On surface level, Imagine Dragons is a larger-than-life band. Their music is a spirited mix of indie, rock, folk, and electronica. Their singles are plastered all over the radio and in television commercials. Their live show is an immaculate spectacle of energy and excitement. But while that may give the band a reason to identify with the bright lights and big city vibe of their hometown of Las Vegas, they are far from the image-driven success monikers of Sin City. Beneath all of the flash, Imagine Dragons is all about the intimacy and passion rooted in the music that they play.
“We would be playing for a new crowd every night. It was never people coming because they were our fans, coming back to see us over and over again,” he remembers. “They had the opportunity all around them to go to the slot machines, play cards, ogle the bikini blackjack dealers or whatever, so we had to create music that was powerful enough to capture people’s attention above all of that.”
“They called us and we rushed down. It was like half an hour until go time. So we just grabbed our gear and rushed back to the venue. Before we knew it, we were onstage in front of 25,000 people. It was definitely the biggest crowd we had ever played for up to that point,” guitarist Wayne Sermon recalls. The festival was a big break for the band, who went on to win several awards
heralding them as one of the city’s best local acts. While they began independent and preferred to write and record without outside help, Imagine Dragons eventually signed to Interscope Records in 2011. Though not being the ultimate goal of the band, as they had turned down numerous record deals out of fear of losing their sound and identity, they found the perfect opportunity to grow without losing their artistic integrity.
“We always really wanted to be an international band. It’s just hard to do that as a young band, but a lot of bands are able to do it independently. But we met someone who didn’t want to change anything about the band artistically and just wanted to bring the resources to the table, just to be able to get out to the East Coast, Europe and beyond,” vocalist Dan Reynolds reveals. This person was Alex Da Kid, and as executive producer, he helped launch the band from the local and regional spotlight to national and international success with their first studio record, Night Visions.
Night Visions is the compilation of nearly three years of work. Many of the songs off the band’s original EPs found their way onto the full-length, and the quartet attempted to really configure their identity and solidify the sound they had created over their first few years as a band. “We really wanted to make sure we were 100% sure of who we were when we released the album. It was a process for us. It took the four EPs before that and a lot of songwriting to actually really decide who we were,” McKee says.
Dragons from “pigeonholing themselves too much” with their debut. He hopes this will allow the band to further define themselves as they continue to grow and progress as artists. “We’re trying to create music for ourselves. We’re out there experimenting with different genres, different sounds, just trying to do what inspires us and keeping ourselves inspired with the creative process,” McKee admits. The band uses a similar imaginative approach with their music videos. The video
for “Radioactive” portrays Muppet-looking characters boxing in an underground fight club. Sermon references the Foo Fighters as a band that is capable of making music videos that range in seriousness, and Imagine Dragons uses a mix of heavy and light to create the overall essence of the video – something that portrays the song’s message in a wild, unexpected way. The band wanted to use this off-the-wall approach to portray the theme of the
song. According to Reynolds, the song is “about becoming self-empowered and battling your own human frailty, human weakness and rising above it.” Not only does “Radioactive” stress the theme of struggle, but many of the other songs on the record do as well. Reynolds explains the message of “Demons” to represent “the constant struggle of life in trying to find happiness in yourself.” The front man has had his own struggles with depression and strives to bring hope through the band’s positive message and
grew across the globe. While at first the growth was slow, by the end of the year the band found their popularity booming at an exponential rate. Before they knew it, Imagine Dragons had multiple chart-topping singles. Of these singles, “Radioactive” peaked within the charts of twelve countries internationally, and was certified triple platinum in the United States earlier this year.