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The Sound

Trees keep growing

12/3/2014

Neon Trees plays the Iowa Events Center on Monday, Dec. 8. Photo by Andrew Zaeh

Neon Trees plays the Iowa Events Center on Monday, Dec. 8. Photo by Andrew Zaeh

The past couple years have been about growth for Neon Trees in general, and for their front man, Tyler Glenn in particular. As the man who handles the lion’s share of the songwriting duties, much of the band’s success or failure rides on his shoulders. On that front, he has been enormously successful.

Starting with the band’s first single, “Habits,” and continuing on through the outlandishly successful 2012 single “Everybody Talks” and this year’s “Sleeping With a Friend,” Neon Trees has enjoyed a slew of well-received releases.

“You can never really count on that happening,” said Neon Trees guitarist Chris Allen in a phone interview from his California home. “We certainly never expected it. When it did happen (with “Habits”), that was awesome. Then “Everybody Talks” was even bigger, which was great.

“But there’s always self-doubt, and we don’t know if there’s going to be another one. But I think by this point, now that we’ve had three successful songs, when we release an album we kind of expect at least one song to work.”

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But Allen, who has been playing with Glenn since the early years of this century, and whom Glenn calls “my other half” musically, feels the band’s best work is still ahead of it. Again, the reason comes down to confidence. As Glenn has continued to write, his voice has become stronger and more personal, and the band as a whole has become more collaborative.

“(Glenn) will be writing songs and recording demos, and we’ll work through our parts and add what we feel fits,” Allen said, explaining the group’s creative process. “We’ll bounce things off each other. We also all bring in our own ideas and work off of those. And sometimes we’ll just start from scratch.

“The past few years though, it’s been more of Tyler bringing songs to us, because we don’t get together as much. I’ve been playing with him since 2001, and have seen drastic changes over the years. He’s more polished and the lyrics are more clever.”

The maturation of Neon Trees has been a long time coming. Even though Glenn and Allen have known each other since childhood, their musical development was belayed by a higher calling: all of Neon Trees’ members are members of the Mormon church, and Glenn and Allen both went on missions after high school.

“I started playing with Tyler right after I got back from my mission,” Allen explained. “Then we only played for a few months before he went off on his mission. So for a while, I thought, ‘You know, maybe music’s done for me.’ Then when (Glenn) came back, he reached out to another friend of ours to be a drummer for a new band he was putting together. Then he called me. It came out of nowhere and really put a new spark into music for me.”

Neon Trees saw itself fitting into a genre that was being defined by groups like The Killers and Bloc Party, and singles like “Habits” and “Everybody Talks” have shown that it belongs. As far as the band is concerned, all that’s left to do is to keep working toward the definitive Neon Trees album. If past experience is anything to go by, fans will continue to flock to the band’s sound as it matures and grows. But even if it fell apart tomorrow, Allen knows the band’s members will be able to sleep well at night.

“Even if we don’t get a big hit off an album, we’ve been getting happier and happier with the music we’ve been putting out,” he said. CV

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