There are no upcoming gigs for Imagine Dragons.
After releasing their 2012 full-length debut Night Visions (featuring the Grammy Award-winning single “Radioactive”), Imagine Dragons spent nearly two years bringing their passionately inventive brand of alt-rock to arenas around the world. To deal with the chaos of a touring schedule that included 130 headline dates and 50 festivals across the globe, the Las Vegas-based quartet threw themselves into creating material for their next album. “So many things were changing for us so quickly, the only way to feel some kind of stability was to keep writing,” says frontman Dan Reynolds, who founded Imagine Dragons with guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, and drummer Daniel Platzman. “Going up to my hotel room to work on new songs became something I looked forward to every night on tour,” Reynolds adds. “There were definitely a few times when the person next door’s banging on the wall because it’s 4 a.m. and they’re trying to sleep and I’m in there belting out some song I just wrote.”
With Smoke + Mirrors, Imagine Dragons use the frenetic energy of life on the road to infuse their music with both raw tension and intense vulnerability. As on Night Visions—which prompted Imagine Dragons to rack up more than 3.9 million album sales and 24 million track sales worldwide—the band works with sharply crafted beats and grooves to dream up rhythm-driven rock music that’s artful yet visceral. Also revealing the band’s dedication to keeping it homespun, Smoke + Mirrors marks the first release recorded in their new self-built home studio. “Working in a rented studio usually ends up with the creative process being somewhat rushed, so this was the best way to make something at our own pace,” explains Reynolds.
In each sprawling and hook-laced song on Smoke + Mirrors—including the brooding but anthemic lead single “Bet My Life” and the soulful, tribal-drumbeat-powered title track—Imagine Dragons reveal the pain and exhilaration that comes with soul-searching and transcendence. “One of the goals in making this album was to capture the extremes of the past couple years,” says Reynolds. “There were times on the road where I was on the highest high, like after playing in Brazil in front of 80,000 people, and there were other times when I was really feeling how difficult and lonely it was to be away from my family for so long.” To lay that emotion bare, Imagine Dragons stripped away some studio flourishes and embraced a sense of brilliant imperfection in producing Smoke + Mirrors. “A lot of the vocals on the album were ones that I recorded into my laptop or a cheap USB mike in my hotel room, because those were the takes that really had the spirit of the moment when the song was written,” Reynolds points out. At the same time, Imagine Dragons expanded their sound by using instruments collected in their travels, adding even more texture and depth to the band’s already-intricate rhythms and melodies.