"We don't feel comfortable unless we're changing..." - hmv.com talks to Imagine Dragons
After they concluded their lengthy tour in support of 2015’s Smoke + Mirrors in February last year, Imagine Dragons told the world’s media that they were planning to take the rest of 2016 off, a task they failed miserably to pull off as they were back in the studio just a few weeks later.
In fact in the rest of that year they contributed tracks to the soundtracks for Me Before You, Suicide Squad and Passengers as well as working relentlessly on what would become new album Evolve. An album that is now here.
There are two key producers on the album. The first is Alexander Grant, better known as Alex Da Kid, who's probably best known for his work with Eminem and Rihanna, he’s been a regular with the Dragons for a while now and has produced three of the album’s 11 tracks.
Next up are Mattias Larsson and Robin Fredriksson, who go by Mattman & Robin professionally. Disciples and associates of Max Martin, they helped Ellie Goulding write ‘Love Me Like You Do’ and Taylor Swift pen ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’, and they’ve produced four tracks on this album, including lead-off single ‘Believer’.
Joel Little, Lorde’s key man, has been at the controls on ‘Whatever It Takes’, while relative newcomer Tim Randolph has helped out on two tracks.
As their new album hits shelves, we spoke to guitarist Wayne Sermon about how they made it happen...
You’d said publically that you planned to take most of 2016 off, how much time off did you manage before you went back to the studio?
"About a year. It was such a necessary thing for us. We were still writing a lot, but not being off the road was the main thing. We were touring for years straight and needed to take a step back, take some time to reflect and reconnect with people and places we had lost track of. It made this album what it is."
You worked with a number of different producers on the album? What did each of them bring to the process of making it?
"They all had different personalities and different quirks with how they like to work. Some like to be heavily involved in every detail. They engineer the session, they offer lots of suggestions and really guide the track from beginning to end. Others purposefully lie back a bit, and let the band find their way on their own and try to fill in the gaps if they need to. It was important that we really get along with each of them. Vibe in the studio is extremely important and so underrated."
Which of the songs on the album took the longest to get right?
"Ironically, it 'Whatever It Takes' took the longest. Dan had the first and pre-chorus really quickly. But the chorus wasn't right. We went through a ton of ideas and versions before we found the right chord progression and the right melody. Sometimes it's quick, sometimes it's not. The process is never the same twice."
And which came together most quickly?
"That would be 'Yesterday'. We wrote that in a green room while touring off Smoke & Mirrors. Alex Da Kid produced that one. We were emailing files back and forth. Dan had the whole song finished on practically the first take - melody and lyrics. We all added our parts and by the end of the day the track was basically done."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a common theme?
"It's certainly distinctive from the other two. We were all a little road weary and ready for a change by the end of Smoke & Mirrors. I think Dan made good of that time to get in a really good place both mentally and physically. So lyrically that comes through. The darker and more searching tones of Smoke & Mirrors seem to have been replaced with more colour and life."
When did you settle on the title of Evolve? Where did it come from?
"It's something we've always been doing. From our first EP's to our albums, or sound is always shifting. We don't feel comfortable unless we're changing. So this is one is another evolution of us, but probably in a more significant way. We definitely feel a sense of arrival."
Where there any other titles in contention?
"We bounced around a ton of ideas. We don't really land on anything unless all four of us feel it's right. So that can take time. Album art, album name, all that stuff has to be just right. We are lucky to work with rad artists. This time is was a guy named Beeple. He's a super talented dude."
What are your plans to take the album out live? Are there any new songs you’re particularly looking forward to playing?
"Of course, we always try to make it a experience. We stretch out songs, add sections, and we always make sure there's a few surprises. We want to make the gap between us and them to be as paper thin as we can. We're always trying make our shows have the same feel as the smaller clubs we played for years."