Imagine Dragons recently released the music video for their latest single, “Believer.” The video, which was directed by Matt Eastin—who worked with the band on "Roots," “On Top of the World” and “Shots (Broiler Remix)”—features actor Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, The Expendables), depicting a man facing his inner-self—the toughest critic of all. It also pays homage to some of the classic movies the band grew up with.
Imagine Dragons features Dan Reynolds (vocals), Wayne Sermon (guitar), Daniel Platzman (drums) and Ben McKee (bass). I recently chatted with Reynolds and Sermon about the new single and video, their gear and more.
What's the songwriting process like for the band? Does it begin with a melody, a hook, a lyric?
REYNOLDS: Every song is different, and everyone contributes in their own way. A song may start from a beat, a guitar riff or a chord progression. Maybe even a word.
What inspired the new single, “Believer”?
REYNOLDS: The song is about overcoming emotional and physical pain to arrive at a place of peace and self-confidence.
Where did the idea for the video come from, and what made you decide to include Dolph Lundgren?
REYNOLDS: The video shows a man battling shadows of himself. We came up with the idea for this metaphorical representation of the song with Matt [Eastin], our director. Dolph was the perfect guy for the role. Not just because he's a great actor and martial artist. He also does look a lot like an older, much, much stronger me [laughs].
What was the filming process like?
REYNOLDS: It was one of the most fun film shoots we've ever done. The set was beautiful and there really weren't any unexpected problems, which is weird on a music video set. I got rocked pretty good on some of those hits, though.
You mentioned Matt Eastin, who you’ve worked with several times in the past. What was it like working with him again?
REYNOLDS: There's nothing better than working with a director that you know and trust. Filming is a much less stressful process when you know that it's going to look great on camera. Matt has a great eye but also understands the way we think and is super detail oriented.
Wayne, who were/are some of your main guitar influences?
SERMON: That's hard for me to answer, and I feel like it shouldn't be. I grew up on classic rock, so all your usual suspects, I guess. But if I had to name a few, Tom Scholz [Boston] for his OCD level recording techniques, George Harrison for always serving the song and Jimmy Page for, well, being Jimmy Page. All of them had a big impact on my playing. I studied a lot of jazz at school and discovered Bill Frisell in college. He probably has the best feel of any guitarist I've ever heard.
What's the best bit of advice you can give to an aspiring guitarist?
SERMON: Honestly, worry a ton less about being a virtuoso and focus a lot more on creating a part that perfectly fits the song. Additionally, don't listen to anyone else about gear, just find what inspires you and makes you want to play. For some people, that's a cheap fuzz pedal plugged straight into a solid-state amp, and for other people, it’s three racks of gear. I'm still trying to follow my own advice.
What is your current setup like? Is there a guitar/amp combination you prefer when you play live?
SERMON: This is proof that I can't follow my own advice [laughs]. I run three early Sixties Vox AC30's in a wet/dry/wet scenario. All my pedals are in racks and I use Eventide H7600's for time-based stuff. In my defense, it's a pretty damn inspiring thing to play through. I've been a hopeless gearhead my whole life. Finally being able to do this kind of setup is a dream for me.
Can you tell me the origin of the song, “Demons” and how the track all came together?
SERMON: Dan writes all the lyrics. They’re straight from his brain and whatever he was going through at the time. We worked with Alex da Kid on that song. He has an amazing sense of drum sounds and affects them in awesome ways. I added my guitars last, trying to add texture to the pre-chorus and chorus without cluttering.
What are you most looking forward to about this next phase of your career?
SERMON: Finally being able to share this new music. It's been incubating for years, and now is the fun part!
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.