Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Interview with Neon Trees' Elaine Bradley

Neon Trees. The mix of front-man Tyler Glenn, guitarist Chris Allen, bass guitarist Branden Campbell and drummer Elaine Bradley seems to be working and their latest album is no exception. With their throwback 80's style and catchy hooks, they seem to have captured the magic music formula and are taking the airwaves by storm.

You've likely heard their songs on the radio - it seems they are getting a lot of airplay since their third album, "Pop Psychology" was released in April.  But, maybe you don't know them by name or even how they got their name. We sat down with drummer Elaine Bradley, who shared how their name came to be, their business philosophy, her hope for society and how she makes it work going on tour as a mom.

by Brett Lane
Brett Lane: Where did the name Neon Trees originate? It’s a pretty original name, so there must be a story!

Elaine Bradley: That’s a pretty good story. Tyler and his friends in high school used to hang out at In-N-Out Burger in Temecula, CA, and at that particular location, they have these neon palm tree lights inside of the restaurant. So, he and his friends inside joke was ‘We should start a band and become the Neon Palm Trees, cuz it sounds cool”, and later when he and Chris got together to do music, he dropped a few names and they discussed it and Neon Trees was one of the options, and they thought that fit the aesthetic and vibe of the band. Years later, we found out, when Brandon and I teamed up with Chris and Tyler, that Brandon’s father actually works with neon lights in Vegas, and he actually drove down to Temecula and installed those specific lights that inspired the band name, so it’s very fateful.

Chris, Elaine, Tyler and Brandon of Neon Trees

Brett Lane: What is the inspiration for the style of the band?

Elaine Bradley: I think this record ("Pop Psychology"), is very  dancey and upbeat for the most part, it’s got a shimmer to it that the other two haven’t had, so I definitely think the music is more of a celebration. So, maybe the clothes kind of follow the mood. I think earlier we shyed away from the literal “neon” in our name, so we would not wear neon on purpose. We’re embracing it this time, we’re going for it, we’re just making it a party, a celebration, both in our fashion and in our music.

Brett Lane: It’s widely known that everyone in the band is either a practicing Mormon or has a Mormon background, and yet you are not considered a “Mormon band”. Does being a Mormon impact the band in any way? Or, not at all?

Elaine Bradley: Well, I think because we’re humans, every experience or background that we have affects us in some way. But, interestingly enough, we’re not all practicing Mormons. I definitely am, I just had a Mormon message come out, so that’s obvious.

But we’re all kind of on different levels, and I think very early on it impacted us in a way that helped us get our business set up. We used some of the moral codes to kind of run a tight business. We decided very early on that we weren’t going to drink or do drugs or any of that stuff, when it comes to the band, and it wasn’t even about being Mormon, it was about being smart, because we’re such dramatic people anyway, if anybody were going to go and do those things and then do them during a show, or before a show, we just didn’t need that drama. And I don’t think we would be as successful without those standards. We work really hard and don’t get to sleep a lot sometimes, because we’re doing promotional stuff, or doing a late show and an early promo, and so, I think early on, how we dealt with our business model was much influenced by the moral code of the Mormon Church, for sure.

So yeah, we’re definitely not a Mormon band. And we always said from the beginning, that what we’re doing spiritually, individually, or as a group, we did not want to be a religious band. We’re not anti-religion, either, but that’s our business, we’re a band first, and then the individual, that’s who can believe or not believe, practice or not practice, but as far as the band goes, it’s pretty neutral.
Brandon, Tyler, Elaine and Chris

Brett Lane: At what point did you know you were a success?

Elaine Bradley: I don’t know, I mean, are we? (laughter) I think what keeps us both grounded and hungry at the same time, is the fact that we really appreciate the little things that happen and the big things that happen, but we never feel like we’re done. So it’s an interesting question, because in a way, we still haven’t have attained what we want to attain. But I think probably the first moment of “Wow this is happening”, was getting to play The Tonight Show when it was hosted by Jay Leno back in 2010, just a few months after the single had come out, and that was really surreal. But there have been tons of those little things along the way that have been triumphs, but I don’t think we’re there yet, where we want to be, so we’re still working, and hungry.

Brett Lane: How would you, as an individual, impact society?

Elaine Bradley: I think that if there were something I would feel good about having an impact, maybe even specifically women...I don’t know, respecting yourself, having morality. Being moral is great. I just feel we’re so inundated to our media and everything around us, however, whatever media is happening, that it’s acceptable and super normal to have no personal standards. I don’t agree. I think we’d be a lot happier and healthier as a society if we had some personal standards.

And also, growing up, I think I was able to do the things that I do, or that I ended up being a drummer in a band is because growing up, I never considered myself as a woman before I did anything. I never considered myself a man, either, but I just never considered gender as an issue. So I just did what I wanted to do, and it was kind of like this blissful ignorance that allowed me to do what I wanted. So, I hope to instill that kind of mentality in to both men and women. It shouldn’t be about the gender, it should be about what your strengths and your skills are, and where you fit in; it has nothing to do with gender.

Brett Lane: I know you’re a Mom, now. How do you manage that when going on tour? Does your son go on tour with you? How does that work?

Elaine Bradley: No he doesn’t most of the home. My husband (Sebastian) stays home. He was a firefighter/paramedic and is still certified as one, but he chose to just be a stay at home Dad, that’s kind of what he wants to do, so he’s really supportive of what I do, because what I do allows him to do what he wants to do.

I think I’m able to do it, and how it works is because my husband and I are on the same page, we have the same understanding that the things that we want get accomplished by my continuing to be in Neon Trees. And so he’s really supportive. If here were somehow on the fence, or wanted to be out of the home, working, or whatever, I think it would be just undoable and really hard. But, the way it is now, it totally works. They fly out whenever they can, or if I have a day or two off in a row I fly home. So we just make it work however we can, lots of Skype and Facetime. Technology is both a blessing and a curse. In this case, it's definitely a blessing!

Brett Lane: As we wrap this interview up, I’d like for you to finish this question: Neon Trees are:

Elaine Bradley: Neon Trees are fun, sarcastic individuals!