Twenty One Pilots Talk Performing, Fans, and The Hunger Games Soundtrack

Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun of Twenty One Pilots @ The Vogue Theatre Vancouver - December 9th 2015

I was lucky enough to get a few minutes with Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun of Twenty One Pilots during their time in Vancouver.

We had a nice little chat.

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Concert Addicts – So your stage show is super intense, and super dramatic. Was that a slow, organic process where you got to that point? The jumping off things, the interacting with the crowd, was that something that just happened organically or do you guys plan that out, at least somewhere, ahead of time?

Tyler Joseph – I think it did start off organically. I knew that—Josh and I when we were playing in front of very, very small crowds, we knew as a local band you realize that shows are very important. And when were working a local job, with weekends off, you know we maybe have a show or two a month, and so you work on that show. What is it gonna look like? What is it gonna feel like? And, you almost have to sing for your supper, type of feel. So when thats on the line, you just start developing this sort of chemistry, and kind of like an agreement that we’re gonna lay out everything we have because we don’t know when our next shows gonna be. Now we’re starting to play more shows. It’s starting to become something we do as our job, we got to quit our old jobs to do this for full time. But then that just kinda carried over.

Concert Addicts – That’s pretty cool. You guys, last night, were all over the place [at Deck the Hall Ball in Seattle]. At one point you guys were in the crowd. Have you guys ever sustained any injuries from all that high-flying antics? You’re jumping off pianos, you’re jumping off stage risers. I mean anything more serious than bumps and scrapes I guess?

Tyler Joseph – I will say, I get hurt almost every night but I don’t know that I’m hurt while I’m playing. It’s afterwards that I’ll find a bruise or a cut or something, but nothing too bad, like that we had to cancel a show or whatever.

Concert Addicts – [Joshua] you’ve ever had the same thing?

Josh Dun –  Na, I’ll like find blood on my snare drum every once in a while, but that’s like kinda normal.

Concert Addicts – For drummers?

Josh Dun –  Yeah.

Tyler Joseph – And awesome!

Josh Dun –  Yeah!

Concert Addicts – So the adrenaline’s running, and whatever happens, happens. I mean you guys have such a— I mean it’s a rambunctious performance style, but it’s pretty unique. Is there anybody that you look up to, like before you started getting into it or even now, that you looked up to performance wise? Like, “I wanna kind of do that, or aspire to that”.

Tyler Joseph – I think— there’s a band called Mutemath that we both look up to. As we were coming up with what this thing should be, we would reference them, because their live show and just the way that they manifest their songs for you on stage is just a really cool, convicted, passionate way of doing it. We love that. So that’s a band that comes up.

Concert Addicts – I’ve seen them once, and it was the first time I saw somebody do a handstand on a keyboard was when I saw them live. It was pretty awesome. I can definitely see that connection there. Mentioning before the drama in your guys’ sets. You start off, and there’s always this darkness and this build up through the whole set. It feels like there is maybe a little bit of film or theater, kind of love in there. Are either of you big movie buffs or theater buffs?

Tyler Joseph – We love movies. I get so excited about—we call it the ramp. Your set should ramp up, and then end and leave people dangling right up there, and it should resolve, and it should just be like— So in the beginning we need to, because there is only two of us we have to be very smart about how much room we take up, where we go, when— Really trying to dance with the crowd, trying to play off of them, them playing off of us. And so we’ve kinda come up with this style where we come out of the gate trying to be— to keep as many things to our chest as we can. Whether it’s only back light, and you can’t see what’s going on, but then there’s a moment where your front lit and it’s like, “Hi, here we are”, and then you take it to the next level and it becomes— things start getting stripped away, and then by the end you’re just like sweaty, with a tank top on, going, “This is all we had, [we] left it all out there”. Oh, I had pants on too, not just a tank top. But, you know, we kind of like to end a show with, “We’ve given it everything we have.”

Josh Dun –  I think one thing we have always agreed on is just having a show being a full sensory experience, and I think a lot of bands or artists will kind of like utilize, maybe, one or two senses, where its kinda just maybe audio and just playing the show is enough. But I think now in our culture its not enough. People want to see or experience more, and have it be more about, more than just about like these people standing on stage playing music. It’s more about a dynamic experience. I get inspired by, about a year ago I saw my first Cirque Du Soleil performance, which was incredible, and there’s so much going on. It was like more than just kind of like kinda one thing to stimulate you, one of your senses or whatever, and its just kinda like encapsulating everything. Very theatrical.

Concert Addicts – Very immersive, and a good emotion in just the visuals itself all separated from the music.

Josh Dun –  Yeah, and I think to be able to kinda like capture some of those different senses within a show, or figure how to in some way, and make it dynamic, like he said, thats kinda the goal, and I think what people kinda want to experience.

Concert Addicts – I mean it communicates so well. It’s so beautifully done. That drama, even from last night [at the Deck The Hall Ball in Seattle], I mean that’s the second time I’ve seen you guys, but just that drama and buildup and then the lights come on, like you say, “Hey, here we are”, and then everybody just loses their minds. It’s a pretty intense feeling, I could just imagine on stage. That’s just pretty cool. In mentioning films, I’m not sure if this is something you guys can talk about, but the Hunger Games movie— there is some mutterings that you guys have a song on the soundtrack to that.

Tyler Joseph – Yeah, that’s not true.

Josh Dun –  I don’t know where that came from.

Tyler Joseph – We saw it on the internet too, and we’re like, “Oh, apparently we wrote a song called… something”.

Concert Addicts – It’s called, apparently, “Brokenheart”, and , apparently, it’s with Halsey.

Tyler Joseph – Ya, Halsey. You [Joshua] talked to her a lot about it, she’s like, “Apparently we wrote a song called Brokenheart”, and we were like, “We will get on that right away”.

Josh Dun –  She was just as confused as us.

Concert Addicts – Ya, it seemed to be just like a Tumblr blog thing.

Tyler Joseph – It was perfectly planned. It was like this really sketch photo of some piece of paper with all these names and songs on it, and it seemed like, “Oh, this looks secretive”, and it worked. Fooled me for a second.

Concert Addicts – It looked like an official document.

Josh Dun –  I was like, “When can I hear this?”

Concert Addicts – Ya, when I mentioned to some people that I was going to talk to you, they were like, “Oh, you gotta ask them about this”, and I had never heard about it. And then I looked it up, and it’s just all over the, you know, like underground.

Tyler Joseph – Well to clear the air that doesn’t exist.

Concert Addicts – Well that’s perfect. It seems like you two have been relentlessly touring and putting out new music for like 6 years. Do you guys ever get like significant amount of time off, to just do your own thing and relax?

Tyler Joseph – We haven’t really been off-off since we started doing this, and so, I know that in January we have a month. Which is like, yay.

Josh Dun –  That’s probably the most time since we kinda like started playing music together, that we’ll like have off at one— I’m kinda like worried about, I don’t know what I’m gonna do.

Tyler Joseph – That’s true.

Concert Addicts – Think about music? [laughing]

Josh Dun –  Ya, I was thinking about it. [laughing]

Tyler Joseph – But it’s not even the end of a cycle, it’s like the middle of our cycle. We still have a whole other year and a bit.

Concert Addicts – Because you guys are going back out. I mean you’ve already sold-out both of your [next] Vancouver dates here, that’s only four months from now. And, did you guys sell-out Madison Square Garden?

Tyler Joseph – Yeah, pretty sure. Did we both? (3rd person in room, “Will be”)

Concert Addicts – That’s pretty crazy. So with that said, we already talked—know about you going back out in 2016. Is there any other plans, I mean you just released an album not too long ago, is there any other knew music under—being worked on?

Tyler Joseph – Yeah, I mean, we’re about, what would you say about half way done with this cycle? It’s probably the most intense cycle we’ve done yet. You know, we’re more travel and moving around then ever before. It’s tough to write on the road sometimes. But the last half of this cycle is when that focus will be more on what is the next thing look like, sound like. And, you know, we have the resources to kinda have a studio type of situation on a bus, or a portable thing we can bring to hotels, and it will start to form into an idea. Right now I don’t like talking about it, because…

Concert Addicts – To separate, to keep it separate.

Tyler Joseph – Well, that, and I’m just like—you know that feeling, and not that I would ever think that writing songs is some task that I just have to do or whatever, but that feeling that you just have something hanging on you, like over your like, “I gotta get that done” or “I gotta do that” or “gotta tackle that”?

Concert Addicts – Oh ya.

Tyler Joseph – It’s like I’m afraid to start it ’cause I hope it will be there. Especially anything creative, where, like, I hope that when I sit down to do this, that I still have what it takes. And there’s a lot of, like, back and forth. Whether it’s like self doubt or just a little bit of anxiety about that—you know, it’s good to have that though. It kinda like keeps that, what you create, in check. So, I’m looking forward to it.

Concert Addicts – Anxiety and creativity kinda go hand in hand I think. If you don’t doubt yourself, then you’re not bettering yourself in a way.

Tyler Joseph – Right. Yes!

Concert Addicts – So I’m going to have two last questions. There’s a crazy lineup outside [the Vogue Theare]. It goes around the block. People have been waiting here—I mean I walked by here probably around 11 o’clock this morning, and there’s about twenty people camped out. Any single thing you wanted to say to the people that are waiting outside?

Josh Dun –  Stay warm, and stay safe. I think I have once waited in line—I think I got there at like 4pm or something, day of the show, and now people will come up to us and just be like, “We’ve been here since 7pm last night” or “2 days ago”, crazy. I couldn’t imagine doing that, but at the same time whats cool is we’ve seen people just interacting in the line and becoming friends through that experience, but the same time it’s just—I fear for their safety and there health as well.

Concert Addicts – Sitting in the rain.

Tyler Joseph – Yeah, that sucks. I wish I could just like get a huge umbrella and cover all of them.

Concert Addicts – They have their little nests out there. They definitely—there’s a camaraderie out there, they join in little groups and stuff.

Tyler Joseph – Yeah, no, the line before the show’s kinda turned into part of the experience.

Concert Addicts – A kinda pre-show party.

Josh Dun –  Ya.

Tyler Joseph – Yeah, I think it’s really cool, honestly. I wish we could go out and just hang out. Which we try to interact with them as much as we can. I guess any chance we get we want to tell our fans that we wish were able to interact with them all on a one-on-one basis. Like that’s our—we love that, but nothing gets us more fired up then that. It’s just really hard to try to make that happen sometimes. So, stay warm.

Concert Addicts – That’s a perfect response. Last question, something I ask everybody, are there any bands or artists out there that are maybe lesser-known, that you think you’d like to sort of shine a spotlight on and say, “People should check this band out” or “This artist out?” Anybody that comes to mind?

Tyler Joseph – That’s a great question.

Concert Addicts – Anybody you’re listening to, maybe, that you think, “That’s a good song”.

Josh Dun –  Umm.

Tyler Joseph – Uhh.

Concert Addicts – It’s one of those questions that sort of puts people on the spot because they go, “What’s in my playlist?”

Tyler Joseph – There’s this band called Coldplay. [laughing]

Josh Dun –  You should check ’em out. [laughing]

Tyler Joseph – There’s this girl, Taylor Swift

Concert Addicts – Oh, ya, ya, I heard she’s okay.

Josh Dun –  She’s real talented, and just kinda looking for a fan base.

Concert Addicts – She’s looking for a venue where she can play the guitar at night.

Tyler Joseph – Yeah, she’s waiting for her big break, you know. [laughing]

Tyler Joseph – I’m trying to think, there’s gotta be— I’m really into the new Mutemath record. They don’t need any spotlight or whatever.

Concert Addicts – I would still put them in that lesser known—I mean there not as main stream as they should be.

Josh Dun –  I agree.

Concert Addicts – There’s a bunch of bands like that, you know. They inspire so many artists but maybe the public themselves are like standoff-ish.

Tyler Joseph – Like a band’s band. So they’re a band’s band but I think they could definitely show everyone a thing or two of what music should sound like.

Concert Addicts – I think that’s a good response, I like them. That’s good, I will share that with everybody. That’s perfect, and  I appreciate your time, and I will be back here tonight to photograph your guys’ set.

Tyler Joseph – Awesome!

Josh Dun –  Awesome! Thank you, man.

Tyler Joseph + Joshua Dun of Twenty one Pilots interviewed by Jamie Taylor


To see these photos in the full-size Flickr album click here – Twenty One Pilots Gallery by Jamie Taylor.

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