And Now For Our Encore…

Imagine Dragons

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.

12 thoughts on “And Now For Our Encore…

  1. Imagine Dragons are lucky to have a lot of success with nice awards like American Music Award for Favorite Alternative Artist and the Grammy Award as you have mentioned , I have never heard about them before as I am not much in music. Nigh vision is very famous album and it brought them a lot fame and the fact that they sold 2 million copies only in US …. its good for them. All of us remember events in our lives based on some happiness , some catastrophe or music of our time.

  2. It's cool that Imagine Dragons believe Las Vegas was instrumental (no pun intended) to their success. I like the message in song on the video. I definitely remember events in my life based on the music that was popular at the time and the concerts I've seen.

  3. I definitely associate my own experiences with the music that played their soundtrack. I'm always surprised that lots of people don't think that way. Your article got me thinking about some of my favorites.

  4. Hi Edward – I really like your perspective on the music industry. As I've mentioned before, very little of today's music is my kind (I like the Buddy Holly kind – probably way before your time) but I appreciate the background you provide – with this group it shows a lot of thought and work goes into what they produce and I like that. Keep writing.

  5. Being a musician myself, I would like to address two things that stood out for me.

    1) ALL EXCEPT ONE MEMBER ATTENDED BERKLEE. You say this fact helped you understand their success, but in all honesty…that doesn't mean much LOL. Why? Because there are plenty of bands out there who had enormous success and influence that were full of members who don't even know music theory.

    2) VEGAS HELPED WITH THEIR SUCCESS: I like how they were able to get away with a set of half covers, half originals. That isn't TOO much like selling your soul to get where you want. One thing I hate about the area where I live is they want you to play 99% covers. I didn't learn the guitar to play what other people wrote! Granted, you could go to places like LA or NYC and get away with 99% ORIGINALS but, like they said, those places are saturated.

    Great post!

  6. Hi Edward,
    As you said, their success did not happen by chance. Sometimes it takes years to be an "overnight sensation." Most people that make it are quick to remember their humble beginnings.

    Anyone that works as hard, as Imagine Dragons has (to stand head and shoulders above the ring-a-ching of the slots and to garner that kind of attention) deserves success. It's been earned.

  7. That's a really cool song Edward and thanks for the back-story, much appreciated. It is amazing how music can take you back to a time in your life long ago. I still remember Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond when they were little; getting up on stage and blowing everyone away. Really like this tune…just listened to it again. Tim

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