The success of Neon Trees’ new “Pop Psychology” album—which enters the Billboard charts this week at No. 6–on one hand illustrates that good, carefully crafted rock ‘n’ roll music still can draw a significant audience.
And on the other?
Publicly acknowledging that you’re a gay Mormon in Rolling Stone isn’t necessarily bad for business.
The Provo, Utah-based band–whose sharp, colorful modern pop has never sounded smarter on this, their third album–drew recent headlines when its highly visible singer and songwriter Tyler Glenn chose the respected mag to announce his sexual orientation.
That the reaction to that revelation was comparatively muted–and perhaps no less controversial to some than the fact that all four members of the band were raised as Mormons, as often happens in Provo–seems particularly significant.
“I didn’t go seeking out approval, really,” singer Glenn recently told Yahoo Music. “What I’ve received is really overwhelming positivity, and it’s been a real moment for me–because I never associated being gay with happy things. You know, ever.”
Glenn’s upbeat demeanor, and the conspicuous support of his longtime friends and bandmates, would appear to illustrate that in 2014, embracing openness on all levels—musical, sexual, personal—has very few commercial downsides.
“My biggest reason for doing the piece was to dictate my story,” says Glenn. “I guess there’s a lot of blanket statements made about gay pop culture people. Me wearing pink and sparkles and things like that–people have assumptions about who I am and what I’m about. I was really grateful that they gave me such a wide opportunity to tell them, ‘Yeah, I still believe in God. Maybe I’m still actually Mormon, too. And maybe I’m navigating this, and I’m human, and I’m figuring it out and I don’t know all the answers.’ It was really cool not to just tweet ‘I’m gay’ and see what people thought. I’m grateful for that.”
Glenn notes that he was especially moved by the reaction the piece brought from those in his hometown of Provo, with its vast Mormon population.
“I really appreciate these married Mormon men that even hold leadership [positions] in the church saying, ‘This is awesome that you’re doing this.’ It’s cool to get surprised from the other end. It’s not just me surprising people, or me making this statement. It’s cool that [other] people are comfortable too, you know?”
The quartet’s recent visit to Yahoo Music’s studios in Santa Monica offered up three songs and was one of the most exciting shoots we’ve hosted in recent months. Top that with the candid and revealing interview with Glenn and bandmates Chris Allen (guitars), Branden Campbell (bass) and Elaine Bradley (drums), and you’ve got a bird’s-eye view of one of America’s best rock ’n’ roll bands in their prime. We were thankful, and you should be, too.