One-time Provo band can Imagine big breakthrough

2012-03-15T00:04:00Z 2013-01-23T06:38:17Z One-time Provo band can Imagine big breakthroughJ.J. Despain - Daily Herald Daily Herald
March 15, 2012 12:04 am  • 

Once just wasn't enough for Imagine Dragons. Neither was twice.

The up-and-coming band made a stop at Velour Live Music Gallery earlier this month on its national tour. Not only did the show sell out instantly, but Imagine Dragons promised to return on Wednesday for another show on their way back from the East Coast.

That show is already sold out, too.

"We have a lot of gratitude for the people of Utah for spreading our music like they do," said lead singer Dan Reynolds. "It's such an organic thing and a growing movement."

Imagine Dragons has grown as a group from a battle of the bands contestant to a national touring group, with appearances at Las Vegas Strip casinos, SXSW and other big-time concerts, sharing the stage with Weezer and Interpol and filling in for Train at a 2009 festival.

Reynolds talked with the Daily Herald while cruising down a mountain road between New York City and Raleigh, N.C., after yet another sold-out show at Piano's NYC in Soho.

"I didn't expect that at all, because we've never played there before," Reynolds said. "But just because of word-of-mouth and people talking, there's been a lot of support on the East Coast."

It's a long way from playing in ward talent shows at the Wilkinson Center.

Joe Meservy, Reynolds's cousin and former booking agent for the band, said he remembers the band's college days.

"Imagine Dragons is a harder-working band than any other band I've ever worked with," Meservy said.

The group started with Reynolds and guitarist Wayne Sermon from American Fork. The duo relocated to Las Vegas, Reynolds's hometown, and joined with bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman. They treated the gig like a day job, practicing five to six hours a day for five days a week. McKee even dropped out of Berklee College of Music in Boston, just a few credits shy of a degree.

McKee is from California and Platzman is from New Jersey. Reynolds said having four states represented makes for a variety of perspectives and styles.

"There are so many different influences that we all fused together," Reynolds said. "That's the great part about being in a band, is how you make a sound with everything you all grew up with. And they all at the end of the day get together and define your sound."

The sound of Imagine Dragons covers a lot of ground, with epic anthems like "It's Time" or "Cover Up," soulful pleas like "Hear Me" and jazzy, bouncy tunes like "Tokyo."

Reynolds listed The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Arcade Fire as influences, but Imagine Dragons songs include traces of Modest Mouse, Neon Trees, the Killers and many more.

"It's funny because we all listen to such different music as a band," Reynolds said. "It's hard to put it down to just one influence."

Along with singing, Reynolds also writes all the lyrics and melodies. He said since age 13, songwriting is by far his best way to communicate.

"The beautiful thing about art is that you can really say something in a way that you couldn't have said or put into words," Reynolds said. "The only way to explain that feeling or emotion you have is just a melody and the music and the tone, with words on top of it."

Reynolds and Sermon are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but Reynolds said he tries to relate to everybody with his songs, no matter their religion or lack thereof.

"We really believe that no matter who you are, no matter what you believe, no matter where you come from, we're all the same at a base level," Reynolds said. "Imagine Dragons' goal is to create music that is universal and makes nobody feel left out, or like we're preaching something."

With lyrics like "maybe if I fall asleep I won't breathe right / maybe if I leave tonight I won't come back," "it's time to build from the bottom of the pit / right to the top," "a glimmer in the distance ... / it breaks into a song / that runs through all my veins / and helps me to hold on" and "hell and silence / I can fight it," Imagine Dragons doesn't have to preach. Reynolds's words and voice capture the roller coaster of failure, perseverance and success in everybody's life.

Meservy said Reynolds's brother Harry gave him a good motto for songwriting.

"All good songs are about God and the devil, and with a woman somewhere in the middle," Meservy quoted.

Reynolds follows that mantra as he writes and sings about the whole spectrum of life. At the same time, Meservy said he keeps it wholesome.

"There's no foul language in it, there's no pornography," Meservy said. "It's just clear-cut music about how he feels and how he sees."

Now, Reynolds and the band are based in Los Angeles and working with Alex Da Kid, who has produced albums with Eminem and Rihanna. The team is working on Imagine Dragons' debut album, but in the meantime released collaborated "Continued Silence," the band's third EP and first with a record label.

Other recent accomplishments for Imagine Dragons include spots on the Billboard alternative charts and a set at mtvU's Woodie Awards show today at SXSW.

"It is really thrilling and it is very satisfying," Meservy said.

In the early years, Meservy said he had to reassure his and Reynolds' family they had what it takes to make it big.

As Reynolds sees it, he had no other option.

"What Imagine Dragons is for us is a way of life. It is how we exist, it's what we think about at night," Reynolds said. "All we know how to do is music. ... We are weak individuals in the way that we don't know how to do anything else. And this is what we will do forever and ever and ever."

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