Imagine Dragons, the Las Vegas band whose MTV VMA-nominated hit, 'It's Time,' is still climbing up the charts, released its debut album, 'Night Visions' (on Interscope), yesterday. We caught up with Imagine Dragons over the weekend at a private rooftop gig in Hollywood, where guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman chatted about playing at casinos and how 'Night Visions' was three years in the making.
You got your start playing on the Vegas strip. Did you have a residency at O’Sheas?
Sermon: A residency -- you could call it that but it would be too fancy of a term for what we did for O’Sheas.
McKee: Sadly, it shut down…cheapest beer on the Strip!
Sermon: We were indentured to O’Sheas. That was one of many stomping grounds in Vegas when we were getting our start. We played six-hour gigs there. We played at Mandalay Bay, Caesars Palace, Monte Carlo, everywhere. We did a lot of casino gigs -- whoever would take us. We were always a band that wanted to play original music -- that was always our focus -- but to make ends meet, we’d play 50 percent covers, 50 percent originals.
What kind of covers did you play?
Platzman: You name it. It’s cool because they let us pick a lot of our favorite stuff. We played everything from The Beatles to The Stones to Cake to U2, Arcade Fire, MGMT, Interpol, The Proclaimers, Third Eye Blind, Michael Jackson...
Did you have to do any Journey?
Platzman: We stayed away from Journey. No Journey for us!
Any fun stories you can share from your early days on The Strip?
McKee: I might have tried to scale the walls of Aria one night after one of our gigs -- I kind of fell down and sprained my ankle for a little bit.
Platzman: We had to break [Ben] out of jail one time right before a gig.
Sermon: He’s the wild card.
Platzman: You know what they say: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
Unless there’s a police record that follows you around!
Platzman: We had a hard time getting into Canada. They gave us a hard time.
Sermon: But he was dismissed of all charges. That should be made clear.
McKee: I’m all good with most countries we’ve been to. There’s a gray area with Norway, but that’s about it.
Tell us about the new album.
McKee: In the past, we’ve only released EPs. We really like to write a lot of music, and in the past, whenever we’ve had a group of songs that we really liked, we’d just release them as music that we were proud of and that we enjoyed playing and making.
We held off on making an album till we had a cohesive sound. We were really trying to determine who we were as a band and who we were going to be long term. An EP you can release as just, “Here’s some songs. This is what we’re doing right now,” but a first album is really making a statement about what a band is and really identifying what a band is going to be for the rest of their career.
McKee: Yeah. It just took us three years to feel comfortable defining ourselves.
The album is called 'Night Visions.' Did you write most of it in the evenings?
Platzman: Wayne’s an insomniac. It’s a pretty real deal. He doesn’t sleep for like five days in a row sometimes.
So you’re up writing music?
Sermon: Yeah. The bulk of my writing is done late into the night. I don’t know why. I feel like I am the most alone. Everyone else is asleep. I feel like I’m the most open and free when everyone else is asleep.
Platzman: I think we definitely deal with anxieties and issues just like the rest of the world and a lot of this album happened to be written in the late hours of the night and inspired by Wayne’s insomnia or different nightmares that I had. A lot of lyrics that I write come from dreams.
The band name is an anagram that you’ve never revealed to anyone. Are you sticking to the secrecy?
Platzman: Well, never say never, as my good friend Justin Bieber says. Maybe the day will come that we feel we need to announce it to people but as of now it’s kind of nice to have one thing as a band that we can keep private to ourselves. It has meaning to us.
Is it a really epic story?
Platzman: We discussed the band name and it’s something that came up as having particular interest to us that related to all of us. We didn’t want it to be the name necessarily so we switched around the letters and for whatever reason we liked Imagine Dragons and felt that the words provided a visual that intrigued us.