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Monday, December 4, 2023
Dec. 4, 2023

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Imagine Dragons slowly take flight

Band released three EPs before landing record deal, hit single

The Columbian

What: Imagine Dragons, in concert.

When: 8 p.m. March 15.

Where: Roseland Theater, 8 N.W. Sixth Ave., Portland.

Cost: Sold out.

Imagine Dragons is undoubtedly a new presence on the music scene to many listeners — a band that is gaining considerable visibility these days thanks to its hit single, “It’s Time.”

Like so many seemingly overnight successes, though, Imagine Dragons spent its share of time in relative obscurity, writing songs, touring and settling into its current lineup before making its current impact with its first full-length album, “Night Visions.”

Formed in 2008, the group self-released a self-titled EP in 2009; a second EP, “Hell and Silence,” in 2010; and in 2011, a third EP, “It’s Time” (yes, the eight-song release included the hit song), all before the group got its current deal with Interscope Records in November 2011.

In today’s world of instant Internet phenoms and reality TV contestants-turned-chart-topping singers, the gradual progress of Imagine Dragons might have tested the patience of many bands.

But guitarist Wayne Sermon of Imagine Dragons is thankful that his group didn’t rocket immediately to the level of mainstream success it is experiencing now.

What: Imagine Dragons, in concert.

When: 8 p.m. March 15.

Where: Roseland Theater, 8 N.W. Sixth Ave., Portland.

Cost: Sold out.

“It was definitely a slow process for us,” Sermon said of the band’s development. “We weren’t exactly sure what we wanted to do, what we wanted to sound like for a while. For people who have collected the EPs through the years, I think you can kind of see that, like slowly kind of hopefully honing in on to something that was more concrete as the EPs went on.”

That’s not to say that Imagine Dragons is a finished product at this point, or that the band’s best music isn’t still to come. But Sermon feels the group, which also includes singer Dan Reynolds, bassist Ben McKee and drummer Dan Platzman, has found a musical focus and an identity that it can call its own.

“I think the sound arose out of just a collection of everything we’ve listened to, everything that has influenced us individually,” he said. “There’s definitely a lot of classic rock influence in everything we do because we’ve all listened to that growing up. We all love Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and we all listened to Simon & Garfunkel a lot, Harry Nilsson. We like the ’60s and ’70s influences a lot. So at the core, I think that’s what we are as a band.”

But while there are classic elements to the Imagine Dragons sound, “Night Visions” also shows some modern sensibilities and some specific twists in the music that command attention.

In particular, the band has a unique way of combining acoustic and synthetic instrumental elements, creating something of an electro/organic rock sound, often with big beats.

“We try to write the best song possible and then we try and dress it up in whatever production seems to match it. A song like ‘Radioactive,’ the lyrical content and just the shape of the song lends itself to synthetic elements, whereas a song like ‘It’s Time,’ it just had this organic, sort of almost folky quality to it in the beginning, so we just tried to nurture that with the instrumentation that feels right.”

Imagine Dragons got its start in Provo, Utah. Sermon, who grew up there, had returned to Provo after graduating from the Berklee College Of Music in Boston.

“I had come back just to kind of figure out what I wanted to do,” Sermon said. “I knew I wanted to do music. I knew I wanted to be very serious about it. So I just kind of began exploring the scene a little bit, and a friend told me about this guy that sang and played guitar. So I went to a show he was doing in Provo and just kind of liked what he was doing.”

That musician was Reynolds. The two became acquainted, and when Reynolds decided to move to his previous home base of Las Vegas, he asked Sermon to join him and form a new band there. It was 2008, and that group was Imagine Dragons.

With “It’s Time” (which was originally released last spring by Interscope on the EP, “Continued Silence”) having now gone top 15 on “Billboard” magazine’s all-genre Hot 100 singles chart, after cracking the top five on “Billboard’s” alternative rock and rock charts in 2012, Imagine Dragons is beginning its first full-fledged headlining tour in support of the “Night Visions” album.

Sermon said the band is stepping up its game to meet the growing expectations of its expanding audience.

“We’re definitely going to be upping our production value on this tour,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of new things and a lot of twists and turns. We’ve even written some new material to do in between songs and new jam sections and extending some songs out and stretching out in ways we haven’t been able to do before. I think people are going to be impressed by our live show and what we have planned.”

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