Neon Trees has definitely been on the lips of the music-minded for quite some time. But it wasn't until front man Tyler Glenn, a devout Mormon, publicly came out as gay in a Rolling Stones magazine interview in March did the band become a hot topic outside the music scene.
“My choice to come out publicly in a national magazine was because I really wanted to tell my perspective on faith, on music and sexuality,” said Glenn in a recent phone interview. “I had already come out to my friends and family a month prior so it was kind of like the nerves were gone, but I didn't want to just tweet it as like, ‘Oh, by the way...'”
The news made waves just around the time Neon Trees dropped its third album, “Pop Psychology,” in April — and it couldn't have been better timing.
“I feel like the album sort of provided a safe zone for me to come out. I talk a lot about identity, like being trapped in love with someone you can't be in love with because you're not out. There was an opportunity there to talk about it within music, which made me feel really comfortable,” he said. “The records that we put out prior to me coming out always talked about sexuality and identity, but never as comfortable as I did on this new album.”
With Glenn beaming about the positive reception of “Pop Psychology,” it's crazy to think the album almost didn't happen.
The alt-rock band from Utah rose into fame with its breakthrough 2009 hit “Animal,” which was later certified double platinum and helped propel the band's first studio album, “Habits,” in 2010.
The band found continued success with its 2011 single, “Everybody Talks.” The song peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving the Neon Trees its first top 10 hit on the chart.
But after wrapping a 2012 tour with The Offspring, Glenn went through “something of a breakdown” that forced the band — which consists of childhood friend and fellow Murrieta native Chris Allen on guitar, bassist Branden Campbell and drummer Elaine Bradley — to cancel Neon Trees' remaining events for the year.
A stint with a therapist and some soul-searching later, however, Glenn is back more energized than ever.
“The show's the same, but it's almost more joyous and celebratory. I haven't always had the best time on stage even though it's the place I like to go to let loose and have a good time,” he said. “It's nice to get it back where it's a comfortable, really fun place to be for me.”
Since coming out, Glenn has gotten an outpouring of support from the LGBT community, fans and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which all members of Neon Trees are faithful followers.
“It is interesting how quickly people want to make you that role model and I'm kind of like ‘ahhh' because I'm still young and figuring it out. It's still all very new to me, you know,” the 30-year-old said. “I do want to be a positive voice for people, but I'd rather do that in music and on a stage rather than in a political forum.”
To that end, Neon Trees is on its Pop Psychology Tour and will be making a stop in Los Angeles on Saturday at The Wiltern in support of the band's latest album.
“It's been just really fun to tour and feel like the crowd is finally catching the nuances in the music,” Glenn said before a show in Austin, Texas.
“I'm able to talk candidly and not change the story anymore because I'm afraid of being completely open. ... There's a direct line of communication between us and our fans now. Maybe it's something I'm making up in my mind, but I do think there is a more genuine connection on this tour.”
The current tour comes as every member in the band has gone through some life changing events. Aside from Glenn coming out, Allen, who has a child with epilepsy, has been advocating for medical policies to change in Utah, Allen got married and drummer Bradley became a mom.
“I think we've become more adult-ish, which is kind of a weird thing to say,” Glenn said, with a laugh. “It's like a coming of age.”
Bradley is particularly excited for the L.A. stop since the last time the band had a concert at The Wiltern on July 30, 2012, she was in labor with her son Bryce. Drummer John Buckner filled in for her.
“It will be nice to be playing instead of birthing a child through this show,” she said.
While the tour runs through Sept. 13, concluding with a show in Berlin, Glenn is already excited for what's next for Neon Trees.
“I'm interested to see — post-coming out — what we put out next because there is this level of ease and comfort that my friends and family say I have now, which I think is really cool,” Glenn said. “I'm interested in seeing how that will affect the writing.”
Until then, Glenn is going to relish in the ability to simply be himself on stage.
“Coming out has affected what I say on stage now. Like it's cool for me to be able to say this guy in the crowd is cute or whatever and not have a fear about how people will take it or what they'll say. People are fine with it,” he said. “It's kind of silly how much fear you have about sexuality before you learn to embrace it.”
Where: The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles.
When: 7 p.m. June 14.
Tickets: General admission starts at $63.
Neon Trees reminisces about Inland Empire roots
The members of Neon Trees may live in Provo, Utah these days, but their ties to the Inland Empire run deep. The very name of the band originated from a popular fast food chain in the area.
“The Temucula In-N-Out had these neon palm trees when I used to hang out there in high school that I always thought were cool. So my friends and I named an imaginary band Neon Palm Trees,” said front man Tyler Glenn, who was born and raised in Murrieta. “I always thought that would be a cool real band name, but as we started this band we thought palm trees were too specific so we ended up with Neon Trees and the rest is our history.”
In an serendipidous twist of fate, Glenn later learned that bassist Branden Campbell's dad installed the neon trees for In-N-Out chains throughout the Inland Empire.
“I didn't know Branden in high school but 10 years later when he joined the band, he said his dad installed those trees,” Glenn said. “So it was kind of a weird written-in-the-stars kind of thing.”
While Glenn admits he didn't always appreciate the Inland Empire growing up, he has fond memories growing up next door to fellow bandmate Chris Allen and continues to think of the area with much love.
“I love going back there now,” he said, adding that his parents still live in the Murrieta home he grew up in. “There's this weird charm to it. Maybe it's because it's my childhood, but I don't think it's as bad as people make it out to be. ... It's in my blood.”
Follow Mariecar Mendoza on Twitter: @LANGMarMendoza