Neon Trees Taps Into Its Intimate Side

Bassist Branden Campbell on the band’s new single, why he prefers smaller venues and the impact of touring with Duran Duran

Photo credit: Mathew Hartman

Photo credit: Mathew Hartman

There are bands that play for years trying to produce that radio-immortalizing hit. And then there’s Neon Trees, a new wave/pop quartet hailing from Provo, Utah that’s been wired with the Midas musical touch since the launch of their freshman album Habits. We took a moment to chat with the bassist and Las Vegas native Branden Campbell before Neon Trees’ upcoming return to the Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan on June 12.

What are your favorite Las Vegas spots?

There’s some old-school spots [we like]. As far as Downtown goes, going to a place like Binion’s is still fun. Or even like a new place that’s got that old Vegas vibe is the Bunkhouse. But we like a lot of the older restaurants there, too. There’s a place up on Rainbow and Westcliff called Verrazano’s, which is just amazing New York-style pizza that’s been there for decades.

What’s the writing process like for you guys? How does that begin?

[Tyler Glenn] has the songs and melodies, and we just kind of add our sound on top of that. That’s been really successful for us. We’ll still jam as a band, and go back to that garage-style vibe and see what we come up with that way. We’re open to whatever brings the best song.

We’ve also collaborated with people outside of the band, which is kind of taboo to other artists. Getting a different songwriter to come in and give you a different point of view, even if it’s for 10 seconds, is a great jumping off point.

Your new song, “Songs I Can’t Listen To,” has a lot of fans excited because it means you’re making music again. Are you guys working on a new album right now?

No, it’s just a single. The way I see it, I’m influenced by a lot of music in the ‘60s. Motown would play singles, and it’s just a great song. Let people enjoy that. That’s kind of what we’re doing here. We realize we don’t have a whole album, but at the same time I don’t feel like we need that. We don’t need to put out that whole thing right now.

But we do have something in addition to that that is coming out. So, you guys will have to keep your eyes and ears peeled.

You guys are rather tame when you write songs, but sometimes they might be interpreted differently, like with your song “Sleeping with a Friend.” People might assume it’s about something else. As Latter Day Saints, has your music ever conflicted with your faith?

I think some people are afraid to sing about things cause they’re worried that someone’s going to take it so literally, instead of just let it be a story, let it be art, and be worried that people are gonna think weird things about them.

The other aspect is once you put out a song, it belongs to the people. People are going to interpret those things their way and how it adapts to their lives. That’s something that you have to own and you have to celebrate. Like anything, it’s a great thing because that’s what makes it personable to the listener and to the band.

For your summer tour, you refer to your shows as “Intimate Nights Out.” What’s the reason behind that?

Well, last fall you know we cancelled our tour, so we wanted to do something for fans on the smaller scale. And there’s something about those smaller venues where you’re closer to the fans, the sound system is great.

I love the thought of playing in places that were built and created for music. There’s no barrier, it’s just us and the fans. Those are the places where rock ‘n’ roll is born.

You went on tour with Duran Duran. How was that?

Oh, Duran Duran were great, man. They were nothing but gentleman to us. They could have anyone come out with them—they don’t even need anyone. The fact that we were still just a young band and looking for the exposure….We meet so many people now that will—in any town we’re in—say, “I saw you because you were with Duran Duran and now I’m back.’”

Neon Trees at the Boulevard Pool

In the Cosmopolitan; June 12;

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