By John Benson
To the best of his knowledge, Wayne “Wing” Sermon can’t remember if Imagine Dragons has ever played a show in Northeast Ohio.
You’ll have to forgive the guitarist, cellist and backing vocalist. As a member of what easily is the biggest breakout band of 2013, the last year has been one big blur. Proving this point is the fact Sermon is calling from Moscow, Russia.
“It’s pretty crazy and sort of a strange thing, but I honestly don’t remember,” Sermon said. “I feel like we haven’t. We’re excited whenever we go to a place where we’ve never been before. It doesn’t matter if it’s Moscow or Cleveland. There are people who haven’t been able to hear us play and the live show is such a big part of what Imagine Dragons is.”
That live show was first honed in the band’s adopted home of Las Vegas. Formed roughly six years ago, with its current lineup in place by 2009, the young quartet decided instead of moving to Los Angeles, New York City or Nashville that Sin City was the place to be.
Eventually, it found a gig at O’Sheas casino on The Strip. While the venue is now demolished, at the time it provided Imagine Dragons with an amazing opportunity.
To put it into perspective, guitarist Joe Walsh once pointed out while he was in The James Gang living in Northeast Ohio, playing gigs every night provided him with 10,000 hours of experience. That’s the amount of time he believed it took for him to find his chops and become a professional musician.
It’s the same theory for Imagine Dragons, which would play long sets to distracted audiences well into the night.
“That’s where we learned how to be a band; that’s where we logged all our hours,” Sermon said. “The casinos would let us play for hours and hours. It’s something that not every band gets. That much time to perform is pretty rare. Not anyone was there for us, and we knew it. You have to kind of shape your performance so it gets the attention of people who never heard you before and are interested in black jack and slot machines.”
This fine-tuning of the band’s songwriting led to the group’s first single, the top-5 track “It’s Time” from its 2012 debut, “Night Visions.” Today, the band is red-hot, with its second single “Radioactive” going to No. 1. Now comes Imagine Dragon’s headlining tour that includes a sold-out Tuesday show at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.
As for the band’s name, Sermon said his favorite fire-breathing creature is Smog from “The Hobbit,” but don’t think for a second the band is filled with science-fiction geeks.
“None of us have much of an affinity for dragons, it’s just the name came out of an anagram,” Sermon said. “We’ve never told anybody what it is. Maybe in the future we will, but for the last four years we haven’t even told our own mothers. It’s just sort of something fun for the band.”
On the fly, one anagram that comes to mind is Diagraming Ones but Sermon isn’t talking. As for diehard fans, they’ve inundated the band with suggestions to no avail.
“Fans try all the time and we say, ‘Maybe,’” Sermon laughed. “We don’t confirm or deny.”