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Neon Trees Interview with Spin or Bin Music

By  July 30, 2011

The setting for Tuesday’s media interview with the American, Utah-based alternative rock band, Neon Trees, couldn’t have been anywhere cosier. It was held at Somerset Liang Court's service apartment located just a stone’s throw away from their concert venue at Fort Canning Park for their gig later on in the evening.

The gorgeous band was all smiles as they walked in and settled themselves on the cushy, padded seats at the dining area. Some kopi or teh glasses at the glass table in front of them would have made the setting complete. Alas, it’s one of pop’s current red-hot band we’re talking about here, and so the interviewers present all couldn’t wait to get a piece of them.

As the interview ranged from their album, hectic touring experiences, some tame sins of their youths to their inspirations, the band was so to speak, the perfect guests, with their chatty and forthcoming banter. Probably due to being rooted here in this leg of the tour the longest so far (a total of three days), the chilled & well-mannered members came off as very down-to-earth people, especially the frontman whose mellowness made him seem completely different than from his wild performer persona.


Thoughts on being in Asia for the very first time

Having just finished their first couple of shows first at Indonesia’s largest rock festival, the Java Rockin’ Land and then on to Malaysia for the MTV World Stage concert to finally headlining their own show here in Singapore, the band had only praises for Asia.

Tyler (T): It’s very old-world in UK & Europe and more forward-thinking here. I think we’ve been a little more embraced here, in Asia. With the band and the show, we have been a little more energetic.

Branden (B): Asia is more modern.

Elaine (E): We feel more at home here. Seriously! Especially here in Singapore!

B: Can we move here?

T: I can live here!

Chris (C): I can’t believe how many people can speak English here!

The band also shared that they had really good (spicy) food such as our famous bbq sambal stingray, at the touristy Newton hawker food centre and were looking forward to sight-seeing more the day after. Last we heard on Twitter the day after their gig, they did manage to squeeze in a boat ride at our Singapore River and did some shopping while here.

Crazy touring experiences?

T: I want to share something, it happened just this morning, which was surreal for us. We were walking to McDonald’s for breakfast and me & Branden walked in, and Animals was playing. And all of a sudden all the people that worked there recognised us, started wanting pictures. It seemed like it was staged like in the movies, but it wasn’t!

B: And everyone started to dance.

T: I couldn’t stop smiling! It’s cool to get recognized somewhere but to also have your song playing at the same time, it was really crazy.

Indeed, a truly a rockstar way to start off your day when you’re playing a big show in the country later on that night huh. The band went on to share some personal gory (yikes!) stories, and the envious Green Day encounter they had.

T: A personal thing that happened to me was in Holland, that I fell off the stage and shattered my front teeth. So these are new (points to a couple of his teeth), and that was really scary because it was the first time I really got injured playing live. And up until that point I felt always fearless when I was live so, now I’m a little more careful.

B: We kicked off one of our Spring tours in Oakland and Mike Dirnt (bass player for Green Day) who’s from there, came to wished us luck and brought us a guitar that they have been using in the studio for their new record. Saying ‘I’ve been playing this, I thought about you guys, you guys should have it’ and it’s a real honour for us to be in that company.

The Glee & It factor

Having had their hit single Animal featured on the recently concluded Season 2 of the popular American musical TV series Glee, the band revealed it was actually one of the newer leads, actor Darren Criss who pushed for them and sold them over to the cast and crew of the show.

T: I’ve heard since then, a lot of the cast members have become fans, so it’s cool. I was a choir kid in school, you know, so how do you say no to your past?

Life truly imitates art, as one can only tell that the band members are as passionate about their music, as how the Glee characters are. They seemed sincerely appreciative as they reflected about their struggling past and the most rewarding thing about being in the spotlight: that is, seeing their wildest dreams come true by playing to the thousands of fans at their every show these days.

E: Playing live to so many people…we love performing, making music, and sharing with people. The exchange with the audience is really rewarding.

C: Before we were in the spotlight, we had to book our own shows, we didn’t have a booking agent, and that is such a relief (to not do that), and to know now that we can play pretty much anywhere we want to, it’s amazing!

B: The bigger places we can play, the louder we can play. We play loud!

Having notched Glee on their belt, it was only inevitable that the world would soon be sold over by the music of Neon Trees too, as was pointed out to them that their genre has now officially crossed over to the mainstream.

T: I think alternative music can still be mainstream and I think we’ve always set out to be the kind of band that we want to be, a band that makes people want to sing and has anthem-ic songs. So I don’t think we were ever afraid of being put on the radio or on a TV show…in fact I think we set out to be that way.

And at the same time, we’ve remained true to ourselves, we’ve remained true to the integrity of the band because this is what we wanted from the beginning. We’ve never felt like we’ve sold out and changed, if anything I feel like we’ve become more honest, and as we’ve rise, we’re more comfortable.

E: I love that we have a foot in each world, because we love pop music! At the same time, we love alternative music.

T: We love alternative!

C: We’re definitely not leaving Alternative behind!

E: I think we’re happy to be able to straddle it. It’s fantastic.

B: There’s too many people trying to keep a score of what this label is, and what that label is, and I think that music is for everybody. And the boundaries, the lines are very blurry now, as to who’s allowed to go listen to what music. So this kind of stuff doesn’t matter, as long as everyone enjoys it.

Music and fashion

So what shaped the members to be lovably different from the (to quote from their song Sins of Our Youth) ‘mainstream made emotions’, as they proudly go about wearing their Alternative label?

T: As a child, I was very taken by Michael Jackson & the way he performed. But I loved punk music from the late 70s and the 80s, very influenced by that… like The New York Dolls, and The Smiths.

E: When I was a kid, Led Zeppelin and Depeche Mode, simultaneously I loved them!

B: Classic rock artistes...Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix. While I’m a bassist player, I also like to look at the emotions that Jimi Hendrix plays with the guitar, that’s what I pick up on. Fashion-wise, I’m just stuck in the past I guess. I love the fashion of the 50s, Elvis, James Dean, Marlon Brando.

C: R.E.M., Cyndi Lauper, a couple of big influences for me.

Love and affection

It seems despite these strong individuals’ various eclectic tastes, the band had nothing but the love for each other when it came to covering each other’s backs. Us reporters tried really hard to tease out any sparky tensions among them, but they were quick to defend their healthy relationships. When the boys were asked if they had to accommodate Elaine, the only female in the band on tour, Elaine instead piped in.

E: We’re not typical! I don’t know, I’m not a typical girl, and they’re not typical guys, so a lot of things (that ‘should’ bother) don’t bother us. So they’re not…jerks, u know what I mean? So maybe u guys should answer that.

B: We play around sarcastically, you know, we always joke and make jokes about things, but there’s never anything serious.

T: We’re like family kind of, so when we do get into fights or make fun of each other, we quickly  realize the love behind it, and that we care for each other. It’s taken a while (to get used to each other), it used to be very stressful when we first got together.

E: But not because of the girl.

T: Nah, it wasn’t. It never caused any trouble.

C: We always try to not offend, since we’re in close quarters all the time. Good rules to live by.

B: We’re all equally fragile.

E: I am not the most emotional! It’s more a family…we try to be more aware of the pet peeves and not go there. We sometimes get catty but we try to take care of things rather than leave them as ammos. Like if something’s actually bothering us, we’ll talk about it.

C: I don’t like when others pass gas in close quarters.

T: Aw, rude!

B: Alright, next question!

Habits they just can’t break

Think these Mormons from Utah are somewhat too squeaky wholesome for their own good? Think again! Here’re their quirky habits, in lieu of the title of their debut full-length album.

E: I have a good habit, I love working out. Like, these guys all went out yesterday, and I did an hour of (exercise), and I loved it!  And then I went out (laughs).

T: I drink a lot of diet coke, too much probably for my bones.

C: I eat a lot of sweets, definitely a bad habit.

B: Nothing really you know, that’s exciting.

E: Here’s the thing, we don’t drink or do classically bad habitual things for bands.

B: I like to go shopping, and, my closet do not hold any more clothes, any more shoes. Well, sometimes I get it for free, you know like, just acquiring clothes.

T: I came out here, saying to myself I wasn’t going to buy anything, and I’ve already gotten too much. Enough to like, fill up two more suitcases.

B: And guitars too, I think I have about twenty bass guitars, they’re all just piled up in my basement. Never too many!

T: The title of our record, it was more about the habits that we communicate in our love relationships, so less about like drugs or sex or anything. Well, it is about sex too but.

Sins of their youth

Prom being one of the biggest events to any average American high-schooler, it must have been quite the honor to have the band’s single, Your Surrender featured on the recent Disney film titled yes, Prom. Despite being also viewed as your typical cool, artsy band whom you can so imagine hiring to play at your school prom (as I mentioned in my Habits album review back in Feb), the members didn’t exactly recall having your typical prom experiences.

T: A lot of my friends in high school didn’t like prom, because we were kind of the rebellious, freaky drama kids, but I loved it! And my friends would always make fun of it, but I liked the excuse to dress up and look cool. And me and my girlfriend were really inspired by the Japanese street style, and we would be really overblown. When we showed up, everyone would be wanting to take our picture, and it would make us feel like celebrities.

E: I only went to one. I didn’t go to my senior prom, I planned on going but my band at that time had a show, so I didn’t go. The band always came first, oh well.

B: I was late to my prom, which is very telling. I was off doing mischievous things, and when I showed up, I found out that they had been chanting my name because I was nominated for the Prom King, and missed all of it, all the glory. So I kind of chilled out for the night, it was pretty boring, unfortunately.

C: I went with a girl that I had crush on for years. So I wanted to take her to a really nice place to eat, and so I tried to book it at this one place but they were all booked up. So my mum recommended this other restaurant and she was like, ‘It’s really nice, they have cloth napkins.’ And I was like, since my mum said it was nice…and it was the Olive Garden.

E: It’s a horribly stupid chain of Italian restaurants. It’s like T.G.I. Friday's for Italian, it’s not great.

C: I don’t think she was that impressed.

Farther down (the road for world domination)

Finally, when quizzed what were the top countries they were most looking forward to while doing their insane touring now (they’ve been touring pretty much nonstop for a year and a half already), the enthusiasm for their upcoming country stops was tangible.

T: I’m really excited to go to Japan, since I was an exchange student in junior high school, and so, I’ve always wanted to go back.

E: I’m excited to go to China! Because we didn’t know we were going until pretty much the last minute before we left, and I don’t know what to expect.

C: We’ve gotten to go to so many places that we’ve wanted to go to, we’ve hit almost all of them now.Italy (next)?

B: Mexico City & Rio in Brazil, where they have really big concerts down there. Everywhere, we want to play the whole world!

With such dreams and nothing but their undying passion, we wish these fresh upstarts all the best, as they continue sowing and reaping their Neon Trees musical seeds for their international tour!

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