It’s interesting how we tend to remember certain important events by our own activities at that same time. As you speak with others about something like the catastrophic terrorist attack September 11th, most people can tell you what they were doing at that particular time. There have been momentous musical events of the past that we also mark by personal activities. I speak with several folks who can tell you there whereabouts as The Beatles first performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. A few older people can give details about their activities at the time of Elvis Presley’s television appearance. Michael Jackson had some memorable television performances. Beyonce, Prince and others also have given public performances of historic proportions. However, nothing compares to that first time you notice an artist. It is almost like finding gold when you think you witnessed something very special. Many of such performances occur on award shows. American Music and Grammy awards shows are really the perfect audience to introduce new artists. Our day is much different than previous years because of increased avenues of communication. By the time musicians perform at a large show like the Grammy’s, they have much greater exposure to the public than artists of previous years. The only thing left at that point is to actually see and hear the performance. As I watched the Grammy awards show earlier this year, I felt that maybe I was witness to another special musical moment. I’m speaking of the electrifying performance of the group Imagine Dragons.
The winners of the American Music Award for Favorite Alternative Artist and the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance, Imagine Dragons have enjoyed a large amount of success from their first studio album Night Visions. In fact, earlier this week I heard two different songs playing in a couple of locations. How did this group get their start?
In 2008, lead singer Dan Reynolds met drummer Andrew Tolman at Brigham Young University, where they were both students. Tolman recruited longtime high school friend Daniel Wayne “Wing” Sermon, who had graduated from the Berklee College of Music. Tolman later recruited his wife, Brittany Tolman, to sing backup and play keys. Sermon then recruited another Berklee music student, Ben McKee, to join the band, to complete the lineup. The band garnered a large following in their hometown of Provo, Utah before the members moved to Las Vegas, the hometown of Dan Reynolds, where the band recorded and released their first three EPs. Before recording Night Visions the Tolman’s would leave and drummer Daniel Platzman would finalize the group as we know them today.
The more I read about the individual group members, the more I understood that their success did not happen by chance. Every band member except Reynolds attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, and the technical skill and precision that comes with that education has impacted Imagine Dragons’ sound and process. I guess to state it even simpler would be, “these guys know what they want to do, and they do it.”
“Our band wouldn’t exist without Las Vegas,” Dan Reynolds says simply. “It’s a great place for an artist to start out.” I found that statement interesting because Las Vegas is not really known as a big musically creative community. Apparently Imagine Dragons believe Las Vegas gave the group an advantage. “It’s not oversaturated,” Reynolds explains. “As a new band you play the casinos – half covers, half your own stuff – and you make ends meet. We were able to rent a band house and support ourselves. Eating ramen, but still.” There is a lot of wisdom in what Reynolds is saying if you think about it. Not a lot of rock bands are competing for the stage in Vegas, but there are entertainment alternatives. That’s an understatement when speaking about Las Vegas! “You learn to stand out because you’re competing for the attention of people sitting at slot machines,” Reynolds explains. “You have to bring everything you have and learn what grabs people’s attention enough that they look up from the card table and say, hey, let’s check this out!”
Oh yes people have taken notice not only in Vegas, but all around the world. The band’s debut album, Night Visions, is currently certified Platinum in ten countries, having sold over 2 million copies in the U.S. alone. The album is also certified gold in multiple countries. At Lollapalooza in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the last date on the Into the Night Tour, the band announced a rest, and complemented saying, “This is our last show for a while, and had no better place to end this tour”. The conclusion of the Into the Night Tour signaled the end of the Night Visions album cycle. Lead singer Dan Reynolds joked about the end of the Night Visions cycle, saying that “We’re always writing on the road, [so] that second album will come, unless we die at the age of 27 next year. Hopefully we don’t die and there will be a second album. I don’t know when it will be, but it may come.” For now we wait on the band to finish work on the new album. Reynolds told MTV that the band wanted to “put out an album that we’re really happy with”. He further said that “we tend to be perfectionists, too hard on ourselves at times, and we don’t want to rush anything because we know how we are with things. We don’t want to put a record out until we really feel good about it, you know, and who knows how long that will take”. Get ready for the Imagine Dragons encore….maybe soon.