Interview: Imagine Dragons weigh in on the Melbourne vs. Sydney debate & dish on their 2018 tour plans

In a hotel room high atop the Bangkok skyline at the Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, Imagine Dragons sit with us – all in bright, floral button up shirts – on sofas arounds a small table. We broke the news of their 2018 Australian tour plans a few weeks ago, but that’s not all we were able to learn from the US group during our recent catch up abroad.

Dan Platzman: Hey, where are you from?

AU Review: Australia. Sydney.

DP: Oh, nice! I love Sydney.
Wayne Sermon: Actually, [it’s] Melbourne I prefer.
DP: Oh, that’s like a big rivalry!

Why is that?

WS: It seems less crowded and there’s a really good guitar shop there and that’s really all I need.

DP: Yeah, but you haven’t had a beautiful day on Bondi Beach and walking around the cliffs.

WS: Eh, I’ve been to a beach before…
DP: Going to Bondi Seafood. Is that what its called?

Ben McKee: Yeah I think Bondi Seafood Company is what it’s called now, it used to be called something else.

WS: Mmm, food is better in Sydney.
DP: Melbourne has Chin Chin and you can go down AC/DC alley and Cherry Bar!

WS: I can’t win with you guys…

So it was only a decade ago you guys were opening for a mime and a varsity cheerleading team…

BM: Junior varsity team. The varsity wouldn’t waste their time with us (Laughs)

And now here we are, Imagine Dragons are Universal Music Group’s representatives for their partnership with Marriott at the reopening of a stunning hotel in Bangkok, that’s pretty amazing.

WS: We never signed up to be anyone’s representatives…
DP: I am not a role model!

You start the North American tour in two or three weeks?

DP: Yeah, imminently. We literally jump straight from this into production rehearsals.

WS: Unless you count this as part of the production rehearsals.
BM: We think of every show as a rehearsal (Laughs)
DP: And every rehearsal is the show.

How have the tracks from Evolve been translating on the stage?

Dan Reynolds: I think its been our best record yet for live purposes, yeah we’ve only played about half of the record live so far and the other half will be this next week. The album is such a celebratory record, its so bright. It will really thrive in the live setting. Smoke + Mirrors was very dark and introspective, and it still was fun to play live but it was pretty heavy to do every night. Evolve has a lot of colour to it.

So what then was the change of experience in recording Evolve?

DR: The main thing is we worked with producers where as we’ve always usually produced. When you self produce it can be hard, because you’re in the eye of the storm and you cant really see certain perspectives. So we had producers who came in and we still did the song writing but we had someone who was helping us say “No!” or stop over-producing and push us to new places.

It brought out and actually gave us the most cohesive sound we’ve ever had on this record because we worked with people who reined us in a little bit, and knew when to let us loose. We worked with Mattman & Robin who are really awesome producers who were very minimalistic which served us very well because we can be really over-produced when we produce ourselves.

Who else did you work with?

DR: We worked with Joel Little who did Lorde’s Pure Heroine which I think is a fantastic record. We worked with John Hill who has done a lot of great things. Then of course every record we work with Alex da Kid. It was a really interesting experience and I think it was one of our favourite processes on this record and brought out a different side of the band.

Nice.

DR: I think having a producer actually made the recording length a little bit quicker.

Because he would mediate the process?

DR: Yeah, we could slide away on a song forever..
DP: The snare drum is not right! (Laughs)

I’ve heard you say before about how you wake up at night and record a lot of lyrics and melodies into your phone. Is that still happening as often?

DR: Oh yeah. If I got out my phone there are tonnes of voice memos that are like inaudible because *makes drowsy inaudible riff* and it’s just me mumbling.

Is that hard to turn off?

DR: Honestly, that is just part of my existence. Since I was a little kid – all of it has just been music; my whole life, so it’s just another language. It’s more like, I have a hard time speaking.

So if there is someone in bed at the time, are they sick of hearing you record at 2am singing? (Laughs)

DR: My wife, yeah! It’s first nature, or second nature… it’s even beyond that. It’s even above second nature, it’s so natural. I’ve definitely annoyed my wife. We live in the same house since the beginning of this band. The studio is our front entrance room and its all like one of those open houses.

Is she critiquing as she hears it at 2am?

DR: No its more like, “Please don’t.. don’t record right now please.”

Last time you were in Australia you did a cover of “Beds are Burning” by Midnight Oil…

DP: That is actually one of the songs that helps me keep track of Celsuis to Farenheit.

Oh the “45 degrees”…

DP: “45 degrees” must be pretty hot!
WS: I think anyone below 16 had no idea what we were playing. (Laughs)

BM: Yeah it’s surprising. The overlap between Imagine Dragons and Midnight Oil fan-base is not as big as we thought it was.

WS: It reminded me of when we were in Germany we played a Scorpion song thinking people would go wild and… not so much.

DP: Should have gone with the Hasselhoff…
BM: Kids love David Hasselhoff!

So why did you decide on Midnight Oil?

DR: I love that song.
BM: It just seemed like such a big, iconic Australian…
DP: …for a local cover.

DR: I think when you are American, you have such a skewed vision of what Australia is until you actually go there..

You imagine everyone looks and is dressed like Midnight Oil?

DR: Yeah! Everyone is out there singing in the desert with kangaroos *breaks into the chorus once again* and then you pick up these small cultural things and then you visit and you’re like “Oh, this is what the place is actually like,” and you’re upset and you wish you could have remembered it by those completely incorrect cultural things.

What places have surprised you around the world?

DR: South Korea, Beirut, Lebanon. I’m not just saying this ’cause it’s you, but Australia is definitely in our top three places in the world. The food… the people.. The people were exceptionally kind. One of the first times we were in Australia, we were sitting in a restaurant and there was a homeless man who looked like he had passed out on the patio and typically if you’re in America they’d be like, “Get off! Get out of here you vagrant!” but they were like “Hey, here’s some water, come sit down and have a meal.” We’ve always seen incredible things in Australia.

DP: Your beef is delicious.

Will we see you in Australia soon?

DR: Oh yes. We were just going over our tour dates for the Evolve tour and we have dates in Australia that are yet to be announced but they’re on the books.

WS: It’ll be 30 shows in small clubs. (Laughs)

Will it be good beach summer weather around the time?

BM: We hope so.

DR: We wanted to do this Endless Summer tour idea, where we bounce between summers around the world.

WS: We’re looking at April… actually, May. What’s that like in Australia?

For Sydney, that is perfect 20 to 25 degree weather.

The band hesitates and presumably uses the “Beds Are Burning” conversion method…

DP: So… 70’s?

Yeah 70’s I’d say.

Imagine Dragons new album Evolve is out now through KIDinaKORNER and Interscope Records.