The Story of Imagine Dragons (I) (2013)

Somewhere in a dark Tuscaloosa bar, I finally met my idol. He'd agreed to a private interview here at the Starboard Saloon a mere week before. It had been a surprisingly easy arrangement.

"'Nother martini," groaned Imagine Dragons keyboardist Joe Giotto. The bartender prepared his drink. Silently receiving his third martini of the night, Joe took a large sip and looked to me. "So, what'd you wanna talk about -..." he slurred out.

"Your band."

Joe let out a discontent groan.
"Oh, fuck... those guys."

He stared at me for a moment, his left hand gripping an empty martini glass. "Waiter..." he beckoned to the bartender, "'nother martini."

I watched as the bartender served my idol a 'nother martini. He looked into it and took a chug. He then looked back at me and stared for a moment again, raising both of his eyebrows several times in a curiously inviting manner.
Joe then looked down for a moment as though disappointed, and then back up at me.

"You know..." he started,
"I used to be a really good boxer in college."

"Really, Joe?"

"Yeah. They called me 'Facebreaker Joe.' I won several regional tournaments with my nasty left hook."

Joe began airboxing, making little punching sound effects with his mouth as he did so. He continued this for several minutes.


Joe didn't seem to notice me. He continued to spar with his invisible opponent. I patiently awaited his return. A few minutes later, he sat back down at his stool.
"But I guess that's in the past now," he sighed.

"What happened?" I asked sympathetically.



"Well, I had just made the nationals. Soon as I knew it..."

Joe hiccuped.

"I was set to spar with George 'The Hammer' Cartwright."


"And I fucking lost."

Joe looked down at his martini glass.

"Hey, waiter, 'nother martini."

The bartender began preparing Joe another martini as he began to sob uncontrollably into his glass, holding it directly under his eye to catch the tears. Once it had filled about a quarter inch of his empty glass, Joe held up the glass and offered it to me.

"Here! Taste the tears of failure!"

As Joe waved the tear-bearing martini glass in my face, the bartender came and laid down his next glass - although this action failed to attract Joe's attention.

"You're not a failure, Joe!" I replied assuringly.
"You're the keyboardist of Imagine Dragons!"

"Oh, yeah, you wanna talk about that. Yeah, sure. Let me tell you about Imagine FUCKchins. What do you want to know about fucking dragon ballers that I can tell..."

Joe paused. Right before I could open my mouth to answer his expressed question, he started back up to life only to groan out two more words.

"... to you?"

He glared at me. There was a little ring of sibilance added to the end of the last vowel that stretched off for a split second like a vibrating hiss. For a moment, I wondered if I should just let him be. Thankfully, I am a true fan... and I was not going to let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity go to waste!"

"How did you guys start out?"

Joe gripped his forehead as though in incredible agony.

"Oh God, I think I've been roofied! Get me to the hospital!" he exclaimed.

Panicked, I reached for my phone. I dialed 911 immediately. "Hello? Medical emergency. A man at the Starboard Saloon has been poisoned! Send an ambulance!"

"Ok, sir. We're sending one now. Make sure your friend gets some water."

"Thanks, ma'am."

Joe began to rock back and forth, hands gripping his head. Suddenly, he took them from his forehead and stared at his trembling palms. The trembling slowed, and with it, Joe's expression gradually became more pleasant, and his movements more slowed. He stared at his hand as he slowly moved it in front of his face.

"Wait a minute," he slurred out between heavy breaths.
"It's not roofies... I'm just DRUNK."

Joe let out a loud, obnoxious laugh.

"But I just called an ambulance, Joe." I stated awkwardly.

"Tell them to go home."


"Tell the ambulance to... go home to its rich doctor husband. I'm just a failure. I don't need no nurses. I'm fine. I can walk."

Joe stood up from his stool and stumbled around the bar for a moment before sitting back down.


Joe looked at me inquisitavely, eyes wide.

"Joe, I want you to tell me about your band."

Joe suddenly jerked his head towards the bartender.

"What?! I'm banned from the bar, now? You don't want to even tell me yourself? Well, fuck you! I don't need you!"
Joe stood up abruptly from his stool and swatted his still full martini glass off the bar onto the floor.
I rushed up and grabbed his arm.

"No, Joe, your band! Imagine Dragons!"

"What about all the joy I've had here, waiter?! You're just going to ban my joy?! You want me to just be miserable and cry outside of your bar with no drinks! Well, here's some tears for you!"
Joe threw his other martini glass, still full of his own tears, onto the floor. Members of the staff began to gather around him. The bartender and doorman grabbed him by the shoulders and began to briskly drag him towards the door.

"I don't need you! I banned you! You're banned!"
Joe screamed at his assailants, as they put him out. All I could do was follow. Joe drunkenly picked himself up and dusted himself off.

"So, Joe... tell me about Imagine Dragons. How did you guys start out?"
"Don't say 'you guys,'" Joe cautioned, "it encourages male-centric cultural bias."
"But you're all guys."

"Oh. That's true. Well, ok, I'll tell you about Imagine Dragons. I met Jack Arlin at a pool tournament at that bar,"
Joe pointed off out into the darkness in the opposite direction of the establishment we'd just left.

"Of course, we were both 16 at the time, so they wouldn't let us in... we were still wearing our school uniforms. It was a weeknight. And we both said 'Wow. Wouldn't it be awesome if we could get in?' and we both decided that if we - we both said we'd start a great band and it would sound just like how great we'd feel getting to watch that pool tournament."

"Wow, Joe, I never knew -"

"But it was SHIT!" Joe exclaimed before I could finish my sentence as he pulled an empty martini glass out of his coat pocket and threw it downwards to shatter on the tarmac.


"Don't 'Joe' me!! Jack is a lowlife fucking asshole!"

"Can you get to that later?" I calmly replied, "I'd like to hear more about the formation."

"Ok, yeah," Joe caught his breath - "10 years later, we were still jamming out, and all of our songs were about pool and pool balls. We had a song called 'Magic 8' which I think was pretty good, but never really caught on. *Hic*

Then one day, we were rehearsing a new song - one of the few that wasn't about pool - and this guy knocked on the door and he said he played keyboard and wanted to join our band. And I said 'Hey, we already have two keyboardists, but show us what you've got.' And that's how Graven Deathclaw got into the band. At the time we were called 'The Pool Boys,' but Graven thought that was too corny, so he suggested we be called 'Hell's Fetal Rapists.' We decided to meet in the middle and call ourselves Imagine Dragons, because it's playful, like pool, but still kind of subtly hints at raping fetuses in hell."

I was taken a bit off guard.