The effortless pop of Neon Trees bounces back after a live breakdown and therapy breakthrough


Neon Trees were still riding high on the success of their second album, Picture Show, and the hit single "Everybody Talks" (which propelled the band to the forefront of the mainstream pop world), when touring behind the album came to an abrupt and premature halt.

After a particularly frustrating show in Las Vegas in 2012, singer Tyler Glenn – who had gotten increasingly antagonistic with crowds that weren't taking to Neon Trees during a tour opening for the Offspring – decided he needed to get his life in order. Doing that meant going into therapy and canceling the remaining Neon Trees concerts that were booked.

To outsiders, it might have seemed like a situation that could create serious conflict within the Neon Trees camp. After all, the band was losing out on touring income and the opportunity to make Picture Show an even bigger hit than it already was.

But drummer Elaine Bradley says no one in the band had an issue with Glenn's decision to pull the plug on band activities.

"We all received the same email where he just explained, like, 'Hey guys, I know that things have been rough and I'm having personally a very, very hard time and I need to take some time for myself to get right,'" she says in a phone interview.

"I think when that happened none of us really thought of the business, like 'Oh no, why can't we play these shows?' I think it was more about, of course, you do what you need to do to get right. It's not worth it if we are ... personally just [killing] ourselves to have the kind of success we would have had if we would have just kept going. I think we would have eventually just like burned out and gone away. So I think we all understood the necessity and the importance of taking that time then and worrying about it later."

Three years later, Neon Trees has a follow-up album out called Pop Psychology and the world knows about some of the problems that had Glenn in turmoil by 2012. In an April 2014 article in Rolling Stone magazine, the singer revealed he was gay and talked about his time in therapy and how it helped him get to the root of his problems.

No longer hiding his sexuality was a big step. Like Bradley and his other Neon Trees bandmates, guitarist Chris Allen and bassist Branden Campbell, Glenn was raised Mormon and had chosen Provo, Utah, a conservative community that is 88 percent Mormon, for his home. Following a faith that considers homosexuality a "serious transgression," just short of rape and murder, was bound to create conflicts for Glenn.

Glenn told Rolling Stone he had crushes on guys during high school, but it wasn't an overwhelming part of his life until his 20s. He had, in fact, dated girls and at one point had a two-year relationship with a woman he intended to marry.

But after forming Neon Trees in 2005, Glenn's issues with his sexuality grew to be more of a struggle, and the question of whether to come out or keep things secret increasingly became a burden.

The meltdown on tour in 2012 ended up being the turning point. Once in therapy, Glenn began to find his emotional center and decided he was going to come out.

Not only did Glenn resolve to go public about his homosexuality, during writing sessions for Pop Psychology with longtime friend Tim Pagnotta (frontman of the band Sugarcult and co-writer of "Everybody Talks," as well as "Animal," the hit single from Neon Trees' 2010 debut album, Habits), Glenn took things a step further. He began to deal with his sexuality in songs he and Pagnotta were writing, including "Sleeping With a Friend" and "Teenager in Love."

Lyrically, such songs bring an extra depth to Pop Psychology. Musically, however, the album furthers Neon Trees' track record for creating upbeat, hooky and tightly crafted pop-rock songs. Tunes like "Text Me in the Morning," "Love in the 21st Century" and "I Love You, but I Hate Your Friends," offer sugar-sweet hooks, smart blends of guitars, synthesizers and electronics and enough edge to keep things rocking. Meanwhile, midtempo tunes like "Living in Another World" and "Foolish Behavior" give the album a nice balance.

Bradley says the changes in Glenn's life have benefited Neon Trees as a live band as well.

"I think personally we're kind of different, happier people," she says.

"So that helps the live show, especially Tyler getting comfortable with himself and, almost, getting right in the head, if you will, helps him to let a lot of things go. He used to internalize a lot of things and get really upset if it didn't go exactly like he wanted to. So I think his newfound comfort with himself really helps us put on the show he wants to put on, which is excellent."