Like most artists, Imagine Dragons’ first years were lean. Crammed together in a modest house outside lead vocalist Dan Reynolds’ hometown of Las Vegas, the fresh-faced rockers paid their dues by relentlessly writing and rehearsing amid Nevada’s oppressive heat. Performing a blend of covers and originals for bored housewives and drunken gamblers with bad toupees, the band gradually amassed a devoted following thanks to dogged persistence and commitment to quality. For four years, the Dragons simmered gently by self-releasing a steady stream of EPs and gradually playing to larger and larger audiences, making certain the band didn’t prematurely jump to the more spacious venues before they were truly ready.
Then along came producer Alex da Kid, who professed his admiration for the group’s deliciously catchy, new school sound. The unlikely collaboration resulted in the band’s signing to Kid’s label, KIDindaCORNER, a subsidiary of Universal/Interscope. Suddenly, Imagine Dragons were thrust upon a platform larger than they’d ever dreamed.
In September of 2012, their debut LP, Night Visions, was released, rocketing them into the consciousness of listeners everywhere. The song “Radioactive” has been certified six times Platinum and “Demons” has racked up over 1.3 million in sales. Their full-length debut peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and spent 47 weeks in the Top 10. Then Rolling Stone named “Radioactive” the year’s supreme hit. And the accolades continued, including nominations for a bevy of awards including Best Rock Video at MTV’s 2012 Music Video Awards, and they even won the 2013 Teen Choice Award for Best Rock Song. Entertainment Weekly declared 2013 the “Year of the Dragon” and this past November the group played the American Music Awards, where they were nominated in three categories: Favorite Band, Duo or Group - Pop/Rock; New Artist of the Year and Favorite Artist - Alternative Rock, the last of which earned the quartet their latest trophy.
How has all this attention affected a band that never expected to turn a profit, much less become universally recognized? And what’s around the corner for rock’s latest breakthrough act? In the following Music Connection interview the group’s amiable and humble frontman enlightens us about the band’s approach to creating music and how instant fortune has transformed their lives.
Music Connection: Congratulations on all your success. What do you think it is that accounts for the band’s popularity?
Dan Reynolds: That’s one thing I’ll probably never know, but my guess would be that it’s [about] a lot of hard work. We’ve been a band for five years, we’ve toured non-stop, so we’ve definitely put in the work.
MC: A lot of our readers can definitely relate to that.
Reynolds: We’re a little in shock. This has been a hard-to-comprehend year. The four years before this, we were just grinding it out on the road. For all we knew, we’d be a small club band for the rest of our lives. None of us ever thought it would blow up internationally or anything like that.
MC: You mentioned the band’s early days starting off in Vegas. How did the character of the city influence your sound?
Reynolds: I was born and raised in Las Vegas, which is pretty unique. Most people there are transplants. So having been there my whole life, especially as I travel the world, I realize Vegas is very unique. It’s a city that never sleeps. People are always awake, which I thought was normal growing up. It’s not normal. There’s a ton of energy and it’s a bit eccentric. It’s a very eccentric city. And so I think the eccentricity probably found its way into our music, as well as the energy and the lights.