SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Neon Trees are a rock band that's known for its '80s style, catchy pop music. Think Duran Duran meets The Killers, for whom they used to open. But Neon Trees also has a story. They live in Provo, Utah, but they grew up in Southern California as members of the Church of Latter-day Saints. [POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION: The correct name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.] Their latest album includes songs like "Foolish Behavior," "Text Me In The Morning" and their biggest hit right now, "Sleeping with a Friend."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLEEPING WITH A FRIEND")
NEON TREES: (Singing) I said, ooh, ooh, we're in danger sleeping with a friend. Sleeping with a friend...
SIMON: And Tyler Glenn, their lead singer, spoke publicly about being gay for the first time last month. But we don't want to miss the music just by seeing all the stories in Neon Trees. Tyler Glenn and Elaine Bradley, who is the band's drummer, join us now from New York. Thanks, both, very much for being with us.
TYLER GLENN: Hello, thanks for having us.
ELAINE BRADLEY: It's a pleasure.
SIMON: I'm just guessing that more people who want to be musicians leave Provo for Southern California than vice versa. How did you folks decide, we want to go into music, let's head for Provo?
GLENN: Well, Chris and I - our guitar player and myself - Southern California natives. He ended up going to school there, so I followed him there. And I was the same as you, sir. I didn't think Provo at all would be the spot. But when I got there, I was quickly surprised.
BRADLEY: Yeah, I have a very similar experience but different. I'm from Chicago, actually, originally. So I went to Utah to go to BYU, and I thought that I was leaving the mecca of music, you know, and my career would be over. But I wanted to be practical, so I wanted to go get a degree. And it's funny that arriving in Provo was really refreshing, that the music scene was so vibrant.
SIMON: Well, I don't understand how you get music clubs when they can't sell alcohol?
BRADLEY: Yeah, it's very interesting 'cause the clubs in Provo don't do it. And I thought that was going to be a terrible thing but funny enough, I think it actually creates a kind of culture of music appreciation 'cause there's nothing else to do. So like, you end a song and people are there watching you. There's no clinking bottles and loud, drunk shouting, you know?
SIMON: Let's listen to a little of your music, a track called "Living In Another World."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIVING IN ANOTHER WORLD")
NEON TREES: (Singing) They've been telling me to come of age, I've been going through an awkward phase. Whoa, whoa. They've been trying hard to wake me up, saying stuff that never gets me off. Whoa, whoa. Don't mind me, I'm living in another world. Don't mind me, I'm living in another world...
SIMON: Tyler Glenn, is there a story with this song?
GLENN: Yeah, it's actually probably my most emotional song on the record and probably, to date. I say in the song, like: I guess I've always been this way, it's been hard for me to say - relates to, you know, my sexuality and also, my religion and how the two meet.
SIMON: Is it something you'd leave the church over, or something you'd hope to change the church with?
GLENN: I think more the latter. I mean, I'm not looking to disrespect anyone, but I think there's already a little bit of a change on the horizon anyway; that slowly, that the church has been more accepting. And I also feel like media has definitely overspun some things said within the church, 'cause honestly, growing up and being actively Mormon, I was never told anything about sexuality being wrong - or homosexuality being wrong.
Obviously, with the Prop 8 situation, that’s when it kind of became more public, and that's kind of also when I started to question things and - as part of accepting who I am sexually, I also wanted to not throw away my faith. And I'm figuring out how the two align.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIVING IN ANOTHER WORLD")
NEON TREES: (Singing) Don't mind me, I'm living in another world...
SIMON: Both of you were Mormon missionaries, I gather?
SIMON: You were in Nebraska for two years?
GLENN: I lucked out.
SIMON: I've interviewed a lot of people who have been on Mormon missions over the years. Forgive me; I love Nebraska but it's, you know, usually some exotic place, where they learn another language and...
BRADLEY: I did.
SIMON: Yes, you went to Germany, right?
GLENN: All the band members went to more extravagant places, but I went to Omaha. I actually fell in love with it, so - but definitely, opening the letter with your family filming you. Everyone's crying, and I'm crying mostly because I'm going to Nebraska.
SIMON: Tyler Glenn, with the advantage of - what? - 10 years' hindsight, has music given you a way of working out your place in the world?
GLENN: I would say at times it was - it's my best friend. Music has never failed me. It's helped me, you know, write the songs, helped me say things without being too explicit, but I can get things off my chest.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOICES IN THE HALL")
NEON TREES: (Singing) And you really got your hooks in me, maybe that's the punishment for love. I still stay up late at night trying to hear your voices in the halls...
GLENN: It's given me like, a purpose where I felt like maybe I didn't always have one, or I was trying to figure it out. And it's nice to be given a talent and be able to use it. Not everyone gets that opportunity all the time.
SIMON: Who gave you that talent?
GLENN: Well, I always attribute it to God 'cause my family has no musical talent whatsoever...
GLENN: ...So he must have.
SIMON: So if we have people who tune in who find it hard to hold in their head the idea of a high-energy rock band filled with Mormons, and the lead singer is openly gay, does that just show the - our ignorance about what it is to be a Mormon?
BRADLEY: Well, yeah, I mean, I think that's why it's kind of refreshing and awesome that he hasn't fallen prey to, I think, what people expect is the polarizing effect - that either you can be gay, or you can be religious; or you can be gay, or you can be Mormon. You're not allowed to be both. Sometimes the things that we think and the things that we feel and the things that we believe, they don't always match up 100 percent. And we need to be able to navigate those waters honestly.
SIMON: Tyler Glenn and Elaine Bradley, of Neon Trees. Their new album, "Pop Psychology." Thanks so much for speaking with us.
GLENN: Thank you very much.
BRADLEY: Thank you for having us.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOOLISH BEHAVIOR")
NEON TREES: (Singing) A night like this, you were wasted like a teenager in love. I felt your touch, it was naked...
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