Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Imagine Dragons: Dragons' magic

Dragons' Hours of gigs in front of ambivalent gamblers helped hone Imagine Dragons' skills and stage presence, writes Lydia Jenkin.

After a lot of hard work, Imagine Dragons are slowly taking over the world.
After a lot of hard work, Imagine Dragons are slowly taking over the world.

Garaged minions, dagger insomnia, managed origins, adoring enigmas, God is in the manager, a Gemini so grand ... these are just a few of the many anagrams for Imagine Dragons, the name of a four-piece pop rock band from Las Vegas who are slowly taking over the world. Apparently the band's real name is one of these many anagram possibilities - but it's not something they're about to reveal.

"We love all the guesses that people come up with, but now it will probably seem like a let-down if we tell everyone, so we're just leaving it to people's imaginations," explains guitarist Wayne Sermon.

The group formed five years ago and slogged away, slowly building a fan base touring America in a minivan, until last year when two singles from their debut album - It's Time and Radioactive - began to climb the American charts (reaching No15 and No3 respectively). They helped make Night Visions become one of the best-selling rock albums of last year.

Since then they've been on tour constantly, making several laps of the US and Canada as well as Europe, and next week Australia and New Zealand get a turn.

It's a bit of a change from their humble beginnings in Las Vegas, the hometown of lead singer Dan Reynolds, who convinced Sermon, along with bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman, to move there and start the band.

"I met Dan through a friend and it was just one of those things. We ended up having a jam, talked about our musical influences, what we wanted to do with music, and felt like it'd be cool to start a band together. So we all sort of blindly moved to Las Vegas."

It's not a city that usually comes to mind as a musical hotbed for up-and-coming bands, but it worked a treat for Imagine Dragons.

It gave them the space to grow and the opportunity to play hundreds of gigs, sometimes for six hours at a time - helping them hone their technical skills and stage presence, and figure out how to win over a crowd of ambivalent gamblers.

"Las Vegas is one of the few places left where you can get on a stage and play for hours, and get paid, even if it's only a little bit. And in all those hours, pretty much everything that can go wrong does go wrong - amps blow up, people pass out or someone throws beer all over your gear, but you learn what to do when things don't go perfectly, which is important, because they seldom do."

It's not the life that Sermon had been imagining for himself. Along with McKee and Platzman, he went to Berklee College of Music in Boston when he finished school and studied jazz. "I listened to rock and pop music a lot growing up - I loved it - but when I went to Berklee I really fell pretty hard into jazz. I thought I was going to be a jazz composer and jazz guitarist, and was going to travel the world that way hopefully.

"But, I guess my over-arching want was to play music in whatever form that might take, so I never said no to any opportunities, and Dan sort of struck me - pretty instantly, within the first couple of shows - that he was a great frontman. You can tell pretty quickly if they have that ability to captivate an audience and when I saw it in him, that was exciting."

Sermon sees their different backgrounds (he grew up in Utah, Platzman is from Atlanta and McKee is from small-town Northern California) and different tastes as a key part of their success, too.

"It's surprising how well we all get along considering how different our environments were growing up, but those differences really make us stronger. I think if we all thought the same things, listened to the same music, had the same outlook, the band wouldn't be this good. All four of us are stronger than any one of us, and that's probably true of any band that's been able to last, and withstand the tough times."

Who: Imagine Dragons
What: Latest album Night Visions
Where and when: Powerstation, Tuesday, October 15

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