It’s been two years since Twenty One Pilots released ‘Blurryface’ and they’re ending the chapter the same way they started it. Live. With a handful of increasingly bigger shows in their native Columbus’ booked in for June, Tyler and Josh are set to bring the curtain down on their most impactful album to date.
It’s strange to think that when the band released ‘Blurryface’, their headline show at London’s Brixton Academy looked like a stretch. A fingers-crossed, let’s hope for the best and see what happens, leap of faith. It’s a trial by fire that many bands take. For most, it represents a pinnacle. For Twenty One Pilots, it was a footnote in their ascension. Since then, the band have broken out in every way imaginable.
There’ve been festival performances that have stolen weekends worth of excitement, TV appearances that have forced reactions and they’ve even made a dent in Hollywood, with ‘Heathens’ the best thing to come out of Suicide Squad. They’ve won an actual Grammy, become genuine arena sensations all around the world, and even your mum has probably heard ‘Stressed Out’.
Years from now, ‘Blurryface’ will be one of those albums: talked about with reverence, held with a gloved hand and seen as a launch pad for a generational change. You’ll either like it, or you’ll be wrong. Right now though, in the shadow of its overwhelming reach, Twenty One Pilots are more touchable. Their music, human. To this day, it causes division, debate and scorn. But that’s just a testament to its brilliance.
“To not be a fork in the road with your art is wasting your power of creating art in the first place,” Tyler explained in the week leading up to ‘Blurryface”s release. “We’re fine with polarising people when they hear us.” The record may deal with struggle and finding the power to push back, but Twenty One Pilots weren’t out looking for a scrap. There’s no band doing what TOP do, but they’re not contrary. The comparisons to Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco aren’t linear. It’s all about the attitude of ignoring the way the world spins and going your own way. Everything about ‘Blurryface’ was a risk but it’s seen the band flourish.
“I don’t think Josh and I ever set out to be rebellious,” Tyler explained backstage of the Boston Music Room in London. “We just want people to get the music however they can so they can come to a show and experience that music with us. That’s really where it all comes together and makes sense. Face to face.”
And true to their word, Twenty One Pilots have taken each and every opportunity for eye contact. They’ve played close to three hundred shows in those two years and whatever the venue, each one we’ve witnessed has felt special. Voices amplified, theatre dialled up, Twenty One Pilots have taken each massive leap forward in their stride. At Alexandra Palace last year, it felt like the band were finally playing the sort of stages that suited them. One thing’s for sure then, whatever comes next will see them change that.
The pair have always remained true to writing music for themselves. Even ‘Heathens’, our only glimpse of post-‘Blurryface’ material but still not a teaser into the future, is doused in the bands soul-baring honesty despite the fact it wasn’t really a part of their world. Every time around, the pair haven’t paid enough attention to the rule book to tear it up, instead focusing on what they feel like doing. Products of their generation, they like a little bit of everything. You can’t meld genres when genres mean nothing to you. It makes the future of Twenty One Pilots unpredictable but certain.
We are all united knowing we have no idea where the pair go next. Tyler and Josh have gone so far beyond walls that there are simply no more doors left to open. Bands evolve and grow, it’s the natural order nowadays, but Twenty One Pilots have always done more than just follow the tide. If there’s one thing that their ‘Blurryface’ era has taught us, it’s that you’re best off leaving your expectations behind with this band. They just look silly in comparison to the real thing. No one was really predicting TOP to crossover, impact and grow the way they have done, especially Tyler and Josh, but they’ve never been startled. Sure, they just want to play shows and connect with people, but that doesn’t limit them. They’re believers, and they’re dreamers.
“One of the reasons I was so excited about playing music with Josh is because one of the first times we ever hung out, we talked about our dreams. It’s a very naked feeling talking about what your dreams are, but it’s safe to say we’re big fans of not putting a ceiling on them. Whatever you could imagine is probably what we’re going for.”
With ‘Blurryface’ coming to an end, it’s time to start getting excited about the future of Twenty One Pilots. Sure, we don’t know what they’ve got in store for us, but it’s going to be bigger, because the band don’t know any other way. It’s going to be entirely new, because the band don’t know any other way. It’s going to mean something, because the band simply don’t know any other way.
Taken from the June issue of Upset, out now.