Mom, Mormon, rock star: Neon Trees drummer Elaine Bradley talks family, faith

By Sarah Petersen, Deseret News

Published: Thu, June 12, 2014, 3:45 p.m. MDT

 Elaine Bradley with her husband Sebastian and son Bryce.

Elaine Bradley with her husband Sebastian and son Bryce.

(Provided by Elaine Bradley)

Elaine Bradley is a wife, mother and Mormon who lives with her family in quiet and conservative Provo, Utah.

She's also a rock star.

Bradley is a member of the American new wave/pop/rock band Neon Trees, which has been rising in notoriety over the past half decade. While her career as a drummer for a high-profile band may defy the Mormon mom stereotype, Bradley has found a way to live her beliefs, cherish her family life and pursue her passion for music. And whether she's on stage in Amsterdam or walking the Provo River Parkway, she tries to maintain perspective on it all.

"This life has a purpose, and the purpose is not to get famous, but ... to work on yourself and your relationship with God and then to use the Atonement of Jesus Christ," Bradley said. "I think believing all of those things and then working on those things really has a way of putting all the other stuff into its proper place so that I can appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given and I can appreciate the fun things that come with the job that I have, but it doesn’t rule me and it doesn’t dictate who I am."

Life has changed for the Provo-based Neon Trees — composed of Bradley, lead singer Tyler Glenn, guitarist Chris Allen and bassist Branden Campbell — ever since the band opened for The Killers in 2008. Neon Trees' first big hit was "Animal" in 2010. The single "Everybody Talks" was featured in a Buick commercial in 2012 and later reached the sixth spot on the Billboard singles chart.

A Rolling Stone review of the band's most recent album, "Pop Psychology," describes Neon Trees' music as a "refashion(ing of) post-Strokes dance rock into unshakable radio pop.

"If the Utah band was from New York or L.A., its slick simulations of neo-New Wave might seem cynical. But there's something sweet about kids from more or less the middle of nowhere getting their little piece of modern rock."

"Pop Psychology," released in April, is the band's third studio album. Neon Trees is in the midst of a summer touring schedule and will perform in Salt Lake City at The Complex on June 16.

The success and attention the band has achieved have been considerable. But Bradley, who attended BYU, served as a full-time Mormon missionary in Germany and married her husband in an LDS temple, knows the importance of staying grounded, especially when it comes to faith and family.

Bradley's beliefs and conversion story were recently featured in a video, released April 2, that was produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through the "I'm a Mormon" campaign. In the video, Bradley explains how she came to have a testimony and form her own relationship with God.

"They just contacted me," Bradley said. "It’s one of those things where you can’t say no. It’s kind of like a (church) calling — you could say no, but you probably shouldn’t.

"I’m glad to have done it. It’s one of those things that I’ve spent time just clicking and watching ("I'm a Mormon" videos), so it’s fun to have one of my own. I thought they did a really good job."

Since the video's release, Bradley has received feedback that's been both positive and critical.

"It’s been overwhelmingly positive, for sure," she said. "Of course, you have random people saying slightly negative things — not so much about the religion, but more like trying to be principled and call me out on stuff, like, 'Well I don’t think every Neon Trees song is in keeping with the doctrine of the church.'"

"That stuff doesn’t bother me, though. Everybody’s got an opinion, which is why I think you have to be secure in what you’re doing and with your own routine or your path in life, your relationship with God or your relationship with yourself. If that at all isn’t secure, I can tell you the Internet can be a deadly place."

Bradley's faith also received public attention earlier this year when bandmate Glenn announced he is gay in Rolling Stone magazine. The article identified Bradley as "the band's most devout Mormon" (all four of the band members are members of the LDS Church). Bradley told Rolling Stone, "I think the only anxiety for me comes from people assuming things because I'm religious or assuming things because he's gay. I worry about people not understanding that he's neither angry at the church nor distanced himself."

Bradley told the Deseret News that "one of the first things that we discussed when he came out to me personally was that Heavenly Father loves him and knows him intimately and understands completely the years he’s had and the struggles he’s had to come to terms with this.

"It’s not my business to judge what he does," she said. "It is my business to love him and accept him — be his sister."

Glenn has spoken positively about his Mormon upbringing and family, and Bradley appreciates that he hasn't chosen "one extreme or the other."

"I think that’s going to do wonders to help people understand that Mormons don’t hate gays and gays don’t hate Mormons, that it doesn’t have to be that way," she said.

In addition to her "band family," Bradley and her husband, Sebastian, have one son, Bryce, who will be 2 in July. She calls family "extremely important."

"It’s the unit that will last," Bradley said.

While Sebastian and Bryce often accompany Bradley on tour, it's not something that the family's busy schedule always permits. With Bradley's commitment to the band, Sebastian takes on the responsibility of staying home with Bryce.

"It’s an interesting thing to be a mom, a Mormon mom, and to be on the road," Bradley said. "But what's really wonderful about my situation is that my husband and I are on the exact same page."

Still, it's never easy spending extended time away from her family. That's why at 6 months old, Bryce got to sleep on the band's tour bus and spend time backstage.

For times when being together isn't possible, Bradley is grateful for technology.

"I can't imagine doing this even 20 years ago," she said. "It would be really, really hard. I think FaceTime is one of the best modern inventions because I'll call and my son will take the phone and literally take me around the house and show me stuff, take me into his play room and play. It's not as awesome as being able to be together, but it's better than nothing."

Bradley says her marriage relationship also requires a concerted effort.

"Sebastian and I are always talking about things," she said. "He’s keeping me posted on what Bryce is doing and how he’s feeling about things, and my keeping him posted about things. I think that’s also really important. ... It works great for us. You could say we were meant for each other. I truly believe that."

Email: spetersen@deseretnews.com | Twitter: @Sarah_DNews

Neon Trees - First Things First (Official Video)

I'm Elaine Bradley and I'm a Mormon

1. Flyer
St. George, UT,
June 12, 2014

What a great article! She's a good person, is well grounded, and knows who she is. As a member of the Church, it's nice to have someone like Elaine have the career she has, while at the same time not being ashamed to let everyone know she's a Mormon. I'm sure I speak for many who are proud of her, and wish her and the band only the best.

2. MPayne
Las Vegas, NV,
June 12, 2014

Elaine, thanks for sharing yourself and standing up for important things. Your strength and courage is inspiring to me.

3. RanchHand
Huntsville, UT,
June 13, 2014

What a cute family.

4. Cherilyn Eagar
Holladay, UT,
June 13, 2014

While I admire anyone who can succeed in a show business career, I also have a realistic perspective of what that means. I have dear friends who have been at the top of the recording charts who are now either no longer with us or nearing their retirement years.

I have been in the entertainment world myself for years under every union contract for musical theatre - in New York, Dallas and on national tours.

In the final analysis, it is both quality AND quantity time with children that makes a difference. I cannot emphasize more how important the traditional family is, with a stay at home mother to care for those little children especially while they are small.

Science is now proving that BOTH parents emit bonding chemicals that these little children recognize that contributes to their stability and emotional well-being from the time they are born. The more they are separated from this chemistry, the more of a deficit is left behind.

I hope the Deseret News will also print articles of some of the amazing stay at home mothers out there. They deserve highest recognition because they are sacrificing their "best" career years for them.

5. RanchHand
Huntsville, UT,
June 13, 2014

@Cherilyn Eagar;

Thanks for the sour grapes.