This is why Twenty One Pilots is not stressed out, for now

  • Music
  • Thursday, 11 Feb 2016

Dun (left) and Joseph are members of Twenty One Pilots. The duo achieved international success with its fourth studio album, Blurryface. Photo: Warner Music

Josh Dun was walking down the street in Los Angeles, California, when Star2 rang him up for a quick chat.

He shared that he was enjoying some downtime from his usual gig as the drummer of alternative hip-hop duo Twenty One Pilots.

“I think this is the longest break we had since we first started playing music together,” the 27-year-old said.

Formed in 2009 by Dun and bandmate/vocalist Tyler Joseph, 27, the duo achieved international breakthrough and success with the release of its fourth studio album Blurryface.

It debuted at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200, with hit single Stressed Out hitting No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Before the break, Twenty One Pilots toured extensively across the United States, Europe and Asia.

Not bad for a duo who once played to such a small crowd that the concert promoter had no profit to pay Dun and Joseph at the end of the show.

For now, however, both of them are appreciating the well-deserved break.

“It’s good for us to have some time to focus on being creative. We often think about how we can make our shows more exciting for the fans. At the end of the day, it also makes us feel eager to get back on the road.”

If you ask Dun how he and Joseph met, the answer would vary. He once tried to explain to a fan that he and Joseph met on eBay when he was shopping for rare Pokemon cards. There’s also the story where the first meeting took place in prison. We asked if any of it is true.

“It is true that we met in prison! Even the songs we did have something to do with us meeting in prison!”

We figure his sense of humour is off the charts because he’s been on a holiday.

“No, actually we did not meet in prison. We tell a different story each time because the original story is really boring!” he admitted with a laugh.

Joseph initially formed Twenty One Pilots with former bandmates Nick Thomas and Chris Salih back when he was studying in Ohio State University. The band’s moniker comes from Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, a play that Joseph was studying, which is about a man who caused the death of 21 World War II pilots.

Thomas and Salih then quit the band due to other commitments and Joseph found a permanent solution in Dun, a self-taught drummer who was a fan of the group.

“I do believe that when I met Tyler and we started playing music together we were doing something special. You know, a friendship that was based on a mutual love for music,” he said, his earnestness coming through clearly on the line.

Before joining Twenty One Pilots, Dun was a barista taking orders and making frappuccinos at Starbucks. He confessed to not understanding how the duo has evolved to become one of the most exciting acts in the music scene today with songs charting alongside established names like Justin Bieber and Adele.

“It’s hard to process sometimes,” stated Dun.

He often finds himself wondering what could have been if Twenty One Pilots never took off.

“If it wasn’t for Twenty One Pilots, I would probably be in Starbucks forever. Or, any other coffee shop because I just have such a love for coffee.”

Perhaps, the answer to its popularity lies in Twenty One Pilot’s songs which touch on subjects like anxiety and insecurities.

Stressed Out is a catchy yet solemn ode to nostalgia for the younger generation who fear the transition to adulthood. Lane Boy is about silencing the critics in the music industry while Ride has Joseph confessing he hasn’t got everything figured out yet.

“For us, (the album) was inspired by our conversations about insecurities and stress. It’s really cool for us to put out an album and find that a lot of people resonated with the themes and subject. We realised that more and more people were able to find acceptance to talk about these subjects through our music.”

Despite conquering the airwaves, Dun said there’s still a lot of work to do to remain relevant in the business. At the same time, he feels, it’s important to be grounded.

“We’ve got a lot of people surrounding us. Family and close friends who care about our personalities and characters. People who won’t allow us to change or make stupid decisions. I don’t think we’d change too much.”

Then there are fans that Dun said he wants to continue to play good shows for even if he gets hurt in the process.

See, Dun has a tendency to hurt himself during live performances. Once, a drumstick broke and hit him in the eye. He continued playing with one eye open. He joked the injury gave him X-ray vision.

“There are different ways that I can hurt myself during a show. I guess it’s something I’ve prepared myself for before going on stage. Besides, blood is a sign of a good show.”

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