COVER STORY: Imagine Dragons: ‘We Have the Best Job in the World’
With a chart-topping latest album and burgeoning fan following globally, there’s no stopping this genre-defying American band
It doesn’t seem likely “Natural” is going to be off the Billboard ‘Hot Rock Songs’ charts anytime soon. For a band that still shies from calling itself a rock band, the Imagine Dragons have been serving as the genre’s flagbearers for a while now. And even though rock purists might scoff at the Las Vegas band’s pop and electronica leanings, there’s no act today that has been able to put rock on the mainstream map the way the Dragons have. Ahead of the release of their latest album Origins at a special concert hosted by Corning Gorilla Glass in their hometown, the band—Dan Reynolds (lead singer), Daniel Platzman (drums), Wayne Sermon (lead guitar), Ben McKee (bass)—sat down for an exclusive chat with Rolling Stone India. Here are excepts:
Congratulations on Origins! How does it feel to have a new album within a year of releasing your last one?
Dan Reynolds: It’s always exciting when you have a new record coming out. You’re always a little bit nervous about how fans are going to react. Also it’s like your baby that you held on to for a really long time, so you don’t have great perspective on it. But above all, we’re very excited. We’re very confident about where we’re at sonically in our career right now that’s why we put out another record so soon. We just felt ready to do it. So, I don’t know, it’s exciting, nerve-wracking.
Because people are fickle listeners these days, is there ever any fear of losing fans… that they won’t listen to a full album. And is that also the reason for releasing new music more frequently?
Wayne Sermon: We’d probably be lying if we said we never had any fear.
Daniel Platzman: It certainly would’ve been a safer, more prudent decision to sit back on it for a little while, wait a little while. But I think for the fans experience, I think that’s awesome to get new music faster.
Ben McKee: It is certainly a truth that people are consuming music differently these days but I don’t know if it’s so much of a concern as it is an opportunity for us to try to do things differently and change the game ourselves. We’re not, you know what, changing landscape everyday as far as the music industry goes, the way people are experiencing music, so it’s exciting for us to be able to have opportunities to think outside of the box sometimes for a few things that feel right to us.
People struggle to define your sound — is it pop, rock, pop-rock, arena rock, and as much as artists hate labels, they are important also. What do Imagine Dragons like to call their sound?
DR: If I objectively stand back and listen to all our music, I would genuinely say we are a genre-less band. Maybe that is our genre! Because this record—you listen to “West Coast” which is very folk-driven, then there’s “Radioactive,” and it’s super urban, dubstep, EDM. And then there’s songs like “Machine,” it’s like very sub-heavy and guitar-driven. It’s just that there is so much, I don’t know what we don’t do other than country—I guess we don’t do country—but we definitely have urban, hip-hop elements, we definitely have pop elements, rock elements.
If someone wants to come up with a great word for genre-less minus country, maybe call it ‘dragon!’
As a band, what does success mean to you today? You’ve won awards, played around the globe you’re yet to come to India though — what does it mean to be such a loved and celebrated band?
WS: Success is sort of an existential thing to think about. It changes on the day—sometimes we feel more successful than the others. Some days we’re on top the world, some days—well, we still have bad days and bad days on the road. I don’t know… I think the success is that we’ve had a lot of the same fans for a decade and they’ve stayed with us. We’ve changed and they’ve changed with us. We’re going to keep doing what we do—we’ve the best job in the world. And that’s the only measure of success that really matters.
“It is certainly a truth that people are consuming music differently these days but I don’t know if it’s so much of a concern so much as it is an opportunity for us to try to do things differently and change the game ourselves.” – Ben McKee
How long do you guys allow yourself to enjoy the wave of success till you start thinking about “what next”?
DP: No, I think we’re pretty much in the moment right now; I think everyone’s in the present moment at this time. Maybe in a few months we’ll start worrying about what to do next, but I think we have enough on our plate.
Being a fan of a band today is different from what it meant a decade ago. People experience and enjoy their bands differently, due to social media. Have you ever thought about how the kind of connect that you had with your favorite artists will not be the sort your fans have with you, thanks to technology…
DP: I’ve had the thought that it’s a different experience being a fan today than when I was younger. Like when I was a fan of bands growing up, there was no Twitter. I couldn’t check and see where they were whereas now you can be like ‘Oh, this band is in this diner right now.’ So you know, it’s different. And I think it’s always been true—the generation before them: cassette tapes, the generation before them: vinyl records. It’s kind of that technology is always changing and there’s always been a little bit of a difference. But that’s the great thing about the community of music, it brings everyone together and bridge all those gaps.
What, according to you, are the most annoying bits about social media?
DR: I think it’s whatever you want it to be. Even with the consumption of music, we have everything available to us—you can be as exposed as you want to be or as private as you want to be. You really can’t complain. Because at the end of the day, it’s about what you sign up for.
DP: Like I had a great day on social media today because I ended up searching for images of cats eating sushi. It’s a wonderful rabbit hole.
Click here to read part two of our cover story with Imagine Dragons.