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Born in Utah, Imagine Dragons is coming home

Published March 25, 2013 2:28 pm

Music • Utah-born pop-rock band returns for sold-out show.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

On March 6, Donny Osmond tweeted, "I just have to say … I love @Imaginedragons. They are one of my favorite bands. And they happen to have originated right here in Las Vegas."

Whoa, stop right there.

The pop-rock band is one of the best musical acts to come out of Utah — since the Osmonds.

For years, the people in Las Vegas have been claiming Imagine Dragons, which headlines a sold-out show on Friday, as one of their own. But just look at the evidence:

Imagine Dragons won Brigham Young University's Battle of the Bands in 2008, shortly after its formation.

• Also in 2008, Imagine Dragons won Club Velour's Battle of the Bands and then "Utah Valley University's Got Talent."

• The original incarnation of the band included three BYU students and an American Fork native.

Lead singer Dan Reynolds, drummer Andrew Tolman and keyboard player Brittany Robinson were all BYU students when they started jamming together in 2008. Tolman recruited guitar player — and fellow American Fork native — Wayne Sermon.

"Definitely, Utah is our starting point," Reynolds said in a Tribune interview back in 2009. "We love Utah, and we love our fans."

So, Donny, we are claiming Imagine Dragons as our own. Las Vegas can have The Killers — even though Brandon Flowers grew up in Utah and the drummer lives in Park City.

In a recent phone interview, Sermon said he is a Utahn. "It will always be home for me."

He met Reynolds just as the BYU student was considering a move to Las Vegas to raise his profile. Sermon had recently graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston and was looking for a good gig. "He was going to move to Las Vegas," Sermon said. "I believed in him as a songwriter and frontman."

Sermon recruited bassist Ben McKee and drummer-violist Dan Platzman from Berklee to join the band. They moved across the country — even though McKee was just a few credits short of graduating — based solely Sermon's praise of Reynolds.

That trust paid off. Imagine Dragons' debut studio album "Night Visions" debuted in September at No. 2 on the Billboard album charts, with the lead single "It's Time" shooting up the charts based on its frequent appearance in trailers for movies such as "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."

The second single, "Radioactive," also reached the top 20 and has been certified gold. It was also No. 1 in Sweden.

And there's more in store. A remix of "Radioactive" is the lead song on the much-anticipated soundtrack to "The Host," based on the book by Stephenie Meyer, The author of the "Twilight Saga" is also the executive producer of the soundtrack.

The quartet's timing was uncanny. The debut's exploration of the ascending electronic-music movement is a key part of the album's success. The group enlisted hip-hop maverick Alex Da Kid to produce the record. It was his first foray into the rock world, having previously helmed releases by Dr. Dre, Nicki Minaj, B.o.B, Eminem and Rihanna.

"We're a little shell-shocked now," Sermon said of the band's unexpected and "exponential" growth. Years before exposure, they were plugging away, seeing their "likes" on Facebook go up one a day.

On Tuesday, the band had 598,130 likes.

Opening acts • Atlas Genius, an Australian rock band, and Nico Vega, which featuring Reynolds' wife, Aja Volkman, opens for Imagine Dragons.

Atlas Genius — with 50,922 Facebook likes and growing — is the project of brothers Keith and Michael Jeffrey, brothers from the quiet seaside town of Victor Harbor in southern Australia. They spent their days playing music and surfing, influenced by a guitar-playing father, who had turned Rolling Stones songs into lullabies.

The band's debut song, "Trojans" — which soared to the top of the modern-rock charts — was written before the band had a record deal, Keith said in a phone interview.

"We had no idea anyone would hear it," he said. "It was OK. We would have been happy if 50,000 people had heard of it."

But many more people than that heard it, and the Jeffreys were soon whisked to Los Angeles. Nearly every major record label courted them, with the band eventually settling on Warner Bros. Records.

The group's first album, "When It Was Now," was released last month and debuted at No. 34 on the charts — spectacular for a new band.

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Imagine this

Imagine Dragons with Atlas Genius and Nico Vega

When • Friday, March 22, at 8 p.m.

Where • The Complex, 536 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets • Sold out

Trivia • The name Imagine Dragons is an anagram of "something that we all feel passionate about," lead singer Dan Reynolds said, but the band isn't revealing the subject yet. Anagrams for Imagine Dragons include garaged minions, ironing damages, diagramming nose, marinating egos and a mansion digger.