Wayne "Wing" Sermon of Imagine Dragons on Being a Mormon Rock Star
Even though Imagine Dragons have been playing music for a little over four years, the band's meteoric rise to the top of the charts seems to have occurred over a much shorter time. Hailing from Las Vegas, the band plays unapologetically play infectious, radio-friendly alternative rock.
From a tour stop in Sante Fe and in anticipation of shows Friday and Saturday night at the South Side Ballroom, guitarist Wayne "Wing" Sermon was kind enough to talk to DC9 about how his Mormon faith jibes with the rock and roll lifestyle, and the reasons behind his band's relatively quick path to success.
How did you get your nickname?
I got that at one of our first shows. It was kind of funny. Our manager was introducing us and he called out Wayne. It was a really loud room. Everyone thought he called me wing. And it just stuck.
You guys have been together less than five years and success has come relatively quickly. Has success come too quick?
Honestly, for us, it has been kind of perfect. If we would have any success any earlier, I think it would have been detrimental. We have played our share of small clubs and half empty rooms. Being in the grind really makes you appreciate everything. Three years of that was good for us. Now, these past few months have been kind of crazy. Things have just sort of snowballed.
What do you think started the snowball?
I think for us, it was a combination of things. It wasn't just one thing. It has been a positive thing, a matter of many things being in the right place. I certainly think that there were breaks we had as a band. We were at this festival in Las Vegas the lead singer of Train was supposed to headline and he got sick. It was Pat Monahan and he never cancels shows. I think it was swine flu. He had to cancel that one and the promoters were on the hook for somebody. The promoter called us and we filled in for Train at this festival and got to play in front of thousands of people. It was a big break for us early on. There have been a lot of little things along the way that have helped us.
Even though you live in Vegas, are all of the band members from Utah?
Yes, I was born and raised there. I really love Salt Lake. I was raised about thirty minutes south of there.
Did all of you guys attend BYU?
Everyone but me went there. I went to the Berklee School of Music. I was from that same area in Utah, but I never went to school there.
Editor: The band's management informs us that only lead singer Dan Reynolds attended BYU, and he didn't graduate from the school. The rest of the band went to Berklee. There seems to have been some confusion in the conversation.
Are you LDS?
Yes I am.
Are LDS and rock and roll music contradictory ideas?
You kind of think so in your mind. For a lot of people, it might have been more difficult, but for us, it has been easy to do both. Everyone in the band is open-minded. For us, it hasn't been an issue. I think you surround yourself with the things you want to be surrounded with. For us, it's always about the music. That's always been primary for us. Some things have been challenging, but I think, for the most part, things have been basically easy.
But aren't some Mormons against drinking coffee and eating chocolate?
There are a lot of different kinds of Mormons. There are people who are very orthodox and there are people who aren't. It's different for everybody. It's always a personal decision. It's always what you are willing to do at the level you're willing to do it. It is a personal choice.
Would you consider yourself orthodox?
I was definitely raised that way and I would consider myself to be a person of faith. Yes, it's a personal and private thing for me. It's never been an issue or a problem. It has always been kind of nice. Maybe for other bands, it has been more of an issue, but not for us.
The band has been on Leno and Letterman. Is there any late night talk show you haven't been on?
We haven't been on Craig Ferguson's show, but does he even have bands on anymore? If not, I guess we have been on all of them.
Is each experience about the same?
I thing each show has its own vibe. My favorite is Jimmy Fallon. We've been on there a couple of times. He is very loose and very open and very chill. That definitely resonates with the rest of his staff. He is a lot of fun, a very friendly guy.
Your album, Night Visions, has been a hit worldwide. How is the band successful in so many foreign markets? Is there a country that hasn't found out about the band?
We have a lot of interest in Asia. We are going there soon on a tour. We have interest in the Philippines and Korea. Those are countries that we hope we have success in and there has been some demand for us. For Europe, it was really important for us to have success there. If you can get a foot in the door, especially in the UK, the rest of Europe should follow. You never want to be content with just being a band from the States. You want to go everywhere and you want as many people as possible to experience your music.
Is there a universal quality to your music?
I don't know. It is resonating with people for one reason or another. I am not sure what the exact element is. I think it is just a combination of the four of us making music together to create a certain kind of music. If it was four other guys, it wouldn't have happened. We were just four guys who got together and hacked at it for years. If we could bottle it and sell it, I think we would. I don't know what we are, what kind of music we play. I've heard alternative rock and indie rock. That's for other people to decide who we are. We just make music. Whatever works.
Since you studied at Berklee, does that mean you are the best musician in the band?
I wish. A couple of the other guys went there as well. That's where we met. I think everyone in the band contributes something. You don't have to go to school to be a good musician. That was my path. Instinct plays a really big path. Going to school can help you play fast, but at the end of the day, listening to great music is the best education you can have.
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