Four albums in six years is a breakneck pace for any major artist in 2018, to say nothing of a band as ascendant and ambitious as Imagine Dragons. And as with its predecessors, the songs that comprise Origins—coming just over a year after the blockbuster Evolve—aren't tossed-off lo-fi recordings. They’re big hits with big beats and big choruses and big production, made for the big venues that the Los Angeles/Las Vegas quartet regularly play. And if the pressures that come with mounting pop stardom aren’t enough to discourage a prolific streak, there’s always debilitating personal strife. But those hard times led to more songs, frontman Dan Reynolds tells Apple Music.
How did this album come together so quickly? Some of these songs were written when we had weeks off on tour; some were written a month ago. I know there’s some bands that say, “Every three years we’ll put out a record and feed the fans, do a big tour, and then go away,” but we have the ability to continually feed the culture and fan base of Imagine Dragons, so why not do that? I grew up mainly listening to hip-hop and I loved the whole aspect of mixtapes—you could consume stuff from your favorite artists continually, and rock doesn’t do that. We kind of just get put there because we have a guitarist and because sometimes I sing a little screamy, but I really am more influenced by the culture of hip-hop, and of R&B music.
Is there one particular song that made you realize this was going to be a proper album sooner than later? The last track, “Real Life,” really solidified things for me. Imagine Dragons has never been a love song kind of band, but this record is, like, 90% about love and relationships. I went through a hard divorce this year and we announced it to the world—then we never wound up signing the papers. We have a chaotic relationship, but a stale one seems worse to me. It sounds like such a clichéd thing to say, but going through heartbreak is devastating. Your whole world falls apart.
So you threw yourself into writing? I had to be either listening to or creating music at all times, because I was so afraid of facing a quiet room. I just had this gaping hole that felt so desolate and scary, and music at least took me away from that. “Bad Liar” I wrote with my wife right before we separated, and it’s all about a dying relationship. Listening to it now that we’re back together, it’s kind of cathartic in a weird way.
Do you write differently now, knowing there’s a huge audience waiting? Fortunately, we have a few things going for us. We’ve been pretty genre-less since the beginning, so whereas some bands get pigeonholed, we’re able to be all over the gamut. I love big melodies and poppy songs; the only rock I listened to was Rage Against the Machine and Minor Threat. I enjoy writing pop music and I want to write big pop songs.