It’s been just 18 months since Grammy Award-winning pop-rock four-piece Imagine Dragons released their third album Evolve; learn their views on transformation, motivation, why music is the miraculous truth of adulthood, and how Evolve’s “sister album” – the group’s brand new release Origins – came into being.
Chronologically speaking, an evolution comes after an origin: there’s the beginnings, and then there’s the expansion. But for LA pop-rock juggernaut Imagine Dragons, it’s a cycle which eats its own tail. “Evolve is like, ‘Where am I going? – I know there’s colour, something new,” explains Dan Reynolds. “And Origins is, ‘This is where you’re going.’ It’s fresh, and it feels green and healthy. It was like a new birth, but it’s also back to your roots.”
Reynolds sees that duality reflected in his own personhood, and the space he occupies within the band. “I yearn to be Dan – previous Dan to the band,” he says, “but also I want all this knowledge, and experience, all these things that I’ve had. But I want to also be a human being that isn’t valued by my band. Imagine Dragons is not me. And I think we all feel that way.”
The cycle will keep on truckin’, he believes, as long as candour is at the core of Imagine Dragons’ spirit. “I think all four of us, want to live authentically and honestly as ourselves, and we don’t want anyone else to tell us how to do that,” he says. “We’ve all expressed that in certain ways. That’s been a theme of Imagine Dragons, period. And all the music has been about just not wanting someone to put a box around you and tell you this is how you need to live. Because I think that’s really unhealthy.”
Part of the dedication to freedom is an effort to collate musical ideas from different places and emotional situations, for an accurate illustration or impression of the bandmembers’ lives. “These songs were written in some breaks from the road, some hotel rooms; some of the vocals were recorded in green rooms in Poland,” he says. “So it’s a little bit all over the world, a little bit on the road, a little bit at home. There were songs that were written in moments of heartbreak, songs that were written in moments with all four of us at odds with each other… and beautiful stories of love and letting love go. And I think that’s an important thing.”
With a decade now passed since the group’s formation, lead guitarist Wayne Sermon asserts that the music game has a built-in test of incentive. “I think when you get some success you can really find where people’s motivations [are], and why they did that in the first place,” he says. “And I think if our motivation was money, success or fame, we could be done. I don’t think that’s ever been what gets us up in the morning. So, it’s business as usual. What’s changed? Nothing, really. It’s four dudes that want to make music together, and want to have the best job, in the world and keep it. So, this is what we do.”
Adds bassist and keys player Ben McKee: “We have accomplished a lot, and it’s been really hard. And I think that we have gotten to a place where there’s enough history, and we can look back on it – even though we’re not exactly celebrating closing a chapter or anything – we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
That closing of a chapter, in fact, is something the band can’t spot even in the furthest, mistiest distances – because a rolling stone gathers no moss. After Evolve, Reynolds explains, the band “just kept creating”, and decided that instead of waiting a few years (“like bands are supposed to” he says, a little tongue-in-cheek) they decided to harness the relevancy of those songs and assemble Origins as soon as possible. “It’s not like we’ve ever come to a final endpoint to celebrate – it’s more like we’ve been building our career and we just keep on going,” McKee explains. “After an album, it’s [more of an] opportunity [for] regrouping [and deciding] how we can proceed from here. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to step back and reconnect with ourselves and look at everything in the context of our lives.”
Meanwhile, the guys agree that it’s the magic of live music which puts rockets in their pockets. “All of us are chasing the feeling we get when we get to get on stage in front of a crowd and get to play our music,” says percussionist Daniel Platzman. “And clearly that’s a feeling that fulfils us in a way that nothing else on Earth can, because then we would be doing that!” Sermon agrees, explaining that in the list of life’s crushing truths about magical things – from Santa Claus onwards – music will always be the only reliably otherworldy experience. “I close my eyes on stage, and it actually takes me somewhere else, and I believe in that magic,” he says. “And I believe that that’s something special. I don’t have any answers to what happens after you die or any of that stuff, but I know that when I play music on stage, there’s certain moments when I’m not in my body. And it’s just like this one collective consciousness that I feel. Which I don’t feel in any other way… so like we say, it’s the only magic that’s left that we believe in.”
Origins is out now via Universal.
Keep up with the latest Australian release dates for music.