On a midweek winter night in suburban London, one of the world’s biggest bands plays a tiny performance presented by a local record store. Even in an acoustic bijou setting, there is no question of the spicy hooks of Imagine Dragons ‘tunes or lead singer Dan Reynolds’ powerhouse chorus. Meanwhile, his Berklee College of Music-trained bandmates (drummer Daniel “Platz” Platzman, guitarist / keyboardist Wayne Sermon and bassist Ben McKee) boast their jazz chops more here than on their multi-platinum records. There is a surprising vibey rendition of their 2017 hit “Believer”. When they release the track “It’s OK”, from their fifth and latest album, last year’s Mercury – Law I, Reynolds tells the excited audience, “Never apologize for who you are.”
Imagine Dragons are inexcusably heart-on-sleeve, tirelessly driven and generally work at maximum scale. Since their 2012 debut album Night visions, the American pop rockers earned a worldwide fan base, a Grammy Award and massive sales and streaming stats: sold over 75 million records; soundtracks for superb movies, video games and sporting events; gig across continents – their Mercury tour starts in early February and spans North America and Europe, including one UK date at the 30,000-capacity Stadium MK in June. Although they are not currently the band most streamed on Spotify (a title they held in 2018), they can still comfort themselves with 53 million monthly listeners on the platform.
Critics were less enthusiastic and often accused them of being formulaic and faceless, but the group was benevolent (and mega-successful) enough to shake off the haters. When we meet the day after the shopping spree at a luxury London hotel, they are casually dressed (with the exception of Platz’s beautifully flamboyant facial hair and silk trousers) and seated in front of a billboard with their oversized mugshots.
“The four of us are really united in bringing a little joy to the world,” Reynolds said. “It sounds cute and sawed off. . . but that’s what it is. ”
The title of the latest album (and the upcoming Act II) comes from the word “mercurial”. The group’s songs often touch on themes of emotional volatility – Reynolds spoke openly about his personal experiences of loss, depression and anger – but overall there’s a good feeling in Imagine Dragons’ repertoire, and the new tour will feature in this trend continue. .
“We want to create something that always puts you in a great headroom,” Reynolds says. “We are delighted to travel again and play stadiums. I attribute anything good in my life to seeing the world – to experiencing different cultures, religions, politics. “
“I think the whole world benefits from live music,” McKee adds. “It’s like medicine for anything that might be going on. This is where we thrive. ”
As a Las Vegas band, Imagine Dragons have spectacularity in their blood, and the tension that breeds in their catchy tunes – machismo, theatricality, spirituality – are all hallmarks of that neon-filled birthplace. They also reflect the group members’ contrasting backgrounds and influences.
Platz’s parents met through musical theater and he grew up with Gilbert and Sullivan revues and performed chamber music and prog-rock (“There was always a sense of epithet and I still did not keep it in check,” he says. ). In high school, McKee followed performances by jazz veterans like Jerry Granelli. Reynolds, like The Killers’ frontman and fellow Las Vegan Brandon Flowers, was raised in a Mormon household but spent his teens absorbing music that ranged from old Cat Stevens records to 1990s hip-hop. Preacher’s family was also strictly religious; he remembers secretly playing his father’s 1960s and 1970s records: “It was really the only access I had to anything that looked like danger.”
Reynolds smiles and adds: “It’s a combination that creates anxiety when you mix it all up. I grew up in a super-conservative circle, and I’m grateful for that, because it made me who I am, but it’s also, in some ways, a recipe for disaster. You are constantly caught up in something that does not fit, and it gives you a lot to rewrite. ”
And where do the theaters come from? “I grew up with a lot of theater grandmother, who encouraged me to act in plays,” Reynolds says. “And one of my favorite groups was Queen. The emotion that Freddie Mercury expressed was so performative and epic, in the best way. Certainly, that performance-based drama is a big part of our group – we love the theater, the drama, the eccentricity and the grandiosity. “
However, it is known that the group delights in folly as well as bombastic, for example in last year’s self-spot video for the single “Follow You”, which contains the stars of the sitcom. It’s always sunny in Philadelphia Kaitlin Olson and Rob McElhenney, who believe he’s about to see a private performance by his favorite band, The Killers.
Their genre-flowing music is also digitally proficient, contributing to their massive streaming appeal. “We are definitely a band of the internet age,” says Reynolds, adding that it helped attract the legendary Rick Rubin, who has executive producer. Mercury – Law I. “Rick said he was excited to work with us because we have opened quite a wide door for our fans. “They know how to expect a wide range of sounds – maybe we can dive into a heavy rock song, we might be able to produce pop, and they’re out for the ride.”
“It’s both scary and liberating,” Platz says. “But in the end we will sound like ourselves. It is something we have adopted along the way that gives us courage. ”
This conviction was also reinforced by the hard end of the group’s formative years. “We played early performances everywhere – malls, bars in vegas, birthdays, weddings, bar mitswa. . . McKee remembers. “We played music for traffic reports on the Weather Channel! If we were to be interviewed on the news at 5:30, why not? For a long time, our policy has been, do not say no – if you see an opportunity to play music, go out and take it. “
The toughest crowd they have ever encountered? “To play The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’, with Paul McCartney, Yoko and Ringo in the audience,” Reynolds replied, referring to a star-studded salute to the fantastic four at the 2014 Grammys. “It was definitely very upsetting, one of the scariest things in my life. I was like [sings jauntily], ‘You say you want a revolution,’ and Paul was like[sits forward and stares, chin on fingers]. ”
“We have a letter in our studio from Paul McCartney. I think he called our actions’ brave ‘or’ dare ‘-‘ how ambitious of you to adopt it, ” grins McKee, as his bandmates cry together.
It’s uncertain whether Macca will join the stadium masses for the Mercury tour, but regardless, Imagine Dragons will give it their all. “When you reach the person in front of you, you can see that it radiates to the rest of the crowd,” Reynolds says. “I try to translate my energy into what I can see.”
Tour begins February 6 in Miami, imaginedragonsmusic.com