Rising rock band Imagine Dragons trying to be a 'positive force'

Published: Monday, Sept. 10 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

"Imagine Dragons" is on its way to the top of the charts with inventive, fresh songs that combine a violinist, a cellist and electric guitars. D Wayne Sermon, far right at the table, is LDS as is Dan Reynolds, 2nd right.

Nick Walker

AMERICAN FORK — Jeff and Debbie Sermon don't particularly like their son's long hair and offbeat look, but they're so proud of his band's success, they're willing to live with it.

D Wayne Sermon is part of a new rock band that's making the late night talk show circuit and that Billboard Magazine called "one of 2012's brightest new stars." Imagine Dragons has signed with Interscope Records and has a tour lined up that includes major cities and stops.

Following its release, the single "It's Time" had airplay on select major stations. The music video debuted on April 17, 2012, on all MTV affiliates and the band was named MTV PUSH Artist of the Week. The album "Night Visions" debuted Sept. 4.

Sermon and bandmates Dan Reynolds, Ben McKee and Daniel Platzman are successfully carving out a unique place for themselves in the tough alternative rock world. They're a hot property after just three years together.

And that's surprising, because their music doesn't follow the familiar pattern for hard rock, heavy metal or even pop rock.

Sermon says the band feels free to pull in a violin or a cello or an ensemble of acoustic guitars, even a synthesizer, if the song calls for something different.

"We try to match sound to song," said Sermon, who grew up in American Fork. "We like to explore but still be true to our sound. It's a balancing act. We want to be recognizable."

Reynolds, Imagine Dragons' frontman and a native of Las Vegas, said he writes song lyrics from a very personal place.

"I think we try to write music that takes the listener through a whole range of emotions. Some songs are sad, some are uplifting, some are introspective," he said. "Above all, we try to write music that helps people cope with what can be a very hard life at times. We want to connect with the listener through the only means of communication we understand — art."

Sermon said the band's main goal is to reach people with music that is beautiful at the core in melody, lyrics and structure.

"We're very much a rhythm kind of band with epic sounds," Reynolds said.

Sermon and Reynolds, who are both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are pleased with their band's sudden rise. They both recognize it's usually much more difficult to get a start in the music industry.

"In our case, we got a lot of little starts," Sermon said. "But it doesn't matter if we're playing to four or five people in a lounge or in a concert hall, we want to use our music to uplift people."

He also said it hasn't been difficult to be Mormon in the rock music world.

"We're different individuals but our band has always been about the music. One thing we all share is we are committed to making music and being a positive force in the world," he added.

"Our goal is and has always been the same," Sermon said. "We want to reach as many people as possible. We want to go to Europe, to South America, all over the world, bring our music to as many people as we can."

Reynolds echoes Sermon's thoughts. "Our focus is on the music. We didn't choose this career path for fame or parties, but rather to create something that we are all proud of, that fulfills our desire to be an artist and to create. We aren't the most eloquent or perfect people, but we just do our best to present something to society that hopefully makes someone's hard day a little bit better.

"We have always just had the goal of making a living out of doing what we love. That has been the hope since the very beginning."

Debbie Sermon knows this has always been her son's dream.

"He had his first guitar when he was 12 and he took lessons from a really good teacher," she said. "He had a high school band. He plays the cello, the mandolin. He can pick up anything and play it. He's just a gifted kid.

"Our whole family is kind of musical. We used to play for the concerts in the park. We have a violinist, a bass guitar player, a bass drum player."

When Wayne Sermon went to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music, he met McKee and Platzman. They proposed "dropping out" and starting a band. From there, they got together in Las Vegas with Reynolds and began making music.

Fortunately, according to Sermon, it's a good time to make music that doesn't fit into the standard slots.

"Now there's only good music and bad music," he said. "The lines are getting blurred. The barriers are dropping. I think it's a good thing."

"A lot of this was luck because the music industry is a very hard industry to get into," Debbie Sermon said. "We're very supportive. He loves it. I love it."

Reynolds says no one in the band could have predicted the reaction they've received.

"It's a bit dreamlike for us," Reynolds said. "Anytime you tell someone you want to be a musician they usually react as though you say you want to be in the NFL or win the lottery — many try, and many fail. We are extremely grateful and just count ourselves as lucky to be noticed. It's a great feeling to know that all the hard work and long years on the road are paying off.

"Music is all I know and all I've ever wanted to do. From the age 13 I was writing music on my little old computer through a program called ‘Cakewalk.’ It was my release from the world. I felt that it took me to places that I couldn't go any other way. It still does."

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@desnews.com

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