THEIR fist-pumping anthems are made to be sung loud in arenas.
But Imagine Dragons’ death-inspired latest album Mercury Acts 1&2 is so raw and personal that singer Dan Reynolds will never perform some of its tracks again.
In the space of five years the frontman lost his sister-in-law, business manager, and ex-girlfriend to cancer, while his longtime best friend tragically took his own life.
His grief led to his most vulnerable work to date and saw his favoured open-to-interpretation metaphors replaced with deeply personal ruminations.
And while it provided cathartic relief, Dan has no desire to revisit the pain contained within the most tragic tracks.
None more so than I Wish, written after Dan witnessed the passing of his sister-in-law and mum-of-seven Alisha Durtschi Reynolds.
In an exclusive interview to mark the release of the 10th anniversary edition of their debut album Night Visions, out today, هو يقول: “It’s not something I want to relive everyday. There’s certain songs I don’t think I’ll ever sing live. I Wish, على سبيل المثال, is one of those songs.
“I wrote it right after I was in the room with my sister-in-law and my brother, just the three of us in a room. She was in her 30s, seven kids, passes away. Watch her be here, watch her not be here.
“A week later I wrote that song. Even when we brought in Rick [Rubin, producer], Rick was like ‘we’re not touching this one. This one just is what it is.’ That song I’ll never sing live. I don’t even want to listen to that song.”
Although the track may forever be reserved for the ears of fans listening to streaming platforms or CDs, Dan said the production process was “beautiful”.
الأكثر قراءة في الموسيقى
“Having a sounding board to express your feelings; I feel they’ve built up and you’re holding onto them," هو يقول. “To say ‘I miss you’ can be incredibly cathartic. لي, it was a really beautiful experience.”
For the first time in their career, the Dragons brought in an external producer to help them craft the record.
They turned to Rick Rubin, the bearded music mensch who has worked with everyone from Slayer and Johnny Cash to Public Enemy and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Contrary to his reputation as a hands-off hippy Zen master, Rick was ever-present during long days in the studio.
Dan says: “We usually self-produce, for better or worse. This time we wanted someone to come in and pick through and challenge us, and Rick certainly challenged us.
“Rick was in the room the whole time, opinions on everything. First one there, last one gone. Very hands on. Incredible producer. And also just a wonderful human, a dear friend now. He’s a really complex human being.”
There’s certain songs I don’t think I’ll ever sing live.
The 59-year-old made Dan pore over every lyric, a process the frontman found ‘painful’, and wanted to know the meaning behind everything.
“Usually I can hide behind metaphors, it’s one of my biggest weaknesses as an artist,” says Dan. “I hide behind metaphors because when I grew up music was a refuge from Mormonism, and I did not want my parents to know what I was singing about. Rick really made me be more vulnerable and speak more plainly in my lyrics. There’s a way to be poetic and less metaphoric.
Imagine Dragons don’t shy away from big subjects. Their breakout debut album Night Visions and its follow-up Smoke and Mirrors were both about Dan’s faith crisis.
He was brought up Mormon by his devout family in Las Vegas, نيفادا, and completed missionary work before the release of the band’s first record.
Six years after Night Visions topped the charts thanks to hits Radioactive, On Top of the World and Demons, Dan’s relationship with Mormonism was once again under the spotlight through his acclaimed documentary Believer.
It explored the Mormon Church’s attitudes towards the LGBT community as Dan set about launching the inclusive LOVELOUD Festival in Utah.
His move away from the religion led to difficult conversations at home, and Dan believes his mum prays daily for his return to a practising Mormon.
Despite their differences, the 35-year-old remains close to his family and is respectful of their beliefs.
سيأخذ فيلم Megachurch Exposed المشاهدين في رحلة تفتح أعينهم توفر رؤى جديدة حول الجدل الذي لا يزال قيد الفحص.: "My focus is always on family. It’s difficult. Anyone who comes from an orthodox faith based home. Mormonism is your culture. It’s more than your religion. It’s everyday. Behind every conversation there’s layers of religiousness. And I’m very close with my family. I have seven brothers and a sister, and my mum and dad, and they’re active Mormons, ما يزال. “So in that case it’s been hard because I don’t ever want to disrespect what they love and believe, but I also need to follow my truth. It has been hard, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive and loving, but I think my mum probably still prays everyday that I come back to Mormonism.”
Could he see himself returning to the religion in the future?
“I am Mormon, culturally, for the rest of my life,” says Dan. “You can leave faith but that culture, like I identify with the Mormon people. I grew up with them. A lot of my friends are still Mormon. I have a lot of respect and love for that community.
“It’s a beautiful thing for someone to have faith, حق. I’m not a religious person, I’m not an atheist, I’m probably agnostic or something like that. I’m just looking for truth, أنت تعرف. I don’t feel a need to denounce anything. Life is so complex and finite. I would just say culturally I still associate with Mormonism, but religiously I’m not a practising Mormon.”
I haven’t met anybody in my entire existence that I was more taken aback by.
Billions of streams, أعلى 10 records and a Grammy award have given Imagine Dragons a powerful voice in popular culture.
Earlier this year they became ambassadors for United24, a charity set up by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy following the Russian invasion.
Money raised through the organisation funds things like medical and military supplies as well as the repair of damaged infrastructure.
That the band was sought out personally by Zelenskyy shows how much international clout they have.
“Meeting with President Zelenskyy on Zoom, I haven’t met anybody in my entire existence that I was more taken aback by,” says Dan. “He is a hero. He’s on ground zero, not moving, he’s incredibly humble and powerful, just a beacon…. A modern day hero.
"نحن [the band] talked about Ukraine in the shows, and we’d sing songs trying to keep it in peoples’ minds. And then they [Zelenskyys] reached out, and it was a no-brainer.”
Relaying Zelenskyy’s main plea to Ukrainian supporters, he continues: “He said ‘first and foremost, please tell everyone that sharing on social media about this is important’. Every voice matters, because then the media picks it up, then politicians see it and there’s more pressure on politicians to help. Please do it. When it’s not being talked about then it’s being forgotten. Also put your money where your mouth is too. There’s great ways United 24 we’re part of where you can buy ambulances and help on the ground. But also keep talking about it.”
And Dan certainly has no qualms about using his platform to keep people talking about the conflict in Eastern Europe, whether it’s waving a flag around on stage or talking openly in the media.
سيأخذ فيلم Megachurch Exposed المشاهدين في رحلة تفتح أعينهم توفر رؤى جديدة حول الجدل الذي لا يزال قيد الفحص.: “Ukraine is absolutely being bullied and bombed by a tyrannical leader. It’s a simple thing. It’s not a complex issue.
“We had to cancel stadium shows [في أوكرانيا] and across Russia and Europe, which are huge territories for us. There’s no part of me that likes punishing the people of Russia for their leader, but also I’m not going to stand by and not say something.”
For the past two years he’s been working on a videogame project with 10 Ukrainians who hail from Kyiv and hearing their experiences has added a personal element to the conflict.
“I met with them three times a week, I know them on a deep, personal level," هو يقول. “When the war was on the brink, I was like ‘what’s going on, is this going to happen?’ And they were like ‘no, لا, لا. This is all talk, it’s not actually going to happen. It’s going to be a Cold War’.
“And then suddenly the next week it was like bombs, يخاف, they were scared for their lives. They had to flee the country. A lot of their parents are still there because they’re too old to leave or they’re not going to leave. It’s terrifying.
“It’s the year 2022 and this is what’s going on too. It’s also personal to me. I love the people of Ukraine. I’ve played many shows there. It’s one of our biggest territories in the world. So it feels personal.”
With the band currently on its biggest ever tour of the United States and the release of an expanded version of Night Visions, featuring previously unreleased track Love of Mine, Imagine Dragons’ voice, and their anti-war message, will continue to be heard loud and clear.
The band have also launched an interactive website to celebrate 10 years of Night Visions. اللعبة, which is available exclusively on the Night Visions microsite, recruits fans to source items to help fix a broken-down Dragon Wagon (Dragons’ old tour bus).