After their early set at Firefly Festival, we got the chance to sit down with Dan Reynolds (lead singer) and D. Wayne Sermon (guitarist) of Imagine Dragons, to talk about their debut album, what it’s like being a band in Las Vegas, and their first ever TV appearance.
You guys have really taken off lately, and though I hate the term “buzz band” but if it applied to anybody it would be you, what’s it like being a buzz band?
D. Wayne: It’s rewarding. We’re glad it seems that way to the public, from our perspective we’re just trying to build something organically. For us it’s been a steady, slow incline as far as fans and popularity goes.
Dan: A three year build.
D. Wayne: We’re so grateful, how many bands get to have that said about them?
Dan: It’s a really incredible thing to come to a place you’ve never been before and see tons of people singing the songs. It’s pretty surreal. We’re both just a little bit in shock, it’s like “wow, people know the music out there and we haven’t even been here yet.” It’s very cool, we feel very humble and grateful.
D. Wayne: There’s a lot of bands that work just as hard and they don’t have their songs on the radio so we always try to keep that in mind. Every show we play we try to have our expectations a little bit low, we think “oh maybe no one will come,” that way we’re surprised when people actually do and know the words. It’s a shock every time.
I saw you guys on Leno, how was that?
Dan: Yeah we played Leno on Monday, that was unreal. We all grew up watching late night television and Leno is one of the legends. Being able to meet him and hear him say he’d been listening to the song was just like wow. He’s so nice.
How was the actual performance, it must have been a lot different.
Dan: When we came in everyone warned us that it’s a really stiff audience and I think we just got lucky. The audience was really reactive and you can actually hear them in the recording. There was a lot of energy in the room. So we fed off that energy and hopefully it translated through.
D. Wayne: We kinda have this singular experience as a band, since we grew up in Vegas playing casinos so people don’t really come in listening to you. We have the whole ‘non receptive’ thing down because we’re so used to it. People were pulling slot machines or trying to count cards so we always had to fight for their attention. I think that ended up being a plus for us because we learned how to keep the energy on stage no matter what was going on out there.
(photo credit: Ken Grand-Pierre)
You’re currently recording a new album, correct?
Dan: Our debut album, Night Visions, comes out September 4th and we couldn’t be more excited with how it turned out. It’s being mixed right now, it’s all finished. We just feel like it’s a good reflection of what the band is, it’s our first statement as to who Imagine Dragons is so the audience can wrap their heads around it and understand what our sound is. I think the EP is a good reflection of what the album is, just on a broader scale.
There’s been 4 EP’s released before you started work on the album, was that a timing thing or do you just prefer EP’s to albums?
Dan: We just wanted to be ready before we did our album, to feel like we understood who we were as a band before we tried to tell other people who were are. You only get to do your first album once and it’s a pretty big step for a band so we wanted to make sure we were ready. For us that took three years, for other bands maybe not but it’s worked well for us.
In looking at some past interviews, you’re almost always asked about the band name. What do you think the fixation with everyone needing to know the meaning behind the band name?
D. Wayne: There’s a certain mystic quality to our name I guess.
Dan: I think it’s such a unique name that people just wanna understand how it’s involved with the art. The great thing about being an artist is that there’s so many different avenues to be able to express yourself, whether it’s music or the visual on your artwork or the name of the band, I think people just like the understand all the different parts of an art project. It’s cool that people ask and we tell that about how it’s an anagram, we don’t tell them what the anagram was, but it’s a nice thing for us. As an artist you expose yourself so much in your lyrics or your music that it’s nice to have something that we keep private as a band that has special meaning to us.
What was it like trying to build a fanbase in a place like Vegas where there’s so much other stuff going on?
D. Wayne: I moved to Vegas to start a band with Dan. I had never been there before so I didn’t know what to expect. There’s an underground movement, an art scene, that I had no idea about. In that scene there’s painters, musicians and bands that are up and coming that I had no idea about. There’s a festival the first Friday of every month downtown that I didn’t know about. The environment, there’s nothing like it in the world, no other place like Las Vegas.
Dan: It was good for us because we got to play a lot of cover gigs in the very beginning to make ends meet. So we’d do sets that were 50% covers and 50% originals. I think that was good in developing the band because we were able to study how a lot of our favorite bands wrote music, like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin, a lot of the legends. It was very important for us to analyze them and grow as artists. You can always grow and learn from others so I think that helped develop our sound a lot.
What kind of bands did you cover?
Dan: Rolling Stones, The Cure; we did newer stuff too like MGMT…
D. Wayne: Franz Ferdinand. Basically stuff that we loved but would get a crowd going as well so we tried to ride that line.
Dan: We had to pick more popular music, we listen to a lot of bands that are a little less well known as well. But you can’t really play those to a Vegas crowd so we find the median. Songs that we felt were eclectic that we grew up listening to and loved.
Are there any other bands you’re looking forward to seeing today?
D. Wayne: Tons. This might have the most impressive resume of artists we’ve seen so far.
Dan: Girl Talk, Cold War Kids, Grouplove, Jack White, Young the Giant, The Black Keys, The Killers; basically all the bands that are playing. We really wanted to see Passion Pit but they dropped out I guess.