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By PANIZ GEDERI
The Beaver was given the chance to catch up with Twenty One Pilots, the duo responsible for causing a stir in the live music scene for their energetic live sets. Frontman Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun sit down with us ahead of their show at the Camden Underworld to talk songwriting, festivals, and being forced to deal with the British dialect.
How are you guys liking the UK so far? I know you only just played a show earlier in March, is that the only time you’ve been to London?
J: Yeh that was our first time here, playing at the Barfly in Camden, and it was great! We love it over here.
What sorts of stuff have you got up to?
J: Some touristy things. I like to shop here.
T: There’s something about buying clothes in a different country. At home when someone asks ‘Where’d you get that?’ You get to say… London. You wouldn’t know the place, don’t worry about it.
I’ve been reading that you guys are pretty much self-taught musicians, so at what point did you stop just playing for yourself and start to take music seriously as a potential career path?
T: Well, obviously my parents were the ones that encouraged me to start playing, and whenever they had guests over they would pressure me to get the piano out. They would all gather around and make me play something, and I was terrible! But to my parents, it was so foreign to them because neither of them were musicians. So I’ve been forced into playing in awkward situations from the moment I started playing the piano. And I’ll be honest with you, that’s probably more nerve-wracking than going in front of thousands of people and playing. Those living room concerts that I’ve played, those are the worst.
How about with songwriting and recording?
T: I was drawn to writing my own songs from the moment we started making music, and I would show my little brother or my parents something but other than that no one else really was going to hear what I put together. But what I think is interesting is the fact that this first group of songs that were putting out weren’t really written for anyone, they were just written because I wanted to write them. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the second batch of songs we put out because all of a sudden there is an audience. But hopefully Josh and I are able to disappear and put ourselves in the same mindset of ‘What do we want to hear?’ instead of ‘What would people want to hear?’ and get to release something we’re happy with.
Your music is pretty unique, so much so that I think it’d almost be unfair to limit it to a genre. What is it that inspires you? Are you influenced by other musicians?
T: Our inspirations definitely come from a lot of things, not just music. I think the whole confused-genre thing that we have going on comes from the fact that we’re in a generation of kids that have access to so many different types of music. If you look at any kid’s collection of music today, it’s not all one artist or one genre, it ranges from all over the place. I truly believe that we are a product of this. For me as a songwriter, my thought process has always been creating what it is that I want to hear, and that’s truly what we do. We’re playing music that we wish other people were playing.
I don’t know if you remember Tyler, but at your last London show you mentioned that you’d written The Run and Go with a mind to playing it in front of a London audience. Why is that so?
T: Along with being able to get your hands on any type of music you can also watch any kind of video on the interview. And I’ve watched a lot of outdoor festival videos, always of European festivals. Whilst I was writing that song I was thinking…that’d be the perfect song to play during the day at one of these festivals. That’s where my head was at; I was inspired by that image.
Speaking of your live show, I think it’s really commendable how whenever anyone mentions Twenty One Pilots, it always goes hand in hand with a ‘…but you have to see them live’. I was wondering, with your ever-increasing popularity, how are you adapting your live show to go from the basements and living rooms to these huge festival crowds?
T: We’re in the process of doing that. We know we’ve got to keep it fresh. But the good thing is…we’ve got a lot of big ideas.
T: Haha, yeah.
J: That’s kind of an easy go-to. But we’ve always said that we’d always play the same for five people as we would for fifty thousand, so there is some aspect of the live show that isn’t going to change. We’re still going to play as hard as we can, and I’m always going to try to play harder and faster.
T: But we’re always thinking—what have we never seen done?
I guess if anything going on bigger stages just gives you more room to try out everything you want.
T: Exactly. More things to climb.
Do you think with the way the music industry is heading, that the future of it is in the live show?
T: I think there’s a sense of credibility that goes with a live show. If you can recreate your songs live and manifest what those songs are saying on stage, people start to respect what it is that you’re actually saying. So as much as I don’t think we’re outside of the era where people can suddenly become famous because of the internet without having the backup of a live show, I’m not sure just how much those people are being listened to. There’s a credibility that comes with a live show and I think that we’ve been working our butts off with shows in preparation for the next batch of songs we decide to put out so that people go ‘You know what, I’m going to stop and I’m going to listen to what these guys have to say.’. The live show prepares people for what you have to say next.
I definitely agree with you on that one. Bands that have poor live shows tend not to get remembered.
T: Bands that have poor live shows also give concerts a bad name! Let’s keep live music alive! Put in the effort, or you’re not going to have a career!
That’s going to be one of those quotations you get remembered for. On your tombstone it’ll say ‘Tyler Joseph – Keepin’ live music alive’!
T: Haha yeah. You can say that I said that.
So you’re booked to play Reading and Leeds which you must be excited about, what should we be expecting from you guys?
J: European festivals were always some of those that we would watch and get really inspired, and even when we first started playing music together we decided…we’re gonna play one of these one day. We’ll be on one of those stages.
Did you ever watch the Nirvana set at Reading? I think that’s probably the most iconic one associated with the festival.
J: I’m not sure.
T: Really? I’m gonna look it up.
J: But as far as what to expect…probably…probably just expect that we’ll be the best band there. (Tyler laughs). No, I don’t know. I don’t even know what time we’re playing. Probably early in the day on a side stage.
T: You’ve got to start somewhere.
But that’s definitely the best part of the day! You’re getting people at their peak, not too drunk yet…
J: Yeh exactly! We’ve noticed that!
So last question. What do you guys have planned for the year ahead? Obviously Vessel is going to be released here in the UK soon, but what else do you have planned? Will you have any time to hit the studio?
J: This year I don’t know if we’re going to be able to go back into the studio. We’re going to be writing songs though, in the midst of travelling a lot. We have some festivals in the US this summer that we’re also excited about. And then in the fall we’re pretty much busy travelling around playing shows until the end of the year. We’re excited to hit the road. It’s just something that since we started I’ve always dreamed about playing more than 3 shows at a time, more than 50 miles away from our home. And now it gets pretty tiring sometimes, but we’re able to do that.
I was going to ask, how do you cope? I mean. You’ve had such a relentless tour schedule.
J: I think just being able to use our phones, to sit on our social media feeling like we’re a part of what our friends and family are doing.
T: Also. I mean you have to remember we’re still pretty new. But at the same time there’s something to be said about what the songs do and what they say, that they truly do mean something every time we explain them. We’re not just a filler. We’re not a band so we write songs. We write songs, and so we are a band. That helps add meaning to all the shows.
Another great quotation!
T: Write it down write it down!! Tombstone alert!
J: My tombstone’s probably just going to say killed by tacos or something.
T: Killed by… by crisps!
Crisps? You’ve got used to the lingo then!
J: Yeah! Potato chips.
T: And chips are fries?
J: And what’s cookies?
Cookies…? What, biscuits?
J: Biscuits, yeah!
T: Eurgh! Don’t you know what a biscuit is? That’s something you give your dog!
But they’re a bit different though, cookies are the big round chocolate chip ones and biscuits are the ones you dunk in your tea.
J: Ohh. Okay I see what you’re saying.
T: Man. You guys are real creative.
So any final thoughts for the interview? Anything you’d like to add?
T: Hmm. A final thought? …. Josh and I love our mums very much.
J: Yeah. Shout out to the mums.