Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn proud to be gay and Mormon
Music • Frontman of neo-wave pop band comes out, but remains devout in LDS faith.
Published: April 24, 2014 10:03AM
Updated: June 17, 2014 09:21AM
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Tyler Glenn, vocalist for Neon Trees, performing at In The Venue in Salt Lake City, Utah, Friday, April 8, 2011.

KISS may have been on the cover of the April 10 issue of Rolling Stone, but the most eye-opening headline — at least for those in Utah — was the one on Gene Simmons’ right thigh that proclaimed: “Gay, Mormon & Finally Out.”

It led readers to page 46 and a story about Tyler Glenn, the frontman for Neon Trees, Utah’s most prominent band.

After years of denials and lyrics that obscure the issue, the Utah County resident declared proudly that he is gay — and still a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I believe and I have faith and I was born with this,” Glenn told The Salt Lake Tribune in one of the first interviews since coming out.

There has been speculation about the flamboyant, colorful lead singer and lyricist in the past. Of course, Glenn’s announcement is most shocking because the members of the well-known band are members of the LDS Church, which has worked against legalization of same-sex marriage in California and elsewhere.

But rather than say he is leaving the church, Glenn adamantly believes there is nothing in Jesus Christ’s teaching that tells him he is unworthy of grace.

Glenn knows the importance of coming out.

“This is something I wanted to share,” he said. “I didn’t want to just tweet it out. I had much more to say.”

Overall, Glenn said he was happy with the Rolling Stone article.

“You wonder if it would be salacious,” he said. “I was glad they gave me so much room to tell my story.”

He wasn’t worried about the reaction from his bandmates.

“We have become a real family unit,” he said. “There’s a respect level for each member. I feel closer to the band because of it. … It’s cool because the band is so cool with it.”

Neon Trees drummer Elaine Bradley, described by Rolling Stone as “the band’s most devout Mormon,” appreciated that the author, Caryn Ganz, “adopted Tyler’s tone.”

It would have been easy, she explained, “to sensationalize the story,”

She said there is no way Glenn’s sexual orientation would cause any tension in the band.

“There’s nothing in the teachings [of the faith] that would be ground for animosity,” said the Provo resident and mother of a 1-year-old. “There are no problems at all.”

Glenn’s declaration of sexual independence comes as Neon Trees is about to release its third album, “Pop Psychology.” The band also has planned a tour in Europe and North America, ending in Salt Lake City on June 16. (See box on D1 for concert details.)

While the bulk of “Pop Psychology” was written before the announcement, Glenn said its themes of identity speak to the most challenging part of being a rock star: being in the spotlight while an important part of him lived in the shadows.

“This album is … my struggle,” he said.

Songs such as “Teenager in Love” are about living a life of lies, and the first single, “Sleeping with a Friend,” is about same-sex coupling, albeit not overtly.

While some of the subject matter is different, Glenn said “Pop Psychology” has a “celebratory mood — there’s a lot of meat. … There is a lightness overall, and not as much to prove.”

features@sltrib.com

In concert

P Neon Trees will perform, with Smallpools and Nightmare and the Cat opening.

When • June 16, 6:30 p.m.

Where • The Complex, 536 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $22 in advance, $25 day of, at SmithsTix

‘Pop Psychology’

Neon Trees’ third album will be released on Tuesday, April 22.

Grade: B+ • Frontman Tyler Glenn says the album is a “celebratory” record, and not just because he recently declared that he is gay. After two albums spent trying to prove that the Utah County pop band is not a one-hit wonder (with breakout singles “Animal” and “Everybody Talks”), this third album shows off a confidence not shown before. Best of all is Glenn’s markedly improved singing, ensuring that each smart, new-wavey song is instantly recognizable as Neon Trees. And that is a good thing, indeed.

David Burger