Since their formation in 2009, it didn’t take long for Las Vegas-based rockers Imagine Dragons to achieve mainstream success. By 2012, the band released their debut album “Night Visions” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and became the highest charting rock album since 2006. The album spawned multiple popular hit singles including “It’s Time,” “Radioactive” and “Demons.” The following year proved to be just as prosperous as Imagine Dragons continued receiving accolades and embarked on their first world tour. By the end of the year, Billboard named them “The Breakout Band of 2013.” With so much success throughout the last several years, Imagine Dragons has solidified themselves among rock music’s most elite players and have proven they are here to stay.
Our Austin radio partners chimed in on their thoughts about Imagine Dragons’ success and who we should keep our eyes (and ears) open for in the future. Read our interview below with Cat Thomas, program director for KAMX-FM; Kristen Kurtis, music director for KGSR-FM; Jay Shannon, program director for KHFI-FM; and Lynn Barstow, program director for KROX-FM.
Q. Tell me how/when you first heard about Imagine Dragons?
KAMX-FM/Mix 94.7: [I] heard of them first from a fellow Program Director in Las Vegas, their home base.
KGSR-FM/93.3 KGSR: Around SXSW ‘12, our regional record rep from Interscope (Imagine Dragons’ label) visited me and my then program director, Chris Edge, to play us “It’s Time.”
KHFI-FM/96.7 KISS FM: With their first crossover hit “It’s Time” – most times it’s difficult for more rock leaning bands/artists to cross over to “pop” radio, but they had a unique sound that cut through and worked really well for us!
KROX-FM/101X: ID were brought to my attention by the band’s label.
Q. What was your first reaction or initial thoughts about Imagine Dragons?
KAMX-FM: I first saw them on Jimmy Kimmel. They performed “It’s Time.” I thought that song in particular had a chance to break the band nationally.
KGSR-FM: There are some songs that are immediately obvious hits. When you hear as much new music as we do, you get what we call “ear fatigue,” so it’s always a pleasant surprise when a song resonates in your gut right off the bat. We knew about 30 seconds into the first listen of “It’s Time” that it would be a huge success.
KHFI-FM: Very creative sound, great production and vocals.
KROX-FM: I thought the songs were strong, and I gave the band a bit of deference based on their association with The Killers.
Q. Imagine Dragons has multiple hits and has been getting a lot of airplay lately. Tell me what this band in particular does for your radio station and programming?
KAMX-FM: Since Mix 94.7 is a station that plays a variety of music types, Imagine Dragons bridges the gap between alternative and pop.
KGSR-FM: Familiarity is an important factor in programming any radio station. People might want to discover new music, but they also want to sing along with what they know. Imagine Dragons had one of the top five best-selling albums in 2013. People clearly like them, connect with them, and know their music – it would have been unwise to not play the follow-up singles “Radioactive,” “Demons,” and “On Top of the World.”
KHFI-FM: For KISS, it’s helped break up a lot of recent EDM or pop rhythm type titles along with helping us deliver listener expectations regarding our market position of “All the hits.” To be able to hear Imagine Dragons, Rihanna, Lorde, Eminem and Katy Perry all on one station is the advantage KISS provides and is what separates us from other Austin stations.
KROX-FM: They’re an immensely popular band that the alternative listener still embraces as “ok”—so we can play ID and attract pop listeners while not alienating our partisans.
Q. Imagine Dragons has been compared to numerous bands including U2, the Killers, One Republic, Mumford & Sons, Coldplay, etc. In your opinion, who do you think best compares to the band? Why?
KAMX-FM: I’ve seen all those bands live and Imagine Dragons as well, and I feel they’re all different.
KGSR-FM: Maaaybe Incubus, because they have a similar vibe balancing hopefulness & anger in their songs, but otherwise I’m going to decline answering this question because I don’t like comparing bands to other artists and honestly Imagine Dragons don’t *really* remind me of anyone else, which I consider to be a good thing.
KHFI-FM: I’d say One Republic, because “texturally” their sound is palatable for top 40, Hot AC, AAA and alternative. They haven’t “boxed” themselves in only being an Alternative band/artist.
KROX-FM: I’ll reach back in the alternative archives and say INXS—because they fit that same appeal: a pop band that’s still cool enough to be embraced by an alternative audience.
Q. In your opinion, what are some upcoming bands/artists we should be keeping our eyes out for this year?
KAMX-FM: The 1975 [or] Saints of Valory.
KGSR-FM: Watch for Birds of Tokyo, Aloe Blacc, Max Frost, London Grammar and Sam Smith.
KHFI-FM: The 1975, also a unique sound that has mass appeal to many formats like Imagine Dragons.
KROX-FM: Phantogram comes to mind off the top of my head; I think Temples will be a big deal.
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