A lot of water has gone under the bridge since we last heard from Imagine Dragons.
The American pop leviathans released their hugely successful album 'Origins' back in 2018, scoring a tidal wave of international success.
Since then, however, there's been a lot to deal with: a global pandemic, for one, but also a few matters in their own lives.
Frontman Dan Reynolds lost three family members recently, a process of grief that pushed him into some challenging spaces.
Those emotions come pouring out on new album 'Mercury – Act 1'. Out now, it was produced by Rick Rubin and his touch allows Imagine Dragons to lean closer to the emotional core of their songwriting.
Take recent single 'Wrecked' – an immediate fan favourite, the lyrics deal with a palpable, and all-too-real sense of loss, with Dan Reynolds dedicating the song to his sister-in-law who sadly died from cancer.
In all, 'Mercury – Act 1' utilised some 300 demos, a gradual process that allowed Imagine Dragons to remove the creative obstacles in their way.
With the world now opening up, Imagine Dragons sit down with Clash to walk through their new album…
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This song was recorded at the band's studio in Las Vegas. We bought a house together a few years back and renovated into a studio. I wanted it to lead the album because it immediately set the tone and theme for the record.
Rick Rubin really pushed me to be more vulnerable and dive into uncomfortable places for me, and this song is really quite direct about struggles I’ve had through the years. I’ve often buried my feelings in metaphors throughout the years due to my own insecurities and this song was an attempt to peel back my fears and face them.
Lonely is a song directed towards my anxiety and feelings of being an introvert in an extroverted career. While I always wanted to be a musician from a young age, I had no idea of all the changes that would come with along with it.
I’ve always felt free on stage performing, but have found myself wanting to hide from all other aspects of my life throughout the last decade, especially those pertaining to fame and attention. I’ve become more and more of a recluse over the years.
This is a song I wrote shortly after the passing of a family member. I was with her as she slowly passed on, leaving behind her husband and 7 kids. Cancer came and took her from us within a year of diagnosis. It really shook me and reminded me of the finite state of our existence. I’ve lost friends and family before but never been present when it occurred before this. I don’t quite know how to deal with loss and grief but writing a song was an attempt to find some sort of cathartic refuge.
This song began at my guitarist house (Wayne Sermon) and then really came to life at Rick Rubin’s studio Shangri-La. It had interesting elements in its demo state but Rick really pushed us to “go there”. He is all about the groove feeling “right” and so we started by diving into the synth and drums to get it right and then built from there. It’s a bit of a tongue and cheek song directed at my wife of 10 years. My love for her and all we have endured together.
This is one of the first ones I wrote for the record. It deals a lot with feeling lost after touring nonstop for over a decade. I really lost a sense of self. I wrote it shortly after coming back home and beginning a journey to refind who I was outside of the public image and band.
Easy Come Easy Go
This is a song about losing friends and relationships through the years as I grow older. I’m not sure how much of it is due to the band dynamics and my own insecurities and how much is due to just growing older and being a father and husband. But I miss parts of my youth spent with childhood friends.
We slowly have grown apart through the years, particularly with my best friend from childhood but this song is about. I had him come over the other day and played it for him without telling him what it was about. He knew and we were able to reconnect again. Sometimes I feel music can speak more directly and eloquently than anything I could say.
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This is another song that began at my guitarists house. He sent me a simple structure that felt like the perfect sonic soundscape to express my feelings of addiction and sobriety.
It’s been a constant cycle that has followed me for years. It’s directed towards my children and my hope for them to see it for what it is. Ugly. I’ve lost quite a few friends to addiction throughout the years and have no desire to glorify it. But I also don’t believe that anyone should be shamed either. I can only hope in acknowledging this through the song someone else will feel less alone and empowered.
Certainly it isn’t something I would’ve felt comfortable acknowledging earlier on in my career but Rick really pushed me to confront these sorts of things.
Another song that really came to life at Rick's studio. He pushed me to strip the song down and recreate it from scratch from the demo state we showed it to him in. I wanted to create an intimate song that also could gradually grow into a bit of a memorable chant of affirmation and empowerment. I sat in a little room at Rick's studio with a pile of instruments he had and just started rebuilding with his direction in mind. After I got it to a place that felt right, we all built upon it.
This song began at my house sitting down with my wife. She has been an artist for many years singing for a band out of LA called Nico Vega. We actually met over a decade ago when my band opened for hers. We co-wrote this song and she pushed me to be more honest and vulnerable both in lyrics and vocally.
I was really trying to put a sonic sound and feeling to what depression has felt like for me. The brutal numbness of it. And the never-ending desire to shake myself out of it.
This song was written shortly after my wife and I got back together after a seven-month separation. It’s about loyalty and enduring the ups and downs of a long relationship. We have since had another child together and just celebrated a decade of being together. My only goal with it originally was just to put a smile on her face when I showed it to her at home
. I write so much that the majority of our music never sees the light of day. I never thought this song would be a single for the record but rather just for Aja.
This is a song about the desire I’ve had over the past few years to rid myself of self-pity. I have been given so much and hate the part of me that desires something more or feels sorry for whatever hardship I may have faced at some point. It really is just hatred of certain parts of myself expressed through melody and lyric.
No Time For Toxic People
This song is pretty self evident lyrically, I think. It’s simply it’s looking towards the healthier future for me. Ridding myself of past relationships or experiences that don’t serve me and my family.
As I get older, I just have less time for negative energy. I choose to spend my time with the people I love and the energy that resonates with me.
This is the final song on the record. I wanted to end on a note that looked to a brighter future.
This record is not about a man falling down infinitely as shown in the artwork, but rather falling and landing on some sort of foundation. It’s about rebuilding. I felt like my foundation dissolved from underneath me over the past decade due to a crisis of faith, a loss of belief in anything really.
I’m now trying to rebuild a healthier future for me that I can hopefully pass on to my children.
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'Mercury – Act 1' is out now.
Photo Credit: Neil Krug