Twenty One Pilots talk life on tour, college shows and more

Q&A: Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots sat down with The NewsHouse on Thursday before their performance at the Homecoming concert in Goldstein.

NewsHouse: How long have you been on tour?
Josh Dun: Oh man. Since we were born?
Tyler Joseph: It’s nice to say that. It’s nice to joke about that. We always dreamed of touring. So, what? Maybe a couple years now?

NH: Have you been writing any new music?
TJ: Yes. Well, what’s really cool is we’ve just recently, this past month, been able to move into a bus for the first time. So we take a lot of pride in that, because we slowly moved from one vehicle to the next when it came to what we traveled in. And now in the bus we have capabilities of recording in the back lounge; we have this studio. And so for a while there it was getting pretty frustrating not being able to create while traveling. Touring’s busy though, and tiring, so it’s not like being at home. It’s not like your first round of songs where all you have to do is either go to school or go to work then sit around and, instead of playing video games, you write songs. You really have to kind of be punctual and intentional about creating again.

NH: Do you ever feel like, ‘I’m just not in the mood anymore for writing’?
TJ: Yeah, no for sure. I mean, there’s a lot of things that we use that back lounge studio for that are actually as close to our version of busy work as there could be as musicians that travel around. There are things that we need to get done, you know? We have a headline tour coming up, and we have a lot of ideas for what we want our show to be like. And because of the way our setup is, we have to go in and really create and mold what that show looks like ahead of time and put a lot of ideas down. So in that case it’s like, “Okay, we’ve got to figure out this intro, we’ve got to figure out this transition, we’ve got to work out this kink here, we’ve gotta work out this thing,” so then you start realizing, like, “Oh, there is a to-do list as a musician.” But we get to create in that way, too.

NH: Do you play a lot of college campuses, or have you played before on college campuses?
JD: Yeah, I think especially starting out we did a lot. And then they’re kind of just here and there now.

NH: Is there a noticeable difference in the crowd or anything about a college show?
TJ: Yeah, for sure.
JD: Yeah, I would say.
TJ: For bands, one way of approaching it is like, “Well, the pressure’s off, because we’re not solely in charge of making sure people are coming through the door.” But at the same time, it’s like, “Well, you know, these people who put on the event are using your popularity in order to even get people’s attention, so if no one shows up, it means you suck.” So, you know, there’s two ways of looking at it. It’s really cool to partner with a college and an organization inside of that college that is dedicated to putting on an event. And I would say that an event like today, there’s much more of a mutual agreement that, “Let’s try to put on the best show and the best event that we can together,” because you guys have pressure because you’re putting on this event. We have some pressure because we’re the reason why people would come to the event. And when you play regular shows in regular venues where these guys just work at venues, they don’t care whether or not it goes off well or not, you know? So there’s a lot more invested -- time and energy. When we walk in here, there’s a bunch of students waiting to help us load our gear in, you know? So that’s just a really cool thing.

NH: Has your life changed at all since signing with Fueled by Ramen?
JD: We’ve been a lot busier since then. And we signed with the label but also simultaneously started working with a booking agency that kind of books us shows and everything. And so that kind of partnership, it’s really cool because there’s a booking agency that gets us a lot of shows, so we’ve gone on the road just exponentially more over the past year. And then there’s a record label who’s really good at what they do in marketing and making it so that it’s easier to get shows, I guess, so they go hand in hand together. And so I think from the aspect of traveling, it’s gotten a lot crazier. And before we had anybody helping us, we had a buddy who was kind of like a college student who loved booking shows, and that’s what he wanted to do, and he did all he could to get us shows, and that was more than we could have done ourselves, but at the same time it was kind of like, you know, we would go play on the weekends and stuff and work throughout the week, and now we’re just doing it all the time. So we’ve really been kind of nonstop since January, but I guess even before then.

NH: When you were starting out, did you think that you were going to make a living out of this? Did you have a Plan B?
JD: I never wanted to do anything else.
TJ: The idea that what I love to do is also how I make a living is so powerful to me to even think of. It’s like emotional. It’s amazing that it’s happening. And along with that, it’s like an honor to be able to stand up on stage and show people the songs that you created and them enjoy it. So every day that this happens, it’s like, I’m going to make sure that I soak it in. And we love to reminisce about the times where we made no money, ever. But at the same time, that was the goal, you know? We believed in ourselves. We knew that this was going to work, and I know it’s kind of crazy to say, but we knew that we had what it took, and all that we needed to apply was the effort and the time. And we’ve become very aware of the decisions that we made that could be credited to why we’re able to be doing what we’re doing now. And we don’t have hobbies. We were very focused.

NH: You recently made your late night debut on Conan. Was it everything you dreamed it would be?
JD: I think, I think it was. It’s an interesting process. I think of -- and not in the excitement factor -- but I remember before high school or whatever, even like middle school would be starting, and I was always excited for it, but like an anticipation type thing, almost nervous as well. I remember -- and maybe I’m just weird -- but I had dreams in my sleep in the coming week of when school came of like how it was going to be. And it kind of freaked me out, but I was excited about it. It’s really weird.
TJ: Yeah, I know what you’re talking about.
JD: You know what I’m talking about? And then I would show up, and I’m like, “Oh, okay, this is how it is.” And obviously I’d been to school before, I remembered. But I think that it was kind of like that for me, I think, like building up to that performance on that show. Where I’m just building up this whole thing in my mind of, “This is going to just be really crazy.” And then you show up, and it’s just very much a reality. And you go in there, and you get treated really well, and you play, and you perform for the camera, and that’s kind of it. But, so it was really cool, but I think that also it just kind of went by so fast to even really soak it all in. It’s kind of crazy to think about, you know? You watch that show all the time, or I’ve watched that show, and a lot of people watch that show, so it’s weird to think that in that small room with a camera, you’re playing in front of so many more people than are there at that time.

NH: You were nominated for a VMA for Artist to Watch. That’s got to be pretty exciting, right?
TJ: To get recognized in that way was an honor, you know? You really don’t know exactly what it means or how it happened. I didn’t know a lot about the other artists in that category, but I guess that’s the point, you know? That was the point of the category, and just to be able to have our name said by the people that said it was kind of cool, you know, on TV. And everything like late-night TV and recognition at an awards show, those are just all kind of little extras. Obviously you could accredit it to how hard we’ve worked on the road and just kind of gaining recognition and working on our live show and our music and everything, but at the same time you just kind of take those and appreciate them for what they are, but then come back to reality and know that you’ve got to go back to work. So we don’t put a ton of weight in those big moments, because we’ve learned that you can’t put all of this pressure and a lot of chips on something that’s so passing. But live music is not passing. It’s here to stay.

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