Imagine Dragons: From Las Vegas Indie Band to Worldwide Superstars

Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

Imagine Dragons (formed 2008) emerged from the Las Vegas, Nevada rock scene to become one of the world's top rock bands beginning in 2012. Pegged initially as an alternative rock band, they combined elements of pop, rock, and electronic music to storm the mainstream music charts.

Early Years

Vocalist Dan Reynolds met drummer Andrew Tolman at Brigham Young University as students in 2008. They soon recruited Andrew Beck, Dave Lemke, and Aurora Florence to put together a band.

The name Imagine Dragons is an anagram, and only group members officially know the words that are referenced by the name. The initial lineup of the group recorded an EP titled Speak To Me in 2008.

Andrew Beck and Aurora Florence soon left the group. They were replaced by Wayne Sermon on guitar and Andrew Tolman's wife Brittany Tolman singing backup and playing keyboards. Wayne Sermon is a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts. When Dave Lemke left Imagine Dragons, he was replaced by Wayne Sermon's Berklee classmate Ben McKee. 

Imagine Dragons drew a large local fan following in Provo, Utah. In 2009 they relocated to Dan Reynolds' hometown of Las Vegas seeking a larger market and greater potential for success. 

An early break for Imagine Dragons occurred in 2009 when Pat Monahan, lead vocalist for the rock band Train, fell ill just before a planned performance at the Bite of Las Vegas Festival.

Imagine Dragons filled in at the last minute and performed before a crowd of 26,000. Imagine Dragons earned a series of local accolades in Las Vegas. They were named Best Local Indie Band of 2010 by Las Vegas Weekly, and Las Vegas' Newest Must-See Act by Las Vegas City Life.

The band continued to shuffle members in 2011.

The Tolmans left and were replaced by Daniel Platzman in August 2011. Keyboard player Theresa Flaminio also joined the band in late 2011, but she left soon after their first album was released. In November 2011, Imagine Dragons announced the signing of a recording contract with Interscope Records and a plan to work with English producer Alex da Kid on their first album.

Group Members

Lead vocalist Dan Reynolds was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In his late teens, he worked as a missionary in Nebraska for two years. When invited to perform as an opening act for alternative rock band Nico Vega in 2010, Dan Reynolds met the group's lead singer Aja Volkman. They recorded an EP together as the duo Egyptian, and they were married in 2011.

Lead guitar player Wayne Sermon grew up in American Fork, Utah. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He learned to play both guitar and cello as a child, but he was determined to focus on the guitar. Wayne Sermon attended the Berklee College of Music and graduated in 2008. In 2011 he married ballerina, Alexandra Hall.

Bass player Ben McKee is a native of Forestville, California.

He played bass in a jazz trio in high school and attended the Berklee College of Music where he met future Imagine Dragons bandmates Wayne Sermon and Daniel Platzman. 

Drummer Daniel Platzman was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended the Berklee College of Music and earned a degree in film scoring. While attending Berklee, he met his future bandmates Ben McKee and Wayne Sermon. In 2014 Daniel Platzman composed the original score for the documentary Africa Investigates.

Pop Stars

Imagine Dragons' first release for Interscope was the EP Continued Silence that hit stores on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2012. It climbed to #40 on the Billboard album chart breaking the group into national charts. The song "It's Time," first recorded by the band in 2010, was released as a single in August 2012.

After extensive exposure in commercials and on TV shows like Glee, "It's Time" began to climb pop charts. The song reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 at alternative radio. It paved the way for the success of the album Night Visions released during September 2012.

Night Visions reached #2 on the US album chart and ultimately earned a double platinum certification for sales. It included the top 10 pop hit singles "Radioactive" and "Demons." Imagine Dragons were celebrated as one of the breakout rock bands of 2013. Their song "Radioactive" earned Grammy Award nominations for Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance, winning the latter. 

Imagine Dragons' second album Smoke + Mirrors, released in 2015, was something of a commercial disappointment. It hit #1 on the album chart, but it failed to produce any top 10 pop hit singles. The lead single, "I Bet My Life," failed to climb higher than #28 on the pop chart. The group refused to remain down for long. In February 2017, they released the single "Believer" in advance of their third album Evolve. "Believer" soared to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit #1 at adult pop radio.

Top Singles

  • "It's Time (2012): This first single released by Imagine Dragons on Interscope was first performed in 2010 while the Tolmans were still members of Imagine Dragons. It was uploaded on YouTube in December 2010, but it didn't receive an official release on Interscope until 2012. "It's Time" was featured in a cover version by Darren Criss on the 2012 season debut of the TV show Glee. Many publications selected the song as one of the top singles released in 2012, and it ranked as the fourth biggest song of 2012 on alternative radio.
  • "Radioactive" (2012): This song was written by the band Imagine Dragons with their producer Alex Da Kid for the album Night Visions. It was released to widespread praise as a single in October 2012. "Radioactive" then began one of the slowest climbs ever on the U.S. pop chart. It eventually climbed to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 2013, nine months after its first appearance. "Radioactive" earned a Grammy Award nomination for Record of the Year and won Best Rock Performance.
  • "Demons" (2013): Following "Radioactive's" long path of success on pop charts, "Demons" was promoted to pop radio as a single from​ Night Visions in September 2013, a year after the album was first released. It was another major hit for the group. "Demons" at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 while going all the way to #1 on mainstream pop radio.
  • "Believer" (2017): Imagine Dragons lead vocalist Dan Reynolds told People Magazine that "Believer" was inspired by his battles with ankylosing spondylitis, a kind of arthritis affecting joints in the back. He said the meaning was then expanded to speak about rising above many different kinds of pain experienced in life. Released as the lead single from the album Evolve, "Believer" became a commercial success returning the band to the pop top 10 for the first time in four years. 

Impact

Imagine Dragons lead vocalist Dan Reynolds placed the band in the company of Foster the People and Mumford and Sons as groups that brought alternative rock back to the pop mainstream. The group has released three consecutive albums charting inside the top two on the U.S. album chart, and their song "Radioactive" is one of the biggest pop hit singles of all time.

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Lamb, Bill. "Imagine Dragons: From Las Vegas Indie Band to Worldwide Superstars." ThoughtCo, Aug. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/imagine-dragons-profile-4149815. Lamb, Bill. (2017, August 30). Imagine Dragons: From Las Vegas Indie Band to Worldwide Superstars. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/imagine-dragons-profile-4149815 Lamb, Bill. "Imagine Dragons: From Las Vegas Indie Band to Worldwide Superstars." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/imagine-dragons-profile-4149815 (accessed October 21, 2017).