Las Vegas-based alt rock outfit Imagine Dragons have come to life and every radio station in the civilized world this year. The band’s debut release, Night Visions, is an album that’s been a long time coming for the guys. They’re currently taking the globe by storm in 2013 with international tours in line and a sold-out American headliner. Night Visions encompasses lyrical matter of all kinds, allowing for listeners to relate while enjoying all of the experimental qualities that Imagine Dragons infuse into their alt rock. Guitarist Wayne Sermon set aside some time to talk about the time he has spent invested in this group. Here is what he had to say:
In a matter of days, you guys will be heading out on your first U.S. headlining tour. What kind of show can listeners expect? I heard that this tour is essentially sold out.
That’s what they tell us. We are definitely taking it very seriously. We are just focusing on our live show and having a week of rehearsals going over the production. We are definitely upping our game as far as what we are doing on the stage. We are bringing in a lot of new elements, a lot of new lighting elements, and new instruments, expanding everything out. For all of the songs, we’re writing new material, trying to stretch them out and have some fun with them. We’re really looking forward to it. We put a lot of love and care into making it something special that people will remember. Hopefully that comes through.
What bands will be coming out with you?
We are taking Atlas Genius, who we are really good friends with—we just got to know them not too long ago. We played a festival with them in Wisconsin, we hit it off, and they have some great songs. I think they’re going to be fun to have on the road—they are really nice guys. Also, Nico Vega is coming out with us, awesome rock band from L.A., so it’s definitely going to be a good lineup. There’s a lot of music that is represented in the show, so I think there’s something for everyone really.
“It’s Time” has become a massive hit. It must be super gratifying to be acknowledged in such a way.
Yeah, it’s crazy. You write songs and obviously, you hope that good things happen with them, but you can never expect…you never expect something like this. You write them, you let them go, and do their thing. It took on a life of its own. No two songs start the same really.
Did you get into the guitar on your own? Did you come from a musical family?
You know, it was kind of a musical family. Everyone in our family played an instrument; a few times we would form a family band and jam in our basement. We sort of had an Osmond-type thing going on, although, probably not quite as good.
Was there a particular moment that you realized that music could not simply be a hobby, but needed to be a way of life?
In high school, we would have these career seminars where you take all of these tests and learn what kind of learner you are. You learn what your strengths are and what possible careers you could do. Nothing interested me except for music. No other fields, no other jobs; I just kind of have hollow feelings whenever I think about being in an office or doing anything else besides music. It’s almost like my default, I just had to do music. That’s really become the saying of our band: “Don’t do music if you want to do music; do it if you have to do it.” Everyone in our band has had to do it, there is nothing else for us. We had no option, it was always full throttle right from the beginning.
What is the dynamic amongst band members when it comes to songwriting? Was Night Visions fleshed out before or while you were in studio?
Night Visions is really a representation of three or four years of being a band. There are songs on there that we had written maybe two years ago. There’s recent songs that we wrote pretty much in the studio. There are some songs that were kind of shaped in the studio as well. A song generally starts on my laptop or Dan’s [Reynolds, vocalist] laptop. We’ll just kind of trade ideas as very bare bones demos and then we’ll take it to the full band. We’ll pull it apart and put it back together. Only then when it is put back together is it an Imagine Dragons song. Up until then it either sounds like me or Dan. During that process, it somehow becomes what Imagine Dragons is. That is where all of the collaboration comes in.
What do you like to listen to in order to get into that creative headspace for recording?
I don’t really remember anything in particular at that time. I definitely listened to a lot of new music and what’s going on. Dan is the same way, we like to keep up on things and see where the musical winds are going. It is such an exciting time to be a music lover because so many bands are doing so many amazing things. It’s pretty amazing what people are doing. We draw a lot of inspiration from that. I don’t know if it is direct or not, but I do know that no one creates music in a vacuum. We are certainly affected by a lot of artists and what they are doing.
As a guitarist, what music inspired you and still inspires you to explore your own musicianship?
In the very beginning, it was Tom Scholz, the guitar player of Boston. I used to like the guitar solos that he did, jamming on vinyl, with the speakers cranked up. I used to jam to it with a tennis racket. That’s definitely my first introduction to how a guitar could sound. He was my first influence; there are a lot of guitar players that are amazing. Obviously, there’s Hendrix, Peter Frampton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, those players that every guitar player has to listen to.
Is it possible for you to pick a favorite album from 2012?
Oh my word, you’re killing me. I like The Shins record [Port Of Morrow] a lot. It’s very poppy, but I actually really liked it. When did the Portugal. The Man record come out, was that 2012? [In The Mountain In The Cloud, released in July 2011.] That was a good one, too. I like the Wilco record [The Whole Love]. That’s one of my favorites.
Aside from touring, what’s in the works for Imagine Dragons this year?
Oh, you know… I wish I had something creative to say. Really, that is all we are going to be doing. We just looked at our schedule for this year and it is completely packed. We’re just going to be playing live. We believe that Night Visions has a lot of life left in it still. We’re going to dedicate this year to promoting that record and playing songs off of it. At the same time, we’re always writing wherever we can squeeze a laptop into a tight space for Imagine Dragons, whether it’s on a plane, a train, a car, somewhere.
Are you scheduled to play any festivals?
We actually are going to be playing a lot of festivals, I’m just not sure which ones I can announce yet. It’s kind of a political thing. I do know that we have a ton in the summer and there are a few that we are super excited about. A lot of festivals here, in the UK, and in Europe. I think even some in Asia.
What goals still stand for Imagine Dragons?
I think we are the kind of band that is always looking ahead. We’re never quite satisfied with where we’re at. That can be good or bad. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves and say, “Hey guys, we’re actually doing really well, so be happy.” At the same time, I think we’re always restless. Our goal has always been pretty simple: just to get the music out there as much as possible. That’s really all we wanted and on top of that, making a living because of music is pretty amazing. There’s not a lot of people that can do it. If I can pay rent and eat and live while doing what I love, then that’s all that really matters to me. That’s all that matters to the rest of the guys. We try to keep that in mind as we’re looking toward the next thing.
Imagine Dragons will play the Roseland Ballroom, in New York City, on Feb. 23. Their debut album, Night Visions, is available now. For more information, go to imaginedragonsmusic.com.