Interview: Twenty One Pilots

Posted on:

< < Back to

Some people will remember Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 as Athens' first snowfall of the season. Others will fondly recall the date as their first exposure to Twenty One Pilots at the Union.

The band consists of Columbus, Ohio, natives Tyler Joseph (vocals/keyboards) and Josh Dun (drums). I caught up with the duo just before their show that night.

JC: When did you first meet, and did you think you’d end up performing with each other?

Josh: I met Tyler through the band's previous drummer, about two years ago. They said they needed me to play at a show for them and that’s when it all started.

Tyler: After the show, we talked about our dreams and goals, not only within music, but in life, and we just connected. We had the same amount of passion and it just worked out perfectly.

JC: What is the story and meaning behind the band name?

Tyler: Well, it goes back to when I was in college, studying theater at Ohio State University. We were studying All My Sons by Arthur Miller, and it was one of those books that just hit you. The main character made airplane parts for the war, and he found out that his parts were faulty and would fail if used. So he had to make a decision to spend his money trying to fix them, or to use the faulty parts. He decided to use the faulty parts, and due to his decision, 21 pilots died in flight. It showed me that every decision that you make will have great outcomes or dire consequences, and it’ll be something that will forever stick with me.

JC: Some websites label you as rock, electronic, pop or rap. But it's difficult to compare you to bands or musicians in those genres. If you had to create a new genre that would describe your music, what would it be called?

Josh: Wow, that's a tough question. It’s so hard for us to put ourselves in any genre. One of our goals as musicians was to break down the walls of musical genres and combine different aspects into our own. Our manager calls us "pop-rock-piano-rap," which fits us but is a mouthful. If you can think of one and send it to us, we'll roll with it.

JC: On your song "Time to Say Goodbye," you sample "Con te Partiró" by Andrea Bocelli and then rap over it. Could you explain what you were thinking when you did this?

Tyler: Well, I’m really tied to melody. I don’t care what genre it is, if it catches my ear, then there must be something good about it. And then listening to the lyrics, I connected to his message and combined it with mine.

JC: If you had to pick a trademark song–one that that everyone recognized–what would it be?

Josh: It would have to be "Holding Onto You" or "Ode to Sleep." "Holding Onto You" could easily be recognized with its unique rap combined with an emotional-yet-catchy bridge. And "Ode to Sleep" is the closest to us with its meaning; it's probably the most connected with us that any song could be.

JC: Are you currently signed with a label?

Josh: Currently, no. But that should change in the near future.

Tyler: We're not really interested in being signed for the most money possible. We are talking to people that will give us control of the music we make. That's the most important thing we want if we're going to sign with someone.

JC: One final question: What made you want to perform here in Athens?

Josh: Our first time here was last year at one of the fests, and at that time I wasn’t the drummer. I was called by Tyler to come and fill in because the previous drummer quit. So I quit my job and drove here straight from Wisconsin. So I got here in time for the show, and after one song, the fest was shut down by the police. I wanted to come back, redeem myself and have a successful show here.

Tyler: As he said. He quit his job for a show that got shut down after one song. So we both agreed that we would come back and perform without getting shut down. But Ohio University is a cool place all around, and we had to come back!

For more information, visit or follow the band on Twitter or Facebook.