By Lisa Pierpont | May 22, 2015 | People
Imagine Dragons are redefining the notion of an epic summer tour, but not without sharing their behind-the-fame struggles.
The little band that could: Ben McKee, Wayne Sermon, Dan Reynolds, and Daniel Platzman (left to right) of Imagine Dragons.
Imagine Dragons are no strangers to the unexpected. The band—guitarist Wayne “Wing” Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, drummer Daniel Platzman, and lead singer Dan Reynolds—did not expect multiplatinum sales with their first album, Night Visions. The lads didn’t plan to win a Grammy, either. And they never predicted they’d make history during the Grammys by performing live in a Target-sponsored commercial break. (Production required 360-degree screens, LED jewelry, helicopter shots, and 22 cameras.)
“It’s been one surprise after another,” says Sermon.
So when the blessed-tressed musician says their Smoke + Mirrors summer tour, named after their new album, which debuted atop the Billboard charts in February, will boast “things that have never been done before,” you better believe it. He can’t go into detail—trade secrets and all—but says there will be more lights (“Hundreds!”), speakers, galactic visual effects, and phantasmic shenanigans than ever before when the group comes to Denver for a show at the Pepsi Center on July 27.
“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 six years ago in Las Vegas, their hometown. Before that, he was 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-yang duo was 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 called McKee. (Platzman joined a few years later, in 2011.) “It cannot be overestimated how much you need to like your bandmates. They have to be your family.”
They named themselves Imagine Dragons (an anagram for another phrase they have yet to disclose) and started performing around Vegas. “We’d play four-to five-hour gigs and split the $400 pay,” says 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’re deep and extremely honest. He documents the hard stuff—sudden fame, the loneliness of touring. It’s therapy for him.”
“We had no idea we would blow up to this extent,” he adds. “Our music is true to us. We write [what] we would be okay playing hundreds of times, over and over.”
From June to August, the band will perform in 39 US cities in 58 days. But they’re ready. “We are upping our game,” Sermon says. “We owe it to our fans. Their energy is palpable. They’ve booked babysitters, paid for parking. It is our responsibility to bring the best that we can.” Monday, July 27, at the Pepsi Center. 1000 Chopper Cir., Denver
photography by jeff gale