Hap­pier, sun­nier band

Lighter, brighter Imag­ine Dragons emerges af­ter dark times

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY MARK KENNEDY THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A weird thing hap­pened when the four mem­bers of the alt-rock band Imag­ine Dragons sat down to lis­ten to their new al­bum all the way through. They ac­tu­ally liked it.

“This was the first record that I think af­ter we cre­ated it and we lis­tened to it, we all went, for the first time, ‘Yes. This is Imag­ine Dragons and we’re proud of this,’’’ said lead singer Dan Reynolds. “That doesn’t hap­pen very of­ten in this band, to be hon­est with you.’’

The Las Ve­gas-based quar­tet, which likes to blend rock and hip-hop, has al­ways been its tough­est critic, but on “Evolve,’’ band mem­bers had to learn to let go. They re­lied on pro­duc­ers for the first time — Swedish duo Mattman & Robin, who won a Grammy for Tay­lor Swift’s “1989,’’ and Joel Lit­tle, who pro­duced Lorde’s “Pure Hero­ine’’ — to shep­herd the al­bum all the way through.

“We knew as a band one of our big­gest flaws was over­pro­duc­ing our­selves. We’ve known it since the be­gin­ning and we’ve had so many con­ver­sa­tions as a band say­ing, ‘How do we peel back?’ And we just couldn’t do it un­til fi­nally some­body walked into the room and slapped our head,’’ Reynolds said.

The new ap­proach re­flects a lot of changes be­hind the scenes at Imag­ine Dragons, now re-en­ter­ing the spot­light af­ter more than a year away as a hap­pier — maybe even sun­nier — band. The first sin­gle, “Be­liever,’’ is al­ready a hit.

The group ground away in ob­scu­rity for years — even for shar­ing a bill with mimes — un­til be­ing signed by pro­ducer Alex da Kid and see­ing mas­sive suc­cess with the 2012 re­lease of the hit “Ra­dioac­tive.’’ Their sec­ond al­bum, “Smoke + Mir­rors,’’ went gold but didn’t reach the sales height of their de­but, “Night Vi­sions.’’ They spent seven years tour­ing, a gru­elling sched­ule that took its toll.

“I think it kind of snuck up on us a lit­tle bit, to be hon­est. The change hap­pened pretty fast. We were this tiny lit­tle band that strug­gled and strug­gled for so long and played any show we could — I mean, we opened for mimes, for heaven’s sake. And that was by far not our worst gig,’’ said gui­tarist Wayne Ser­mon.

By the time they blew up — with a Grammy Award and arena tours — band mem­bers feared the suc­cess would stop if they stopped. “It was sort of un­healthy for us, so this year-break was amaz­ing,’’ said Ser­mon. “I think it re­flects in the mu­sic. I think the mu­sic is brighter. I think it’s cleaner. I think more vi­brant.’’

The break was most ap­pre­ci­ated by Reynolds, who has al­ways been frank about his bat­tles with de­pres­sion.

He was des­per­ate to get home and re­con­nect with his fouryear-old daugh­ter, his wife and friends.

“I was in a re­ally just scat­tered, de­pressed headspace, and I think it just came from a sense of los­ing my sense of self al­most to a de­gree and all the abrupt changes. I had dealt with de­pres­sion when I was young, but it re­ally took on a whole new level and it was kind of a full year,’’ he said.

AP PHOTO

This June 20 photo shows mem­bers of Imag­ine Dragons, from left, Daniel Platz­man, Wayne Ser­mon, Dan Reynolds and Ben McKee in New York.

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