INTERVIEW: Twenty One Pilots

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“I play the drums and my friend sings, that’s really it” Twenty One Pilots drummer Josh Dun speaks to me, ahead of upcoming Manchester gig.

With new album ‘Blurryface’ due for release on May 19th, Ohio duo ‘Twenty One Pilots’ have been busy releasing music videos via their ‘Fuelled By Ramen’ YouTube page. After 2 years since debut album ‘Vessel’ hit the shelves, Josh Dun speaks to me reflecting back over his time with vocalist, Tyler Joseph back when they started in 2009, as well as looking to the future.

The original time I was meant to speak to Josh had to be moved back an hour due to shooting for an upcoming music video, I obviously tried to prise an exclusive, but he remained reluctant saying: “I dunno if I can say, because we just finished it today, but I do know that we’re excited about it and more importantly excited for people to hear these new songs” Josh also expressed how further excited he was towards ‘Blurryface’s arrival as he revealed they were “at a weird stage we’re we’ve recorded the songs, we just want people to hear them”.

Videos for tracks ‘Stressed Out’ ‘Fairly Local’ and ‘Tear In My Heart’ have been released within the last month and will all feature on the new album. With so many music videos, it seems to be a priority for the duo. The latest video ‘Stressed Out’ shows a handshake that perhaps shows how close these friends really are, as well as members from both Tyler and Josh’s family. Speaking about the video’s, Josh says “The aspect of video is important as a visual to go along with what you’re hearing and listening to. It’s something that we’ve always embraced” .

As it has been nearly two years since ‘Vessel’ was released, I wondered how the second album was created, the songs “were actually written a while back, we started writing them whilst we were touring at the back of our bus and then we were able to take them into the studio and really make them into what we wanted them to be.”

Listening to any of the tracks that the pair has released, you can hear a sincerity and level of emotion that is a fresh take on a range of genres. When people hear ‘Duo from Ohio’ it can be hard to assume anything other than The Black Keys, however Twenty One Pilots couldn’t be further apart. Tyler Joseph’s vocals show both the ability to rap (Fairly Local) and sing (Tear In my Heart) and Dun’s drumming capability also differs from others as aggressive to passionate is blended throughout each track. There’s no defining what genre they are as they seem to dwell between many with successful results.

Tyler and I have always been on the same page as far as having this idea of songs that we can picture playing them live. Especially after touring over the past years and seeing what people have turned it into, it’s really inspiring for us to see these new ideas turned into this new experience live.”

“We’ve always been ambitious in involving everyone in the room by being entertaining. We’re just learning in all aspects of things, but it’s fun because I feel like I’ve grown since a year ago and both of us together, and to think about us next year is crazy to think about looking back seeing how much we’ve grown.”

With the music that they create being such raw emotion and the pair clearly being energetic in every performance, it can be hard to think that as their careers progress, the issues the songs represent could face becoming no longer important and lose there meaning, I wondered how Dun may deal with this?  

“Well that’s a really good question, I can tell you for sure every night Tyler and I are both into every aspect of the songs, weather it’s musically or lyrically. “ Reminiscing over early conversations when hanging out with Tyler, Josh remembers talking about songs and what they can portray. He then goes on to reveal “I think Tyler and I both agree it would be horrible to be up there in our 30’s or 40’s and singing about some girl one of us used to date when we were like 15-16 years old, they would have no relevance in our lives no more, and it would be hard to connect with those parts of ourselves every night.”

“I’m a fan of my band, I enjoy playing every night and it truly is my favourite thing in the world and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing”  

The musical style of ‘Twenty One Pilots’ varies so much it’s hard to imagine were it all comes from. With ‘Tear in My Heart’ being upbeat compared to the heavy and aggressive ‘Fairly Local’ I asked just how the pair come together to make music.

“A lot of the time Tyler would come up with an idea, I stay away from lyrics, mostly because he’s just so good at it, but I’ll come up with an idea and then we’ll come together and figure out how it’s going to look like., it’s fun to listen to a song and realise were that idea actually came from, sometimes it’s very similar to the initial idea sometimes it’s totally different. Tyler comes to me with an idea and I don’t think there’s been more than 2 times I haven’t liked it.”

According to the drummer, ‘Tear in My Heart’ is actually the only song that the pair had ever been in the studio at the same time.” Speaking about the one-off studio session he says ”It was different because a lot of the times it’s usually it’s all kinda separate and disconnected”.

The next show that they will perform is at Manchester’s Deaf Institute on the 12th of May, followed by shows in Glasgow, London, Canada and even Japan, I wondered just how the response had been taking the music over-seas to different cultures.

“The places we’ve been seemed to have had a really cool response. Everybody takes music their own way. I could listen to a song, and you could, and we could both take something different from it, and what I think is cool is that people all over the world can do that.” Adding further to the experience of touring outside of the states, the drummer continues to remember a particular event, laughing as he tells me “We’ve had some countries clap for a second because they don’t want to interrupt you but the first time we experienced that we we’re like, what did we do wrong y’know?”

Much to the probable annoyance of organisers, the conversation was meant to last around 15 minutes but we somehow managed to spill over to, dear I say it, twenty-one minutes? Before returning to his busy schedule, I managed to sneak in one last question, asking how best to describe the band to someone who hasn’t heard of them before.

“Oh man! It may not make sense right away, it’s hard to classify the style of music, but it’s just two guys, I play the drums and my friend sings, raps and plays piano and a bit of ukulele, and that’s really it”.

‘Blurryface’ is due for release on May the 19th and will be starting the string of UK shows at Manchester’s Deaf Institute on the 12th of May.

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