Open to interpretation at the Launch festival
Just because Imagine Dragons is headlining doesn't mean they're bigheaded rock stars
Rock stars—true rock stars, mind you; the ones who’ve embarked on big tours, hit the festival circuit, et al.—aren’t always as down-to-earth and thoughtful as Wayne Sermon, the guitarist for Imagine Dragons. Nearly a year after the release of the band’s wildly successful full-length debut, Night Visions, Sermon is still blown away by how quickly his band’s star has risen.
“We’re kind of floored by it, to be honest,” Sermon said. “I mean, there’s not a lot that I can say that doesn’t sound like a cliché at this point. I feel silly even saying this anymore, but we’re just humbled by everything.”
Imagine Dragons performs Sunday, September 8, at Cesar Chavez Plaza as the closing act during the multiday Launch festival.
Night Visions has already been certified platinum, and three of its tracks have appeared on the Billboard Hot 100. The song “Radioactive,” in fact, peaked at No. 3, and Rolling Stone even proclaimed it to be “the biggest rock hit of the year” back in May.
But for all the accolades and attention the band has received, its meteoric rise did not come without struggle. And Sermon says he’s glad about that.
“I think for us it was pretty crucial,” he said of the band’s early hardships.
“Some bands are together for three or four months and boom! Everything happens, they get huge real quick,” he said. “But for us, it wasn’t like that. It was over three years of just living in Las Vegas, playing to mostly empty rooms and casinos and touring. We needed that as a band. If we had made it big right off the bat, it wouldn’t have been good for us. We probably didn’t deserve it at that point.”
It’s the sort of self-effacing statement that, at least in part, helps to draw in the band’s legions of fans. Indeed, they’re anything but spotlight-seeking prima donnas.
For Sermon and the band, it’s about the fans—evidenced by their hesitancy to talk about the meaning of their songs. To do so, they feel, would lessen the impact of the songs for listeners.
“Growing up, hearing your favorite artist say that a song was about something completely different to them than you thought it was, it almost ruined the song,” said Sermon. “You’ve had your own belief about what this song was about, and it’s had its own personal meaning to you, so I always felt like when people said what it was about, it was always disappointing. So, we try and leave that for the fans to decide.”
In fact, Sermon often partakes in that bit of the fan experience as well. He often doesn’t know what the songs are about, because Imagine Dragons singer-songwriter Dan Reynolds usually keeps the meanings to himself.
“There are times when I don’t understand them, and I think that mystery reaches out to me,” Sermon said. “But in a strange way, I don’t really want to know what the lyrics mean. I’ve attached my own meaning.”
And meaning is perhaps the most crucial aspect of the band’s makeup. The group has stuck with it through the ups and the downs because, Sermon said, it felt like there was no other choice.
“We’ve always been of the mindset of ’Don’t do this because you want to do it; do it because you have to do it,’” he said. “All four of us had to do it. There’s a lot to not love about doing this, so there’s got to be a lot you love … to make all the hard times worth it.”