Inquiring Minds

Stages Are Bigger, But Twenty One Pilots Still Have Nothing to Hide

Twenty One Pilots have officially become a force in the music industry with their fourth studio album, Blurryface. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in March of this year, moving nearly 150,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week.

In the wake of their newfound success, the Ohio-born duo is returning to Houston tonight for their third performance in as many years, transitioning to a sold-out Revention (formerly Bayou) Music Center, which has a capacity nearly three times that of their former venue of choice, the House of Blues.

As the band grows, vocalist Tyler Joseph and percussionist Josh Dun hope to preserve their intimate and energetic routine through a combination of authenticity and vulnerability, both of which the artists have in excess.

“Since the beginning, when Tyler and I decided that we were going to play music just the two of us…Maybe it’s a small element, but there’s an element of insecurity,” Dun says. “There’s only two of us onstage, and normal bands tend to have more members.

“Especially as a drummer who’s downstage in front of everybody, I feel a pressure to be even more energetic, to put on even more of a show,” he adds. “I feel a little bit more exposed, and I know Tyler feels that way too.”

Both Dun and Joseph recognize their exposed state onstage and embrace it, lifting it up as flame for their emotional fire during live performances. Within that setting, they hope to connect with fans on a deeper level.

“It’s always going to be the same two guys onstage,” Dun says of the band’s growth, “and there’s some personality there that we’ll try to maintain.”

Personally, I was introduced to Twenty One Pilots shortly after a friend’s suicide. The emotion on 2013’s Vessel resonated with me, and I found solace in the lyrics. Nearly three years removed from both the event and the album’s release, I still find myself revisiting it. Dun says these kinds of stories keep the band going and give them purpose.

“We’ve both always wanted to be a part of something that has some sort of impact on the world,” he says. “There’s a lot of music that doesn’t say or do much. And that’s OK — there’s a time and place for it, and I listen to a lot of it too. But, at the same time, there are people who are looking for something a bit more than that.”

The band’s mantra is “to make people think,” and their genuineness translates into stellar live performances. Dun again attributes their liveliness to their openness and vulnerability.

“As much as we focus on walking out there and fighting this battle, a lot of me really looks forward to it,” he says. “I don’t know if I want that to go away. I think that the moment when I walk onstage and I don’t feel like there’s anything to overcome, that’s when I might just want to be done.”

Though he enjoys playing the entire set, Dun says that three songs especially stand out for him. In order of the set list, Dun is partial to “The Judge,” “Goner” and “Trees,” the last of which has been his favorite since he joined the band in 2011.

“By the end of the set, I hope to walk offstage and have no energy left to give because it’s all been put out there, but with that song… I’m physically exhausted by that point, but when that song starts there’s something about it that makes me feel refreshed, and I feel like it’s the beginning of the set again.

“I look at the entire show as this performance that is me and Tyler giving off and sharing with everyone in the room, it’s all of us together. But when I play “Trees,” that one’s kind of for me, that’s when I internalize everything and kind of use the song as a therapy.”

Therapy for the band and its fans alike.

Twenty One Pilots performs tonight at Revention Music Center tonight with special guests Echosmith and Finish Ticket. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever