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Twenty One Pilots

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Twenty One Pilots
Twentyone Pilots at Press conference of Soundbox in Bangkok.JPG
Josh Dun (left) and Tyler Joseph in Bangkok in 2015
Background information
Origin Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
Genres
Years active 2009–present (on hiatus)
Labels
Website twentyonepilots.com
Members
Past members
  • Nick Thomas
  • Chris Salih

Twenty One Pilots (stylized as twenty one pilots, and sometimes as twenty øne piløts)[1] is an American musical duo originating from Columbus, Ohio. The band was formed in 2009 by lead vocalist Tyler Joseph along with former members Nick Thomas and Chris Salih, who left in 2011, and currently consists of Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. The duo rose to fame in the mid-2010s after several years of touring and independent releases.

They put out two self-released albums, Twenty One Pilots in 2009 and Regional at Best in 2011, before being signed by Fueled by Ramen in 2012. Their label debut, Vessel, was released in 2013. The duo achieved breakthrough success with their fourth album, Blurryface (2015), which produced the successful singles "Stressed Out" and "Ride". In addition, the single "Heathens", recorded for the soundtrack of the film Suicide Squad, made the group the first alternative artist to have two concurrent top ten singles in the U.S. The duo has won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.[2]

History

2009–2011: Formation, No Phun Intended, and self-titled album Twenty One Pilots

External video
The original line-up performing
Interview with the original line-up

Tyler Joseph first met future bandmate Nicholas "Nick" Thomas at a young age while playing little league basketball in Columbus, Ohio.[3] The two remained friends as Thomas transferred into Joseph's school for eighth grade and throughout the duration of high school as well.[4][5]

Joseph began playing music after finding an old keyboard in his closet, a Christmas gift from his mother, and mimicking radio melodies.[6][7] After seeing a songwriter perform at a High Street club, Joseph rejected an opportunity to play basketball at Otterbein University, along with a scholarship to the university. From around 2007 to 2008, Joseph recorded a solo album entitled No Phun Intended in his basement. Nick Thomas contributed guitar to several songs on the album,[3] and collaborated on the song "Trees", which was to become a signature Twenty One Pilots song.[8]

While attending Ohio State University, Joseph met Texas-born future bandmate Christopher "Chris" Salih at a party. Salih came from a musical background and consulted Joseph about starting a band. Impressed by the recording studio Salih had built in his house, Joseph agreed and began sharing his ideas. Just before their first performance, Joseph invited Thomas to join them as a bassist despite never having played the instrument before. In 2009, the group moved into a house of their own, where their first album was conceptualized and recorded in the basement.[9][3]

The band initially played for a wide variety of audiences at clubs and venues around the Columbus area. Playing at metal, hardcore, and electronic venues influenced Joseph to experiment with these disparate styles with his songwriting. To catch the attention of unfamiliar or disinterested attendees, the band began to experiment with costumes and on-stage acrobatics.[9]

Now going by "Twenty One Pilots",[4][5] the group released their debut, self-titled album, Twenty One Pilots, on December 29, 2009, and began touring the rest of Ohio. Their initial marketing was very grassroots; Joseph's mother would stand outside of Ohio State University giving away tickets to his shows.[10] During this time, the band participated in "Battle of the Band" contests at The Alrosa Villa and The Basement, important Columbus music venues.[11][12] In 2010, the band posted two officially unreleased tracks to their SoundCloud account.[13] These included a cover of "Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri and a remixed interpretation of "Con te partirò (Time to Say Goodbye)" by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman; the latter would become the first song local drummer Josh Dun heard from the group.[14][14]

2011–2012: Lineup changes and Regional at Best

Salih left on May 8, 2011 to focus on work, and Thomas left the next month on June 3, 2011 to focus on schooling, both posting farewell notes on the band's official Facebook page.[15][16] Before departing the project, Salih invited Guitar Center co-worker and friend of the group Josh Dun (former touring drummer for House of Heroes),[5][17] to take his place in the band. Impressed by the band's potential and Joseph's creative vision, Dun abandoned plans to pursue drumming in Nashville and joined the project only a few weeks before Thomas left the group.[18]

Both Salih and Thomas remained involved with the band's production for some time after their departure.[19] Thomas briefly attended school in North Carolina, but moved back into Joseph and Dun's house in Columbus a year after his departure and began to manage their merchandise. Thomas remained a part of the merchandise distribution crew throughout the production of Blurryface and continues to stay actively involved in the band's tour cycle.[20] Thomas has since relocated to Savannah, Georgia where he resides today.[21] Salih co-founded the carpentry company "Elmwood Custom Goods", where he works as an account manager[22] and resides in Columbus.

With a new lineup consisting of only Joseph and Dun, Twenty One Pilots self-released their second album, Regional at Best, on July 8, 2011. The album was accompanied by a free CD release show on the grounds of New Albany High School. While Salih and Thomas were involved with the conceptualization of the album, neither they nor Dun claim to have had much involvement with its production, which was handled nearly exclusively by Joseph.[19] The album features Joseph's brother Zack on the track "Kitchen Sink" and Joseph's college acquaintance Jocef on the track "Be Concerned".[23][24]

In November 2011, after months of cultivating a fan base in the Columbus area via social media interaction and constant touring, the band played a sold out concert at Columbus' Newport Music Hall. This notable accomplishment for an unsigned local group caught the attention of several record labels interested in seeing if the band's appeal could stretch outside of Ohio.[25]

Twenty One Pilots performing in 2012

That same year, the duo put out two free, otherwise unreleased songs via their email newsletter: the original version of "House of Gold" and "Two".[26][27] On February 11, 2012, the band released a music video on YouTube for an unreleased song titled "Goner".[28] "Goner" was rewritten and again recorded for its release on Blurryface in 2015.[29]

Joseph and Dun embarked on the Regional at Best Tour with rock band CHALLENGER!,[30][31] documenting it in a series of videos uploaded to the Twenty One Pilots YouTube channel.[32][33]

2013–2014: Fueled by Ramen record deal, Vessel, and Quiet Is Violent World Tour

In April 2012, the band announced their signing to Atlantic Records subsidiary Fueled by Ramen, the label responsible for the commercial success of popular alternative artists like Panic! at the Disco and Paramore, during a sold out show at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion.[5][27] On July 17, 2012, they released their debut Fueled by Ramen recording, an EP entitled Three Songs.[34][35] The next month, the band embarked on a short tour with Neon Trees and Walk the Moon.[25]

Tyler Joseph successfully negotiated to maintain ownership of the preceding self-titled album, which remains available digitally. However, as part of a signing agreement in 2012 with record label Fueled by Ramen, rights to Regional at Best were transferred to the label, meaning that Regional at Best was discontinued and removed from digital markets.[36] Regional at Best tracks "Slowtown", "Anathema", "Ruby", "Be Concerned" (featuring Jocef), and "Clear" have since been made commercially unavailable,[37] and physical copies of the album are now rare and highly sought after.[38][39]

On November 12, 2012, the official music video for "Holding on to You", directed by Jordan Bahat, was released on YouTube.[40] On January 7 and April 19, 2013, the band released music videos for "Guns for Hands" and "Car Radio", respectively, both directed by Mark Eshleman of Reel Bear Media.[41][42][43]

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Joseph described Regional at Best as a "glorified mixtape" and confirmed that songs from that project would reappear on their debut studio album.[44] Ultimately, five tracks from Regional at Best – "Guns for Hands", "Holding on to You", "Ode to Sleep", "Car Radio", and "Trees" – were re-recorded and released for their third album.[8] "Lovely" was also re-recorded and released as a single exclusive to Japan on April 17, 2013[45][46]

Twenty One Pilots' third album, Vessel, was released January 8, 2013; it would reach No. 21 on the Billboard 200, No. 9 on the Digital Albums chart, No. 17 on the Internet Albums chart, No. 15 on the Rock Albums Chart, and No. 10 on the Alternative Albums Chart.[47][48] The album release also supported the band's first charting single, "Holding on to You", which reached 11 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Additionally, the singles "Guns for Hands" and "Lovely" reached No. 21 and No. 67, respectively, on the Japan Hot 100 after "Lovely" was released as a promotional single for the band's trip to Japan.[45][46] "Glowing Eyes", "Kitchen Sink", and "Forest" appeared unchanged as bonus tracks on the UK version of Vessel.[49]

In May 2013, Fall Out Boy announced that Twenty One Pilots would serve as opening acts on the Save Rock and Roll Arena Tour the following fall, along with Panic! at the Disco.[50]

Lead vocalist Tyler Joseph performing in 2014

On August 8, 2013, Twenty One Pilots performed "House of Gold" on Conan in their late night debut.[51][52] On October 2, the music video for the song was uploaded onto YouTube.[53]

Twenty One Pilots performing live in 2014 for "Boston Calling: Day Three"

On March 17, 2014, Twenty One Pilots performed a set at the mtvU Woodie Awards during SXSW.[54] On April 13, Twenty One Pilots performed "Car Radio" at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards.[55] On April 28, the band performed "Car Radio" on Late Night with Seth Meyers.[56]

In 2014, Twenty One Pilots played a number of music festivals and other events around the United States, such as Lollapalooza,[57] Bonnaroo,[58] Boston Calling, and Firefly.[59] Requests from many of these cities were incorporated into the band's first headlining tour, the Quiet Is Violent World Tour, which began in September 2014 and ended in November of the same year.[60]

On December 31, 2014, the band released a music video for the song "Ode to Sleep". Composed of footage captured by the band's creative director, Mark C. Eshleman of Reel Bear Media, from three concerts over the preceding three years, the video depicted the band's rapid growth from their origins as a small local band to a nationally-popular alternative act, an upward trend that would continue into the next album cycle.[61][62]

2015–present: Blurryface and Emotional Roadshow World Tour

One of Twenty One Pilots' many dynamic performances

On March 16, 2015, the band announced that a new album, Blurryface, was to be released on May 19.[63] They also released the first single, "Fairly Local", on March 17.[64][65] Their second single of the album, "Tear in My Heart", and its music video were released on April 5, 2015.[66][67] On April 28, "Stressed Out", the third single from the album, was released along with a music video.[68][69][70][71] "Stressed Out" became the group's highest selling single, peaking at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on both Alternative Songs and Hot Rock Songs charts and surpassing one billion views on YouTube.[72][73]

Blurryface was released two days early on May 17, 2015, and sold 134,000 copies in the first week in the United States, becoming the band's first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.[74] On May 22, 2016, Blurryface won in the category of "Top Rock Album" at the Billboard Music Awards, while the band won the category of "Top Rock Artist".[75]

Twenty One Pilots performing at Shepherds Bush Empire in late 2015

The band began the Blurryface Tour on May 11, 2015, in Glasgow, Scotland. The tour spanned the United States, Australia, South East Asia, Japan and Europe.[76] The U.S. section began September 8, 2015 and featured Echosmith and Finish Ticket as openers.[77]

Twenty One Pilots performed "Stressed Out" on Late Night with Seth Meyers on September 14, 2015.[78]

The band announced a London show in February 2016, and later announced a run of UK dates, with a second London date added. The band Transviolet served as openers.[79] This run of UK dates ended the initial Blurryface Tour.

Soon after, the band announced a second tour for the Blurryface album, the Emotional Roadshow World Tour, which started in Cincinnati on May 31, 2016.[80] The tour covered the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Australia.[81][82] Chef'Special and Mutemath opened for the American leg.[83] Irish singer Bry joined the tour for its European leg.[84]

On June 16, 2016, the band released the song "Heathens" as the first single from the Suicide Squad soundtrack, earlier than the expected release date of June 24, after the song leaked onto the Internet on June 15.[85][86][87] A music video for the song was released on June 21, 2016.[88][89] "Heathens" plays during the ending credits of the film.[90]

Twenty One Pilots became only the third rock act to have two singles simultaneously chart in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100, joining the Beatles and Elvis Presley, in addition to becoming the third duo to accomplish this feat, after OutKast in 2003 and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ten years later.[91]

Twenty One Pilots performing in London in 2016

The band contributed a cover of the piano ballad "Cancer" by My Chemical Romance to the tribute album Rock Sound Presents: The Black Parade.[92][93] An animated lyric video followed the release of the song.[94]

Twenty One Pilots featured as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on October 8, 2016, performing orchestra-accompanied versions of "Heathens" and "Ride" in what Rolling Stone called their "most high profile performance yet".[95] The band later performed a medley of "Heathens" and "Stressed Out" on the American Music Awards of 2016, where they also accepted their first awards on American television for Favorite Pop/Rock Duo and Favorite Alternative Rock Artist.[96]

Joseph and Dun collaborated with alternative rock band Mutemath, for a five-song EP, TOPxMM, composed of remixes and reimaginings of five tracks from Blurryface. The EP was uploaded onto the band's official website free of charge on December 19; a twenty-five-minute long video of the bands recording the songs live in studio was also released on the band's YouTube channel.[97][98][99][100]

On February 12, 2017, Twenty One Pilots won a Grammy Award for "Stressed Out" in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category. The band stripped to their underwear before taking the stage, with Joseph claiming in their acceptance speech that this was a fulfillment of a promise the duo had made each other in their early days as a local Columbus band.[2][101][102]

On March 27, 2017, the band began selling tickets for what they called a "Tour De Columbus", a five-date hometown tour taking place in June 2017.[103] The duo performed at several small venues they first played as a local band including The Basement, Newport Music Hall, and Express Live!, before ending their tour cycle with arena shows at Nationwide Arena and Value City Arena.[104]

In an interview with Alternative Press in November 2016, Twenty One Pilots stated that after their last show, they will be "going dark" to focus on new music. Joseph stated that he would like to focus on lyrical content of the music, and bring the music back to the "authenticity, lyrics, delivery, and fearlessness of songwriting" similar to that of the self-titled album.[105] The band's last activity came in July 2017 in the form of posts on social media depicting an eye closing over lyrics from several of their songs.[106][107]

In March 2018, their song "Hometown" received a Gold certification from the RIAA, making Blurryface the first full-length album to have every track achieve at least gold status.[108][109][110]

Involvement with Christian organization Five14

The members Joseph, Dun,[111][112][113] and Salih all have associations with local Columbus, Ohio church Five14 – Joseph and Dun contributing four of fourteen tracks to Five14-produced album Clear by artist Travis Whittaker (known as simply as "Whittaker") and the gospel band "New Albany Music".[114][115] In 2011, Joseph was also the lead star in Five14 Church's three episode mockumentary entitled "The (moderately inspiring tale of the) Longboard Rodeo Tango".[116][117][118] According to the mockumentary, Joseph was an intern at the church at the time. On December 24, 2013, Christmas Eve, Joseph participated and sang "O come, O come, Emmanuel" at Five14 Church's Christmas With the Stars in New Albany, Ohio. The official video of the performance was uploaded to YouTube on February 14, 2014.[119] He also performed a magic segment with the church's host and emcee, David McCreary for the show.[120][121]

As of December 2017, former Twenty One Pilots member Chris Salih frequently performs shows at the church.[122][123][124]

Musical style and influences

A sample from "Ride" that illustrates the influence of reggae in Blurryface

Although both members of the band are Christians and their songs often contain some allusions to religious themes, Twenty One Pilots is not considered and never intended to be a Christian band.[125][126]

The band's musical style has been described as alternative hip hop,[127][128][129] electropop,[127][130][131] indie pop,[132][133][134] pop rock,[135][136] rap rock,[137][138] and alternative rock.[139][137] They have also been described as rock,[140][141] pop,[134][142][143][140] electronica,[143][134][140] emo rap,[137] indie rock,[140] pop-rap,[127] hip hop,[132][142][143] indietronica,[132] and, in the case of Blurryface, reggae.[144][145][5]

Ultimately, it is difficult to categorize the band using a single genre only, since they bridge so many.[146] This has been attributed partly to the fact that both Joseph and Dun are self-taught musicians, meaning that while producing their work they broke many musical conventions that they were not aware of, including staying confined to a single genre.[147]

Instrumentally, Twenty One Pilots bring a mix of piano (sometimes an electronic keyboard or a keytar), synthesizers, drums (sometimes mixed with electronic drums), vocals, and occasionally the ukulele and bass. Lyrically, their songs are written by Joseph, who incorporates both sung and rapped lyrics. Music journalist Carl Wilson has noted that Joseph's rapping is often compared to that of Macklemore, yet he wrote "but among the ranks of post-Eminem white rappers, I find Joseph more probing, sardonic, and expressive."[148] Joseph has stated that he never intended to become a rapper, but that when attempting to fit poetry which he had written with music, he found that rapping elements of it was the only way for it to fit within the song.[149]

Band name, iconography and fandom

Twenty One Pilots' previous band logo
Twenty One Pilots' official band logo as of 2015

Joseph came up with the band's name while studying All My Sons by Arthur Miller, a play about a man whose choice to send out faulty airplane parts for the good of his business and family caused the death of twenty one pilots during World War II. Joseph explains that the story's themes of moral dilemma and choosing between the easy and the right decision inspired the name and formation of the band.[150][151] "Bicycle Thief" and "Chill Coat" were among some of the rejected band names.[152]

The band's name was originally stylized as "twenty | one | pilots" on their earlier cover art; however, by the time of their second album Regional at Best, the formatting was changed to "twenty øne piløts" with slashes through the O's.

Former Twenty One Pilots member Chris Salih stated in an interview that Mark C. Eshleman, a longtime friend of and creative director for Twenty One Pilots, created the band's logo by "messing around with shapes". Joseph found the arrangement to resonate with him.[124]

In regard to their logo, Joseph stated in an interview that:

It means Twenty One Pilots, the logo does. Why it means Twenty One Pilots, is it really goes along with one of our songs called "Kitchen Sink". The whole concept of that song is that I feel that humans are always struggling all the time when it comes to purpose, trying to figure out what their purpose is, what purpose even is, what's the point, justifying your own existence. A lot of kids and people my age struggle with "what's the point", and with the logo, what it really means is it's an encouragement. When someone asks me what the logo means to me, the logo means something to me because I made it mean something to me. That's the point. The point is that I created something that only I understand and whether or not I decide to disclose the meaning of it, that's the beginning of purpose for me. The meaning of purpose for me, is by creating something, if it be by writing lyrics, painting a picture, by expressing yourself through art if it's photography or music or theater, or whatever it is. It doesn't have to be artistic, but if you create something and only you know the meaning of it, that's the beginning of purpose for you. When you're in the room by yourself trying to decide whether to stay alive, you can tell yourself "I should probably stay alive because I'm the only one who knows the meaning of that thing", so the logo is an encouragement for people to create. That's what it means.[153]

Alternative logo used on the cover of Blurryface

According to the band, their purpose for making music is "to make people think", as well as encourage them to find joy in what they come to believe in life.[150]

Skeleton Clique logos

The band's fandom has been dubbed the "Skeleton Clique" or just the Clique, in reference to the band's use of skeleton iconography in many performances, graphics, and music videos. The Skeleton Clique are represented in the band's official iconography by logos of a skull and alien head atop lines resembling keys.[154] Salih speculates that Tyler Joseph himself originally used the term "Clique" to identify with his fans.[155]

During the 2017 Tour de Columbus, Twenty One Pilots hosted a public art show, dubbed "Artopia", exclusively for Clique-related artwork at the Nationwide Arena.[156]

Band members

Current members

  • Tyler Joseph – lead vocals, piano, keyboards, synthesizers, ukulele, bass (2009–present)
  • Josh Dun – drums, percussion (2011–present)

Past members

  • Nick Thomas – bass, piano, keyboards (2009–2011), backing vocals (2009), merchandise distribution (present)
  • Chris Salih – drums, percussion (2009–2011)

Discography

Concert tours

Headlining

Opening act

Awards and nominations

See also

References

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External links