For Neon Trees‘ Tyler Glenn, his solo debut is as political as it is personal. Two years after the singer came out to Rolling Stone and declared himself equally proud of being both gay and a practicing Mormon, his song “Trash” and its accompanying video clearly denounce the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ restrictive, conservative view of same-sex relationships.
In the clip for the biting electro-pop track, Glenn is first seen drinking straight from a liquor bottle, though alcohol is forbidden by Mormonism. As he sings the song, the musician is surrounded by Mormon imagery, including altered portraits of the church’s founder, Joseph Smith. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” he sings during the song’s chorus, which he tells Rolling Stone is meant to be a reflection of a “violent relationship.”
Glenn’s performance in the video is violent and incendiary, mirroring his troubled relationship with his religion. He spits out lyrics that reflect the self-loathing he felt upon hearing the ban on members of the LGBTQ community in the Mormon church last year. “My entire life and perspective on God, the afterlife, morals and values, my self-worth and my born sexual orientation has been wired within the framework of this religion that doesn’t have a place for me,” he told Rolling Stone of the importance of his personal statement. “I served [this church]. I was the square peg trying to fit into the round hole. I believed it till six months ago.”
At the time Glenn came out in 2014, he was still a believer in the Mormon church, having been raised in the faith, gone on a mission and continued to be a member of the community in Salt Lake City, where he remains. “I always tried to make being gay and being Mormon work,” he says. Glenn had hoped he’d become an ambassador to his church on behalf of more progressive views, until the church confirmed that they would excommunicate members who participated in same-sex relationships. Now, he sees himself as a different kind of ambassador.
“The big problem here is that they claim it’s the only truth,” he says. “There have been over 40 suicides within the church as a result of this policy. These aren’t just grown men and women. Many are children. It’s backwards. It’s not of God. I needed to make this statement to artfully show the pain of a faith crisis and the darkness of doubt, but also that there’s ways to reclaim what is yours.”
Glenn is promising a full solo album in the future that will address this same faith crisis through a lens of “celebration.” He describes his music sans Neon Trees as “more adventurous” and “aggressive.” Even though he’s exploring a career on his own, Neon Trees are not over, and his band supports his creative endeavor. “I’m not sure if they totally support the content,” he adds. “I haven’t played or showed them much. I do love them and hope that this record doesn’t change things negatively, but other than that, I feel fearless about it.”