Interview: Neon Trees — "Lady Gaga's playing by the rules to break the rules, and it's a career move we hope to follow."
Thu, 11 Mar 2010 19:25:40
Neon Trees are about to plant some "bright" roots in the pop culture landscape.
Their debut record, Habits, pulsates with a pronounced push-and-pull between punk and dance that's exquisitely unique and unforgettable. Those two genres have never worked together this harmoniously, and Neon Trees make way for the ultimate stylistic marriage. Songs like "Animal" and "Girls and Boys in School" bounce with an electronica vibrancy as well as a frenetic punk rock energy. You may want to dance and mosh after cranking Habits, but they make it okay for you to do both…
Singer Tyler Glenn is, not surprisingly, looking to some very smart pop stars for inspiration. He exclaims, "I think Lady Gaga's playing by the rules to break the rules, and it's a career move I hope to follow." Neon Trees break more rules than her "weirdness" though, and they'll thankfully continue too!
Neon Trees singer Tyler Glenn sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about the stories behind Habits, his fascination with '80s flicks and wanting to go back in time and chill the heck out in high school.
Since Neon Trees mixes so many genres, where do songs typically start?
It's different all the time. Sometimes, we're together in our practice jamming all kinds of music. There have been times where we've written songs that didn't ultimately fit into the Neon Trees world. Then there are other times when I'll be playing on the piano or an acoustic guitar, and I'll write melodies and lyrics that lead to a song. All of our songs turn out very energetic. Even our attempts at ballads still have a certain energy, and it's because we have such an lively rhythm section. That's the overall Neon Trees aesthetic. We don't really pay attention to check if we're tapping into new wave or setting out to write punk. Rather, we end up creating based on what we do in the band.
Do you feel like Habits has a "live" feel because of how organic your creative process is?
The struggle that the band faced for a few years was getting a recording that sounded like our show. I think that the live show is an extension of the record now. The show still takes on a whole new life, but that's the purpose of it [Laughs].
If you were to compare Habits to a movie what would you compare it to?
Good question! I would probably compare it to one of those old epic love stories. It's about the elusive male character that can't ever settle on one thing, but is still searching for that one true love. Yet, I think that character sabotages himself too often. That's definitely a theme in Habits, and it's probably reflective of my own life—the character. It's like an old love story—I can't choose a specific film.
Maybe Casablanca with Mohawks?
[Laughs] There you go!
That could be your next video!
I like that; we'll give you credit if we decide to do it [Laughs].
Deal! Did you grow up entrenched in both the punk and dance music worlds?
Yeah! The four of us are very different people and very different music fans. In the last couple years of playing together, we've taught each other about new music. Personally, I've always been on a steady diet of great pop music. I'm also a huge punk music fan. I love everything from the '70s and '80s. In addition, I'm a fan of storytellers like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. Then we have Brandon who loves Motown and old R&B. He brings that flavor in.
Is there a particular story behind "Girls and Boys in School?"
It's basically about my younger siblings and seeing my little sister go through high school. Once you're past high school age and you're on the other side, you see how petty and small the drama in high school is. I based the lyrics on those funny experience of noticing how small and narrow that age thinks. They think their lives are over if something happens or someone is talking about them or there's a rumor. They don't realize that there's so much more ahead of them, and it's such a small part of life. Basically, the song is about that. It's a commentary on youth in general.
Looking back, you always feel like you could've chilled out more…
Me especially…I was definitely an uptight teenager [Laughs]. As much as I was that kid who wanted to stand out and, at the same time, be understood, I realized that I didn't know myself at all. That's something that I hope we can teach kids through music and our shows. There's hope, and there's always a chance to live out your dreams and become what you want to. The moment you try too hard in anything that you do, it becomes inorganic and unnatural. We make it a point to be honest when we're writing music and playing live.
Since Habits has an '80s feel, do you guys watch flicks from that era a lot?
I'm a massive sucker! I think movies in general, regardless of what kind, were just better in the '80s and early '90s. People had to be super creative with special effects and telling a story because they didn't rely on computers. I love the spirit of the John Hughes films. I have a tradition of watching Pretty In Pink every Valentine's Day regardless of whether I'm in a relationship or not. I've always had an affinity for those characters, and "Ducky" was a nickname of mine in high school because my hair was sort of like that. I guess I'm one of those sappy '80s film fans, but the storytelling was honest and I love watching them. Pretty Pink is the king of all of those films.
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…