let Elaine punch or slap our hands,” Branden smiles.
“I need to shake these loose,” Elaine says as she gestures with her hands. “I sometimes do handstands too. I don’t often have a spare set of drumsticks laying around so that’s what we do.”
Do you each have your own role in the band? Is someone OCD, is someone else is sloppy messy, or the jokester?
Tyler leans forward and answers, “ I think we all take turns with the different nicknames.”
Elaine says, “ I think we all take turns being funny.”
Tyler nods, “I think we are all genuinely funny within our own sphere. I don’t know if we’re funny to anyone else. We crack each other up.”
Chris, who has been fairly quiet, speaks up: “Each of us has a totally different form of expressing our humor.”
Cue the trademark Tyler Glenn grin, “ I am very sarcastic and a lot of times crude. I think Chris is
messy. I’m just going to say it. Put it out there.”
Chris nods, “I can be.”
Branden answers, “I am the music encyclopedia.”
Tyler pats Branden’s shoulder “…and he sometimes takes the longest.”
As we take note to NEVER challenge him to a game of trivia, Tyler confirms, “He is beyond Matt Pinfield, for real.”
Branden nods, “I’m like the rain man of rock and roll. I’m also always a day late and a dollar short. I’m a pain in the ass because I’m always late but you can’t leave me behind because I’m just a wealth of knowledge. You never know when you might NEED to know who played bass on that Ted Nugget record. Elaine has tried to leave me behind but everyone else had my back.”
“So many times,” Elaine smiles, “I’m like, lets just go, lets teach him a lesson.”
Is there anything you would change from this journey that you are on?
Tyler: “I would change having our original managers. I am not ashamed to say that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change anything. I think as a group we try to be honest and live with are mistakes, as that makes us who we are.”
Chris smiles, “I think that we are all really happy with where we are right now. I don’t think we could have dreamed that we would ever experience the success that we are having so why even change anything?”
Branden wrings his hands mockingly, “I think I would have gotten the pretzels instead of the peanuts on the plane.”
What is the weirdest item a fan has ever given you?
“We have gotten some cool things. I don’t know what we have gotten that’s weird,” Tyler says.
Elaine looks grim, “weird emails… needy unacceptable emails. That’s probably the weirdest thing we have gotten.”
When you guys reach the point where you are headlining huge tours internationally, who is a band that you would bring to try to help gain recognition?
“Yes, please,” Branden nods emphatically. “That’s an interesting question because there are some bands that I think are beyond us in their experience and talent, they have been in the game for a long time. A band like The National, but not nearly enough people know who they are. Would it be great to expose these people to these great bands? Yes, but you almost feel inferior asking them. For instance, I have a band I love called The Mother Hips that I think everyone should know about… but they’ve been doing it for 20 years. Does that make sense?”
“Its like yes, it would be good exposure, to get them out in front of larger audiences. But also for them to be opening a show it would not be good for them,” Chris explains.
“Yes,” Branden continues, “its kinda like Prince saying, ‘Hey Sly Stone, you need to come back into the spotlight.’ Maybe bringing back some old legends. Billy Ocean. We would bring out Billy Ocean.”
“I wonder when that time comes, which I don’t think it’s crazy far off… but I think… I don’t know whose going to be around, you know? Obviously, I’d want it to be someone like… Robyn, this pop singer from overseas who just cant seem to crack into the US. I think that would be cool,” Tyler says.”Or even Nico Vega or Civil Twilight. We would love to have them out again.”
“I wouldn’t even mind going the softer route,” Elaine begins, “I would really like Olivia Gladfield. I think we are all thinking personal pleasures, like who do we want to see every night?”
“It’s also to say, it could be that band we haven’t even met.”says Branden.
“I vote for My Dear Disco, we played a show with them here in Chicago. They were really cool and I think we’d have a great time on tour.” Chris states.
Do you play any nontraditional instruments?
“I owned a ukelele.” Chris laughs, “I’m not very good at it.”
“I play a mean kazoo.” Branden smiles. “I have a mandolin.”
“The recorder!” Tyler explains. “So… the answer is no.”
What is you dream collaboration?
“David Byrne”, Chris doesn’t even hesitate.
“I have wanted to do something with Alicia Keys for the longest time.” Tyler says.
“Jack White and Beck,” Branden blurts.
“Morrisey, but that would never happen,” says Elaine.
What is your favorite song to play live?
“Love and Affection is my favorite,” Chris chimes in.
“Definitely Sins of My Youth,” Tyler starts. “I thinks it’s always so energetic. I said last night at our show that I wish we had a couple more songs like it. I love it, I think it’s so optimistic and honest. I love seeing the smiles and that’s when I feel closest to the audience.”
“I really like playing Your Surrender,” Elaine says.
Branden smiles, “I like playing a song that we don’t play all that often, Helpless. Its on the vinyl and iTunes. It has a couple really cool bass and snare drum builds.”
Tyler looks at Branden and says, “I like it when you play Calling My Name, and you turn on the fuzz. It reminds me that we’re a rock band.”
You talked about connecting with the audience when you’re on stage; how much do you notice about whats going on in the crowd?
Tyler responds thoughtfully, “I notice everything. I probably notice too much. I think the 30 tour really trained me to not be so sensitive. You know, you’re the opening band on a huge tour and no one knows your name. On one hand you do deserve a bit of recognition because you’re working your ass off, but on the other you have to respect that the audience has no clue who you are. They aren’t gonna flip out right away. I do, I see everything, but I choose a bit better what I react to. Part of my performance, I think, is I have a sense of humor. It’s what I always loved about my favorite artists. I don’t want to tone it down.”
Is than a artist that has left you star struck?
“Not star struck, but I definitely respected Jared. You know I grew up seeing him obviously on My So-Called Life. I loved that show before the band. But then seeing him on tour, he’s a great front man. Say what you want about his music or whatever, he is a great front man. I have so much respect for him. I don’t think I was ever, like, star-struck-oh-my-I-can’t-talk,” says Tyler. “Maybe Lady Gaga…”
“Slash,” Chris responds.
“The Hills girls,” Elaine laughs, “and not even the good ones, but the b-list Hills girls. So so sad.”
“I think what’s refreshing,” Tyler smiles, “is when you figure out that they are human.”
“Some of the most successful people we have met are some of the nicest, most normal. And some of the b-listers that are kinda out there and weird. It seems that they are compensating for a lack of true success,” Elaine shrugs.
“The thing is,” Tyler pauses, “as we get more successful, you hear more and more gossip and weird things about us…”
“Yes,” Elaine smiles, “somehow we have become total a-holes. In people’s minds they hear rumors about us and say we’re jerks.”
“But at the same time we try not to take that all too seriously. I heard all kinds of stuff about Jared Leto and then I went on tour with him for six weeks and found him to be great. I don’t think we read into it too much. We take it with a grain of salt; we still get riled up about it and laugh. And…we read EVERYTHING!” Tyler says as he leans forward.
Yes, we love people who say that because of the radio success you’ve had, they aren’t fans anymore. It really doesn’t make much sense.
“Its still the same song!” Chris exclaims.
Branden laughs, “ I guess we just fooled you all- SUCKERS!”
What is a fun fact that people would be surprised to know about you?
“Uh…. I’m actually very shy,” Tyler says quietly.
“I have had malaria,” Chris responds.
“Nothing’s shocking any more, but maybe a fun fact,” Branden starts, “uh… I own 400 Beatles CDs.”
Elaine looks around, “Let’s see…I graduated top of my class. I am very reliable.”
Tyler laughs, “Yeah, I think the most shocking thing about Neon Trees is we are not very shocking.”
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
“Alive,” Branden jokes. “Not addicted to drugs; not forgetting who we are; not being ungrateful.”
“Keeping the momentum that we have; releasing our 3rd album and still being relevant,” Chris says.
Tyler nods emphatically, “ I agree with both of these guys.”
“Honestly,” Elaine say quietly, “I’d like to see us all financially stable and making music.”
If you could go back in time and leave a note for yourself – a warning or a piece of advice that would have made your journey easier – would you? And what would it say?
Branden laughs and says, “I should have got the pretzels not the peanuts.”
Elaine chimes in, “I would say ‘Don’t give up.’ I didn’t, but I would leave a little encouragement. I feel like life is hard sometimes and there are definite moments in different aspects I have felt like giving up.”
Chris says, “ I would tell myself to stay with it. There was a time I had almost quit music. I would say, ‘Pick up the electric guitar.’ ”
Tyler adds, “Be more like Johnny Thunders.”
“I am not sure what I would say. I know that’s boring and but I don’t really have anything. ‘Keep rocking and stay gold,’ ” Branden closes.
For more information about this amazingly talented band, check out their official site here: www.fameisdead.com
And follow them here: www.twitter.com/NeonTrees