Neon Trees: “We are very eccentric and weird, just as we are very normal as well!”Posted July 22nd, 2011 At 3:38 pm By MTV ASIA
Text and interview: Lennat Mak
Everyone wants to be a pop star. But beyond the fame, glitz, glamor, and bigger-than-life pop personas, there’s always the song. While a pop song can’t do away with its cookie-cutter mold of four-on-the-floor dance beats, predictable chords progression and inane lyrics (Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is a good example), the crux of a good pop song lies in its ability to connect and bridge an emotional attachment with its listeners.
Sounds all very complicated, doesn’t it? Basically, it’s all about the elusive thing that passionate people often talk about – “heart.” A good pop song should have heart. And if you listen closely to Neon Trees, that’s what the band is really all about. Unabashed heart-on-the-sleeves emotions coupled with slick pop hooks and gripping melodies. Doesn’t hurt when the band don’t take themselves way too seriously and are always ready to inject that tongue-in-cheek punch to what they do as well.
The band – Tyler Glenn (vocalist), Chris Allen (guitarist), Branden Campbell (bassist) and Elaine Bradley (drummer and backup vocalist) – will be swinging by MTV World Stage Live In Malaysia 2011 this coming Sunday for a live show you won’t forget. We spoke to frontman Tyler and found more about the band’s musical approach and their excitement of touring Asia. Read on!
The single “Animal” was a phenomenal success for the band. How has fame been treating the band so far?
I think the fan base is growing as we go to many places to play. It’s really cool to see kids being so excited. I’ve always been that kind of fan that if I’m really into a band, I would be a really big fan. So to have fans like that, it’s really great.
Do you try to connect with your fans personally?
I think putting up a show at our performances is a great way to connect to fans. I want our shows to be an inspiring experience so that both the band and the fans feel something afterwards. Social networking is a great way as well. I love that instead of hating Twitter, I can use it to speak to people from different parts of the world. It’s cool.
What do you think contributed to the success of the band so far?
I think it’s the fact that we write songs that are good. That’s something we really pay attention to instead of trying to write something that sounds cool. If you strip down the songs, they are still good songs no matter how you play them. We also try to put on a show. The fact that we can play live and are really a live band not just a gimmick, I think that’s something refreshing to people may think we are just a one-hit wonder or just a band that looks interesting.
Do you think Ronnie Vannucci Jr. from the Killers played a big part in pushing the band as well?
Absolutely. He was part of the people who believe in us from the beginning. Being in a successful band as the Killers are, Ronnie and his stamp of approval really helped in making people take Neon Trees more seriously.
Back to your songs, your lyrics are full of wistful romanticism. What inspired and influenced you lyrically?
I write what I know. Lyrically, I’m still young. I fell in love twice and I had heartbreaks probably 10 times. I felt anger, confusion, frustration – that’s what I write about. And really taking the approach of taking the darker things in life and making them a little tongue-in-cheek and handling them with humor and honesty. That’s what the songs are all about. And also staying young and staying young in mind!
And that’s the song “1983.”
Exactly! That’s the year I was born. I wrote it as an anthem to staying young and not forgetting what it felt like to be there.
Musically, do all the band members come from different influences?
Yeah, we are a great melting pot. I really have a lot of spirit for the pop bands from the ‘70s/’80s. Elaine came from a really progressive rock background. She used to play in a lot of progressive rock bands. When she came to Neon Trees, we are more straightforward when it comes to drumming. It’s cool to have the kind of drummer who’s used to playing more complicated beats to where she narrows it down for the songs. I think we all agree on certain musical ideals and it’s a really good dynamic.
With all these varied influences coming together, what do you think makes a good song?
I think it’s the melody. When I write music, I write the melody first. I hum melodies walking around towns and at the venues before we play and eventually forming lyrics with them. Of course the lyrics are very important too. It’s more complicated to write a good pop song. A lot of people have that problem of simplifying and not trying to cram so much thought into one song. That can be hard. You have to really keep it focused.
In all your music videos, the band seems to always emit this really awesome good vibe and camaraderie. What’s the chemistry and dynamics like within the band?
(Chuckles) We are very hilarious to each other. When we first came out, a lot of people thought maybe we take ourselves too seriously. I try to remind people to look at our hair in a cool way and listen at what we are singing about. There are definitely elements of fun. We like to have good times as a band and as a family. We are very eccentric and weird, just as we are very normal as well. I really appreciate the dynamic that we have right now.
It’s cheerful and optimistic.
Sure! We actually made a music video for “Your Surrender” that has more of a darker and serious theme. And when we saw the finished product, we didn’t like it. I think we tend to do lighter things a little better than darker things.
Is that the reason why you asked your fans to make a music video for “Your Surrender” as well?
Yeah. The first video that we made really didn’t connect as much as we wanted it do. “Your Surrender” is such an important song to us so the ideal is to open it up to the fans and see what they thought could present when they hear the song. We’ve seen some pretty great entries so it’s really cool to see that kind of creativity from our fans.
The band is playing MTV World Stage Live In Malaysia 2011 this coming Sunday. How excited are you touring Asia?
I’m glad that as a band, we get to go to all these countries, especially Malaysia, China and Japan. I’m very into Asian culture and have always gravitated towards it. I’m very excited to find out more about these countries and things that a lot of people still don’t know about. And I’m very excited to meet the fans! I find that when we play countries that perhaps don’t get as that many bands playing all the time, the fans really appreciate the music and the bands a lot more.