“Enemy,” the 2021 collaborative track from Imagine Dragons and rapper JID, blasted through the City Market Social House when group frontman Dan Reynolds boogied his way up onto the stage at Variety’s Hitmakers Brunch on Saturday.

With chorus lyrics like “Spare the sympathy / Everybody wants to be my enemy / (Look out for yourself),” the song was a fitting musical introduction for Reynolds’ sarcastic acceptance speech for the Group of the Year award, in which the frontman recalled how the band was initially rejected by many of the attendees in that same room.

“Shoutout Atlantic Records. You guys passed on us — shoutout to you,” Reynolds said to the audience. “You took us to Disneyland, though. You guys took us to Disneyland for free; that was great. Molly, if you’re here, you tried to sign us, but the people didn’t believe us. But Atlantic, we’re celebrating you. We are celebrating you. It’s good to have some healthy competition.”

Bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman emerged behind Reynolds, sporting dark sunglasses. Lead guitarist Wayne Sermon soon joined his fellow bandmates on-stage, while Reynolds continued to reflect on the group’s origins.

“I’m a boy from Las Vegas, Nevada. I grew up Mormon. I had a weird path,” Reynolds said. “We don’t have to really explain that. But anybody Mormon in Vegas? No? Okay, good, only me. It was great. I went on a Mormon mission, knocked on doors, people told me I was crazy, learned I was crazy, and started a band called Imagine Dragons. And I will say, I am so grateful for my weird path.”

“Mom, dad, neither of them wanted me to be a musician. I have seven brothers — they’re all doctors and lawyers, but I’m the richest now,” Reynolds continued, jokingly. “You guys all had like school debt, school loans; I don’t have any school loans.”

Other life events Reynolds credited with spurring him onto his current trajectory included being kicked out of his alma mater, Brigham Young University, and having to play six-hour gigs at a Vegas dive bar called O’Sheas just to make some cash. Masked by feigned arrogance, the speech was, in reality, a meditation on Imagine Dragons’ rigorous path to success, which was riddled with obstacles.

“So thank you to O’Sheas, thank you to Atlantic and mainly thank you to Interscope (Records) and Variety — what a pleasure to be here,” Reynolds said.