As Imagine Dragons gear up for an epic summer tour, the Grammy winners talk about their long road to fame.
Imagine Dragons are no strangers to the unexpected. The band—made up of guitarist Wayne “Wing” Sermon, 31, bassist Ben McKee, 30, drummer Daniel Platzman, and lead singer Dan Reynolds, both 28—did not expect multi platinum sales with their first album, Night Visions. The lads didn’t plan to win a Grammy, either. They never predicted they would make history at the Grammys as well, performing a live song in a Target-sponsored commercial break. (The production involved a 360-degree screen, LED jewelry, helicopter shots, and 22 cameras.) “It’s been one surprise after another,” says Sermon.
So when the musician says that the Smoke + Mirrors summer tour (named after their new album) will boast “things that have never been done before,” you had better believe it. He won’t go into details— trade secrets and all—but says there will be more lights, speakers, galactic visual effects, and overall phantasmic shenanigans than ever before when the band rolls through the Wells Fargo Center on June 27. “Philly is a really unusual city, and Made in America is one of our favorite festivals,” McKee says. “We can’t wait to come back [to play here] in June.”
“It may seem glamorous, and it is, sometimes, but we sure didn’t start out that way,” says Sermon, who cofounded the band with Reynolds just six years ago in their hometown of Las Vegas. Before that, he’d been studying at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where he met McKee in an ear-training class. “He was the guy in the front row asking all of the questions,” Sermon says. “I was the one in the back row being quiet.” Before long, the yin and yang duo took to practicing together, along with fellow classmate Platzman. “It’s a given that everyone can play at Berklee,” Sermon says, “but we got along.” When he joined forces with Reynolds to form a band, Sermon picked up the phone and called McKee. (Platzman joined the band a few years later, in 2011.) “It cannot be underestimated how much you need to like your bandmates. They have to be your family.”
The quartet named themselves Imagine Dragons (an anagram of another phrase they have yet to reveal) and started to perform at tiny joints around Vegas. “We’d play four- to five-hour gigs and split the $400 pay between us,” recalls Sermon. “It was grueling, but we earned our chops.” They also picked up fans—lots of them—followed by a record deal.
Imagine Dragons produce a powerful hook, beating out one haunting, jarring, catchy anthem after another. Each is laced with Reynolds’s blistering voice roaring lyrics of apocalypse, dreams, demons, and fame that cut across all expectations. “Dan writes lyrics like journal entries,” Sermon says. “They are deep thoughts and extremely honest. He documents the hard stuff—sudden fame, the loneliness of touring. It’s therapy for him. It’s raw, but it’s real.”
“We had no idea we would blow up to this extent,” he adds. “Our music is true to us. We write music that we would be okay with playing hundreds of times over.” This summer, the band will perform in 39 cities in 58 days, but the guys are ready. “We are upping our game,” Sermon says. “We owe it to our fans. Their energy is palpable. It is our responsibility to bring the best that we can.” Saturday, June 27, at 7:30 pm at the Wells Fargo Center. 3601 S. Broad St., 215-336-3600; ticketmaster.com