Live Nation / Stateside Presents
THE NAKED AND FAMOUS
201 East Jefferson Street
Phoenix, AZ, 85004
This event is all ages
After the last note played on the last song of a marathon set a few years ago, Dan Reynolds, frontman for Las Vegas based rockers Imagine Dragons, realized it was all starting to come together. “We were playing a gig at this place called O’Sheas, which has the cheapest beer on the strip,” Reynolds remembers. “I was basically standing on top of the drums, the stage was so small. We were on our final song of a six-hour set. I got to the end of the song and just fully passed out in the middle of singing. I came to, got up, finished the song, and we got a standing ovation from all these people at this tiny little casino at three am on a weekday in Vegas. Something about that moment bonded us and made us realize that we were building a connection with people from all over the country.”
Since then that connection has only grown. Reynolds and his bandmates – guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, and drummer Daniel Platzman – independently released three EPs, toured extensively, earning a grass roots following. Then, earlier this year, the band made their major label debut with the release of their Continued Silence EP, which included the breakthrough single “It’s Time,” an anthemic foot-stomping track that perfectly encapsulates the band’s unvarnished emotional sound. The song, which reached #3 at Modern Rock radio and #2 at AAA, earned the group a 2012 MTV VMA nomination for “Best Rock Video.” With the groundswell of energy “It’s Time” generated, Imagine Dragons are now preparing for the release of their full-length debut, Night Visions, available on Grammy award winning producer Alex Da Kid’s (Eminem, Rihanna) label, KIDinaKORNER. “This record has been three years in the making,” Reynolds explains of his excitement in finally getting to share the album with the world. “We feel that we have finally created something we are all truly proud of and that can hopefully inspire others and help them feel a little less alone. That’s what music is about. It’s the greatest communicator I know.”
Emotional struggle is central to Imagine Dragons ethos. From the beginning it’s been the group’s goal to take the pain they've each experienced in life and spin it into something redemptive and uplifting. That transformation – of emotional pain into art – is what drives them as people and it’s also what inspired their first hit. “I wrote ‘It’s Time’ during a very transitional period in my life,” Reynolds recalls. “It seemed like everything was going wrong. I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life, trying to figure out how seriously to take music. I was making decisions about who I was. I’m a pretty young guy and I’m still trying to figure out the answer to those questions.”
That balance between riding steady and risking it all is the core tension at the heart of Imagine Dragons’ sound and their identity and it’s a reflection of the city they call home. “Our band wouldn’t exist without Las Vegas,” Reynolds says simply. “It’s a great place for an artist to start out.” Sin City isn’t known as a creative hotbed but, weirdly, that works to the advantage of the musicians who live there. “It’s not oversaturated,” he explains. “As a new band you play the casinos - half covers, half your own stuff – and you make ends meet. We were able to rent a band house and support ourselves. Eating ramen, but still.” Eking out a living as a Vegas rocker might be relatively easy but competition is cutthroat because the city is like boot camp for performers. Unlike in New York or LA where your biggest concern is being the hottest rock act around, in Las Vegas you’ve got to compete with showgirls and roulette and Cher at the Caesars Palace. “You learn to stand out because you’re competing for the attention of people sitting at slot machines,” Reynolds explains. “You have to bring everything you have and learn what grabs people’s attention enough that they look up from the card table and say, hey, let’s check this out!”
For Imagine Dragons that means the brutal honesty and power of straight-ahead rock and roll interwoven with innovative backbeats, basslines, and percussion. “We like making raw natural noises and keeping them raw and natural but transforming them into synthetic noises,” Sermon says. “We are gearheads. We do a lot of experimenting with percussion that’s electric and acoustic on top of each other.” Every band member except Reynolds attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, and the technical skill and precision that comes with that education has impacted Imagine Dragons’ sound and process. “I’m a musician that goes by ear. And when you put those two types of people in a room together that’s when the magic happens,” say Reynolds.
With the release of Night Visions, Imagine Dragons finally have a chance to show the world what that magic sounds like. They start off with a big statement in “Radioactive,” which blends a throbbing backbeat with delicate acoustic guitars and deals lyrically with facing the apocalypse. “We want people to hear that song and feel empowered,” Reynolds explains. Meanwhile, the delicacy of tracks like “Demons” balances the album’s expansiveness with a sense of human intimacy. “The album title came together very organically,” Reynolds recalls of the records overall theme. “We all sat in a room and wrote out what the band and sound of the album means to us. We all deal with our own demons and anxieties but we find that nothing calms the mind more than creating. Many of the songs on the album were written late into the night, and some of the lyrical themes came from dreams I've had, even some nightmares. So when the title Night Visions came up, it just seemed to fit perfectly. We hope it inspires other to create, and push through their own struggles.”
THE NAKED AND FAMOUS
In 2010, Auckland, New Zealand’s Thom Powers, Alisa Xayalith, Aaron Short,
David Beadle, and Jesse Wood arrived at the forefront of the international indie
pop scene with the sweltering The Naked and Famous debut, Passive Me,
Aggressive You. Riding on the feverish heights reached by singles like Young
Blood, Punching In A Dream and Girls Like You the album thrust the band into
the limelight and onto the airwaves.
Touring incessantly, the band settled permanently in Los Angeles to create the
follow-up, 2013’s In Rolling Waves. The sophomore effort cast a darker
shadow over their sound, straying from the synch-heavy formula that had
ripped up radio charts yet patiently showcasing their unique skill, talent, and
scope as artists.
TNAF set off to tour In Rolling Waves but after just a few months on the road,
there were storm clouds on the horizon. Alisa and Thom’s relationship was the
foundation of the band. As they said, “We started writing songs for The Naked
and Famous the moment we got together at age 18.” Eight years later, their
relationship was in turmoil and soon so was the band.
“It was awful,” says David. “People were unraveling pretty fast. The shows
were tight but no-one was in a good space. People were trying to get off the
bus, dragging their suitcase down the road in the middle of the night in the
middle of nowhere! When the tour bus finally stopped, everyone made for the
exit and didn’t look back.”
The tour ended, Thom and Alisa separated, and TNAF became a group in
ambiguous and painful hiatus. For the next year they barely saw one other.
Los Angeles is a big enough place to get lost in.
“We weren’t talking about whether we’d broken up the band because we
were so broken as individuals,” says Aaron.
Every band has its leader and source creator. It’s no secret that Thom Powers
drives this band.
“I have a constant fear of failure,” he says. “My childhood dream was to be a
musician and I’m not about to take this for granted. I feel lucky to have fans. I
wake up and feel like any moment that I’m not working is time wasted.”
So in early 2015, it was no real surprise to find a batch of new demos from
Thom’s Echo Park home studio in the band dropbox and a first TNAF meet-up
in many months was convened.
“The best thing you can learn as a producer and a writer is to stop being
precious. To get a grip, to let go and to learn how to embrace other people’s
opinions,” says Thom. “We all came to this place with a little more maturity and
it felt – tentatively – like we had a new path to follow.”
It was eventually agreed that working on a new album would become a regular
Monday through Friday gig, the proper turning point coming in August of 2015
when they secured a small studio in Downtown LA to work in.
Assistance on the album came from only a handful of individuals. Sombear
(Brad Hale) has worked on other projects with Thom and contributes
production to Higher and My Energy. Carlos de la Garza engineered and Ken
Andrews (Paramore) mixed the record. Thom still produces with input only
from the other band members.
“We’ve ended up with a bright and very vocal album,” explains Thom. “TNAF
has always naturally straddled the line between pop and alternative. Like most
acts today though, when we talk about pop we’re only referring to production,
arrangement or mixing. The lyrical content comes from a personal place.”
“There’s pain and passion behind this art,” says Alisa, picking up this theme.
“Pop techniques are all about maximum impact. And it’s not like this is an
album of bangers but it’s the most immediate thing we’ve ever done.”
Thom reveals the album title came from a lyric in the first song that was
finished. Within the song Falling, it’s a contradictory statement he says –
“We’re made in simple forms.”
“Being a functioning human means living in a constant state of delusion about
the simplicity and order of the world. I like summing up the album in this way.
There is no singular message. No unity of emotion. The irony also being that
an album is a brutally curated collection of ideas.”
And true to the complex and contradictory nature of being in a band, it is not a
name they could all agree on. “Simple forms reminds me of the DMV,” says
Jesse. “But I get what Thom’s saying.”
Being a band that can fight with and for each other is not so unusual but that
doesn’t mean it is not a triumph to produce a record like Simple Forms at this
point in TNAF’s career.
“We’re still incredibly self-sufficient,” says Alisa. “We’re lucky to have this.
We’re lucky to still have one another.”