Singer and keyboardist Tyler Glenn and guitarist Chris Allen formed Neon Trees, the pop and neo-new wave band whose hits include “Animal,” “Everybody Talks” and “Sleeping with a Friend,” in college town Provo, Utah, in 2005.
The band’s lineup solidified in late 2007 with the addition of bassist Branden Campbell and drummer-singer Elaine Bradley. “Chris and Tyler had a version of the band early on, with some other cats,” Campbell said last week from San Francisco, where Neon Trees performed at a legendary music venue, The Fillmore.
Before Campbell and Bradley joined Neon Trees, the group had basically been Glenn’s college band.
“When you’re in a band during college, you get some people who do it for fun,” Campbell said. “Which is the first reason you should do it — but then you get to the next phase.”
When Neon Trees reached that next phase, Glenn and Allen asked Campbell and Bradley, both of whom had been playing music since there they were 14, to play some fill-in gigs.
“We started as a substitute rhythm section,” Campbell said. “It really cliqued, though. Something about the four of us playing together really said something.”
After the fill-in shows, while Campbell toured with another band, he missed not performing with Glenn and Allen.
“I was thinking, ‘Man, I wish I was playing those Neon Trees songs. That was really fun.’ So when I did join the band, the pieces fell together.”
The pieces included such shared influences as 1980s bands The Smiths, Depeche Mode and R.E.M. Those groups’ songs served as models for Neon Trees’ original material.
“And we went to other rock music, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen,” Campbell said. “And more straightforward pop stuff like Michael Jackson. We listened to those songs and we were like, ‘OK, what makes these songs?’ And then we kind of followed suit.”
When Glenn and Allen selected Campbell and Bradley to be members of Neon Trees, they picked two experienced pros. Campbell, for instance, was 14 when he began playing in Las Vegas casinos, clubs and bars. Underage, he snuck into the venues’ back doors.
“I was lucky enough to be playing with older, really good musicians,” he said. “They not only trained me in music, they taught me what it means to be in a band, how to book shows, everything about a music scene.
“I hope that’s something that kids are grasping these days. I hope they realize that there’s more to a career in music than overnight success on a TV show, being voted the next pop star.”
Campbell’s recommendations to aspiring young musicians include making friends and networking.
“Being part of a music scene, I saw a common thread bring kids together from different schools, different scenes, on a grassroots level,” he said.
Making it in music takes much work, too, as well as travel, Campbell said.
“Wherever you are, if it’s a great scene, that’s good, but it’s important to get out of town, too,” he said. “Play shows out of town and invite out-of-town bands to come to your town.
“And then, if you find some success, if you get a record deal, don’t stop working. If you sit back and think someone else is going to start doing it, you’re mistaken.”
Looking out for fellow band members is another of the reasons Neon Trees has sustained its collective career at such a successful level. When frontman Glenn experienced a personal crisis in late 2012, Campbell and his bandmates noticed and took action.
“I called our managers and said, ‘We have to cancel this stuff. It’s more important that Tyler gets his rest and gets his head straight and can feel like himself again,’ ” Campbell said.
“Definitely more important than doing some shows,” the bassist added. “Plus, it’s not fair to the fans. We don’t want to show up and be disconnected.”
Glenn took time off and saw a therapist.
“I began to realize that I’ve always bottled things up,” he explained later in a press release. “And that it’s okay to have freak-outs and moments of anxiety. It’s better to deal with it and move on.”
After Glenn’s time off, Neon Trees played a successful arena tour with Maroon 5 and released its latest album, “Pop Psychology.”
“We knew that we have something special,” Campbell recalled. “To protect that, first you have to protect the people who make it.”