Elaine Bradley is the drummer and backup vocalist for the Provo, Utah, based rock band Neon Trees. The band released Habits, its first full length album in 2010, and since then, their first single “Animal” has reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Alternative Rock Chart. The band released a second album in 2012, and have publicized that a new album will be released on 22 April 2014. The album is called “Pop Psychology.” The band has also planned a tour of Europe and North America, with the tour ending in Salt Lake City, Utah on 16 June 2014.

An Early Love for Music

Elaine Bradley - Drummer for Neon LightsElaine says that she has always been a performer. One of the things that she enjoyed doing when she was a little girl was making tapes and pretend to be a radio DJ complete with songs, stories, and commercials. She is the youngest of seven kids and grew up with older siblings playing music constantly. She recalls being exposed to the music of Led-Zeppelin and Depeche Mode at a very early age. She recalls that she and her siblings enjoyed singing together, and they often sang Depeche Mode harmonies while doing the dishes. She further recalls that one of her earliest musical memories was from kindergarten, sitting on the bus, staring out the window and singing “You’re The Inspiration” by Chicago to herself.  When she was 7 years old, an older brother gave her a tape of Led Zeppelin which she listened to over and over again.

She actually became interested in playing the drums around the age of 5, and her parents bought her first real drum set for her thirteenth birthday. She recalls:

I became enthralled with the drums at an early age. I think I was about five when I started banging on pots and pans with wooden spoons. I would ask my parents for drums frequently, but they thought it was a phase that would pass. After several years, and tireless begging, they bought me a Sears’s drum set. It was a bass, snare, floor tom, hi-hat and crash (tiny splash cymbal mounted on the bass drum). I thought it was the coolest thing ever! Frankly, I wasn’t very good, but I played it all the time. Within a year, that little set was destroyed. Then my parents bought me my first real set—a black Tama Rock star with Paiste cymbals. [1]

During her freshman year in high school, she formed a band with some of her friends and she played the drums and sang “until we could find a drummer.” Eventually a drummer was found, and Elaine moved to playing the guitar. She states,

It was during this time period of not playing the drums that I became better at them. That may sound weird, but it’s true. I would listen to and watch our drummer, and then I would air drum to everything in the car or at home. I learned to think of drumming in a way I hadn’t before—as an equal instrument, capable of evoking feeling just like bass and guitar. [1]

Mormonism and the Pursuit of a Musical Career

Elaine Bradley - Neon Trees MormonIn a 2011 interview with The Mormon Women Project, Bradley spoke about her childhood and admitted that although she grew up a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there were many years when she rebelled against the teachings of the Church. She became more fascinated with attaining worldly riches through a career in music, and eventually became involved with drugs. She stated, “I went down the wrong path and stopped thinking about God and the church because I knew that if I did, it would mean something, and I would have to change something,” [2] Concerning her youth and being a member of the Church, she has commented:

Growing up, I never liked being Mormon. I remember sitting in Primary and thinking, “I wish I didn’t know this. Why was I born into this family? My friends are so much luckier than I am because they don’t have all of these weird rules.” I was a rebellious kid. I remember singing “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” and thinking it was really preposterous because I didn’t want to be called on a mission. That said, I think I felt that way because I knew that the gospel was true. There was this nagging feeling that it was true mixed with my desire for worldly fame and fortune. Growing up, I felt within me this collision of two distinct worlds. I didn’t really make peace with that tension until I was 21 and maybe even to a certain extent until recently.

I remember having a conversation with my mom in high school. We were driving in the car, and she said to me, “I know you want to be a rock star but what if Heavenly Father were to say that’s not what He wants for you?” I told her point blank that I wouldn’t listen. I wasn’t willing. I had the erroneous thought that Heavenly Father did not want me to be happy. Whatever I wanted, He would tell me to do something else just to spite me. Somehow I got the impression that Heavenly Father was laughing at me from heaven. So in response to that fear, I just ignored Him. I always knew that God was there. The gospel made sense to me and spoke to me on a certain level but at the same time it made me angry. I wanted to be ignorant. During high school one of my biggest complaints was that people in the church were not cool. It was very disappointing for me that most of my friends were outside of the church, and most of the people in the church were people I didn’t want to hang out with. Of course, this complaint was just a cover for my fears about God judging me. In general, it was a really difficult time. [3]

Elaine Bradley WeddingIt wasn’t until she was 21 years of age and had a discussion about religion with her boyfriend who was a Christian that Bradley finally realized the importance of having a relationship with God. In her recently released “I’m a Mormon” video she explains:

I remember I started researching what the Bible was all about, just very fundamental topics. And so I remember being so surprised and excited that there was this Jesus Christ who was my Savior. So that created the natural desire for me to want to stop drinking. There was never a moment where it was like, ‘This is the last time.’ It just kind of stopped. [2]

Bradley later served an LDS mission to Frankfurt, Germany. Today she continues to live according to the teachings and the standards of The Church of Jesus Christ. As a band, the members of Neon Trees have agreed to refrain from drugs and alcohol. “I really try to include God in my decisions about music and the band. I ask him to open doors or close doors as necessary. I kind of keep an open heart about it, “she said. [2] In the video she also stated, “I find that I feel so much better, and so much more myself, when I follow the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than I ever did when I didn’t care about what they were.” [2]

About Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as the First Assistant to the High Priest Group for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He is a 30-year honorably retired United States Navy Veteran.

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