Imagine Dragons are over Smoke + Mirrors

Imagine Dragons are over Smoke + Mirrors

Las Vegas band talks about their childhood dreams, paying their dues, and how they became bigger than they ever imagined


(L-R) Wayne Sermon, Dan Reynolds, Daniel Platzman and Ben McKee never thought the opportunities they have now would ever be possible.
Photo: Melanie Leung/SCMP

Imagine Dragons are cool with playing in weird venues - they've even opened for a mime show at a mall. But this year, they performed in an even stranger place - a plane flying at an altitude of more than 10km.

"The airlock door was directly to my right, and I'm leaning on the cockpit door. Also, the PA system had just been put in front of the guitar amp so it's blasting through the whole plane," drummer Daniel Platzman tells Young Post. "Half of the passengers were there to see us, but the other half were just on their normal flight. They were like, 'What is going on?'"

The band was performing in support of their sophomore album, Smoke + Mirrors, released almost three years since their debut record, Night Visions, shot them to worldwide fame.

The success of Night Visions - which includes a Grammy for the single Radioactive - meant intensive touring for most of the past two years.

But the tight schedule and hours of jetlag turned out to be creative juice for Smoke + Mirrors. Instead of partying, the band spent sleepless nights working on their music.

"We were oblivious to all the pressures and expectations for album two, and by the time we suddenly realised that, "wait, this is a kind of scary situation", we already had 100-plus new demos," Platzman says.

But first, they needed a new place to record. When they made Night Visions they rented a studio by the day, so they worked exhausting, 18-hour sessions. This time, the band set up their own studio, and after months of searching, they found the perfect place: a 40-year-old foreclosed bachelor pad on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

Young Post's Imagine Dragons concert review

"It had to have the right dimensions, a high ceiling, and it had to have a weird layout ... it happened to be in a drug-dealing neighbourhood," says guitarist Wayne Sermon.

But having a studio in a shady neighbourhood has its perks: neighbours never complain about the noise, and once somebody even knocked on the door to return a mic stand his son had stolen.

The studio's quirky environment opened up a lot of room for sound experimentation. "We threw a mic down the empty hot tub [so] all my drums have a hot tub mic sound in there, just a little bit," says Platzman.

Platzman is used to playing with different sounds. His childhood dream was to become the next John Williams - who composed the themes to Star Wars, Harry Potter, and many other blockbusters - so he studied film music in school. He worked as a professional jazz musician before forming a rock band with Sermon, lead singer Dan Reynolds and bassist Ben McKee. The four guys played six-hour sets in Vegas casinos, where their audience was more focused on feeding the slot machines.

Fast-forward to the Rock am Ring music festival in Germany two years ago, and the difference is night and day. "It was an unbelievably energetic crowd - I think it was 90,000 - and we had just never imagined ourselves on stage in front of that many people. It made us realise the kind of song we wanted to play next time we were on that stage," says Platzman. The result of that realisation is the song Friction on Smoke + Mirrors

The album has been an incredible success, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard charts; but the band is already coming out with new material: Roots was released on August 26. It features a pulsing piano riff, distorted drum beats and a catchy chorus in which Reynolds declares that he's "going back to my roots". 

There's still five months of touring before any of them take a break. Being on the road, and having a routine, "becomes both your greatest source of comfort, and thing that's driving you craziest," says Platzman, adding it can get monotonous. But while they're looking forward to their time off, they can't complain, Platzman says, "because to be able to tour for five years straight is unbelievable. We never thought we'd get that opportunity."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Dragons re-Imagine themselves


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