Twenty One Pilots. It’s a name you’re going to be hearing a lot more of (if you haven’t already) and, equally, a name you’ll continue to hear for many years ahead. The Ohio duo of drummer Josh Dun and singer/lyricist Tyler Joseph just released their fourth album (or second, depending on whom you ask), ‘Blurryface’, jumping right to the top of the Billboard 200 Charts overseas, and rightfully so – it’s their best work thus far. Ahead of the band’s Australian tour, we spoke with Dun (pictured left) about their impending shows and their new album’s charts success.
Hey Josh, how are you today brother?
Hey man, I’m good. We have a couple days off so I’m just relaxing right now.
I know it was your birthday last week, I hope that went really well for you dude.
(Laughs) it was good, thanks for that. We were over in Europe, so I spent half my birthday in Italy and the other half in Germany. It was really fun.
Ah, good to hear. So, the big news lately for you guys is that ‘Blurryface’ hit no.1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with over 130,000 copies sold in first week. Only a few artists like Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar and Megan Trainor have achieved that so far. That must make you feel pretty good, right?
It does man. It’s an honour. When Tyler and I were being told that it was about to go number one or that it was looking like it was, we didn’t really know what that would mean, what the weight of it even was, or how to react to it. But, I personally never try to follow that stuff; I think it would drive me crazy. I just love to go play drums and play shows, and as long as that’s going well then I’m happy.
When I heard about it I thought it was really cool, but then it became a bigger topic of conversation and then I realised that it was an important thing (laughs). It started to sink in with me a little bit that there was a lot of people who are invested in our music and the album as a whole, which is great, because that’s how we like to ingest music ourselves; with an album in its entirety that’s been strategically put together. When I look at the charts and I see our album, I don’t see the singles up there, which I think is great because that means people are consuming the whole album and hopefully I can keep playing drums for much longer.
I’m so stoked for you dude, and I think that that success was rightfully due for you guys. With consuming and listening to albums in their entirety, do you think that’s lost on a lot of your peers and other artists in the wider pop market? That it’s more single focused?
Yeah I do, and just in our culture, especially with technology, I think it’s all focused on singles. We’re living in a single generation and not in an album generation. When I was younger, I would skate over to the local used record shop, find the most tattooed guy to recommend me an album, stick it in my CD player and listen to it all the way through. That’s how I grew up listening to music. Now, it’s much easier to pull up an app or hit play and shuffle and go onto the next artist. That’s just how it is, so I think that the fact that the album went to number one in the U.S. is a testament to how I digested music when I was younger. Which is encouraging, and I think you always have to play the game of what the culture is currently doing. At the same time, I think every artist should try and put out a piece of art that embodies that full piece of work. That’s what we try to do at least.
I still listen to music like that man, so I agree with you there. With this Australian tour, you’re coming off the back of Bonnaroo, which is a massive festival, and now you’ll playing some good medium sized venues, and I know you guys are more into those kinds of shows so you must be that little bit more stoked now?
Yeah, definitely. There’s such a difference between playing festivals, headlining shows and even opening shows. Over the past couple years we’ve learnt so much about playing shows and performing, and realising the differences [between them]. I’ve also come to realise how much I love and prefer a smaller room that’s a bit more sweaty and hot, and is more intimate. We look at the festival show as a little more competitive, and I would say that every artist does, like the different slot you play, how many people are at your stage. I think every artist has that thought, but then on the other side of it, the headline shows are so much fun. I can’t wait to come back other and play in these rooms. I also think it’s cool that we can play all theses shows in the States and then we go overseas and it helps solidify what we’re doing and makes it feel a little bit more special.
Right on, I’m keen to see you guys back here. In an interview with AltPress, one of you mentioned that these songs were written because you looked at the “songwriting very much through the filter of live music”, and now that you’ve had some shows with the new material, how has it all transitioned live?
That’s a good question…from the beginning that’s how we’ve looked at song writing – from the live perspective. From playing local shows, how can we convert people, to get somebody to turn around from watching the football and watch us perform instead? That’s always been our mentality, and I think we absolutely did the same thing with this record. So far, we’ve only done a few festivals, but from that, I think it’s all transitioned live really well. What’s also cool is that when we play these new songs, I hear the crowds sing the words louder than I’ve ever heard them. That’s saying something as I wear these in-ear monitors where I can rarely ever hear the crowd, but with these shows people are singing louder than ever. That is really encouraging for me, and it makes me wanna play everyday (laughs).
Playing drums everyday is the dream! I watched an old video on Rock Sound’s Youtube channel of Tyler doing some poetry and I realised that the lyrics are from ‘Heavydirtysoul’, distorted voice and a glimpse of the character Blurryface and all. That was about two years ago now, so how long has the idea of this character and theme been in the works for?
That song stared out as a poem, as you said, and when he showed me that, we knew we needed to fit it into something musically. A lot of those ideas and concepts originated around that time, but it’s evolved since then as well. Some of the ideas and the aesthetics of Blurryface have grown into what it is now over a period of time. Some of that includes the topics of the songs that through conversation, we realised that some of these challenges in writing songs and playing shows are instances of insecurities. As we talked about it more and more, we found that the character of Blurryface personifies those feelings that we have and I think that we all have. That’s something we have to tackle and it’s a daily battle, and while it’s something we’ve been sitting on for a while, it grew in a very natural and organic way.
I really like the explanation behind it man, I really do. Well finally Josh, in the video for ‘Stressed Out’ [below], you and Tyler do that ‘best friend secret handshake thing’ and I’m wondering if that was just made up for the video or whether that’s actually something you two do from time to time?
(Laughs) I’ll give you the history on it. It was about three years ago when we first started playing together and were on the road a lot, and we were in a hotel room in Nashville. We were up really late and we decided to come up with…something. It’s weird to talk about this and admit it, I could just say that we just made it up [for the video], but we actually spent like two to three hours putting it together. By then it was 3am, and we had our business manager video tape it. It was a big deal for us and we’ve been doing it since, like before a show or whenever something cool happens. We’re weird guys (laughs).
(Laughs) but that’s a good thing! Thanks so much for your time today, Josh, it’s been awesome to chat with you.
Thank you too man, thanks for the questions and hopefully we’ll see you soon.
‘Blurryface’ is out now via now via Atlantic Records/Warner Music Australia.
Twenty One Pilots are touring nationally this July. Details and tickets here.