Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots (stylized in all lowercase or as twenty øne piløts) is an American musical duo from Columbus, Ohio. The band was formed in 2009 by lead vocalist Tyler Joseph along with Nick Thomas and Chris Salih, both of whom left in 2011. Since their departure, the line-up has consisted of Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. The duo is best known for the singles "Stressed Out", "Ride", and "Heathens". The group received a Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards for "Stressed Out".

Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots performing in 2019
Twenty One Pilots performing in 2019
Background information
OriginColumbus, Ohio, U.S.
Years active2009–present
Past members
  • Nick Thomas
  • Chris Salih

The band independently released two albums, Twenty One Pilots (2009) and Regional at Best (2011), before being signed by record label Fueled by Ramen in 2012. Their label debut, Vessel, was released in 2013. The duo achieved breakthrough success with their fourth album, Blurryface (2015), which produced the successful singles "Stressed Out" and "Ride" and became the first album in history on which every track received at least a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America.[1][2] The release of the single "Heathens" also made the group the first alternative artist to have two concurrent top ten singles in the United States.[3] The duo's fifth studio album, Trench, was released on October 5, 2018.


2009–2011: Formation and self-titled album

Tyler Joseph first met future bandmate Nick Thomas at a young age while playing youth basketball in Columbus, Ohio.[4] Thomas later transferred to Joseph's middle school, and the two would remain friends through high school.[5][6]

Joseph began playing music after finding an old keyboard in his closet, a Christmas gift from his mother, and started mimicking radio melodies.[7][8] In 2007, Joseph recorded a solo album, No Phun Intended, in his parent's basement. Thomas contributed guitar to several songs on the album,[4] and collaborated on the track "Trees", which would later become a signature Twenty One Pilots song.[9]

While attending Ohio State University, Joseph met Texas-born future bandmate Chris Salih at a party. Noting the songwriter's talent and creative energy, Salih consulted Joseph about starting a band. Impressed by the recording studio Salih had built in his house, Joseph agreed to play music together and began sharing his ideas for new music. Just before their first performance, Joseph invited Thomas to join the unnamed band as a bassist. In 2009, the group moved into a house of their own, where their first album was conceptualized and recorded in the basement.[10][4]

The band initially played for a wide variety of audiences at clubs and venues around the Columbus area. Playing at metal, hardcore, and electronic venues influenced Joseph to incorporate these disparate styles with his songwriting. To catch the attention of unfamiliar or disinterested attendees and promoters, the band began to experiment with costumes and on-stage acrobatics.[10]

Now going by the name Twenty One Pilots,[5][6] the group released their debut, self-titled album, Twenty One Pilots, on December 29, 2009, and began touring Ohio. Their initial marketing was grassroots; Joseph's mother would stand outside of Ohio State University giving away tickets to his shows.[11] During this time, the band participated in "Battle of the Band" contests at The Alrosa Villa and The Basement, important Columbus music venues.[12][13]

In 2010, the band posted two tracks to their SoundCloud account, a cover of "Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri and a remixed interpretation of "Con te partirò (Time to Say Goodbye)" by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman.[14] The latter track would become the first song local drummer Josh Dun heard from the group.[15]

Joseph, Dun,[16][17][18] and Salih participated in musical efforts of a Columbus, Ohio, church Five14. They contributed to four of fourteen tracks for their album Clear, with Travis Whittaker and the gospel band "New Albany Music." In 2011, Joseph appeared in a three-part video called "The (moderately inspiring tale of the) Longboard Rodeo Tango",[19][20][21] and sang "O come, O come, Emmanuel" in another video, Christmas With the Stars.[22]

2011–2012: Lineup changes and Regional at Best

Salih left on May 8, 2011 to focus on work, and Thomas left the next month on June 3, 2011 to focus on schooling, both posting farewell notes on the band's official Facebook page.[23][24] Before departing the project, Salih invited Guitar Center co-worker and friend of the group Josh Dun (former touring drummer for House of Heroes),[6][25] to take his place in the band. Impressed by the band's potential and Joseph's creative vision, Dun abandoned plans to pursue drumming in Nashville and joined the project only a few weeks before Thomas left the group.[26]

Both Salih and Thomas remained involved with the band's production for some time after their departure.[27] Thomas briefly attended school in North Carolina, but moved back into Joseph and Dun's house in Columbus a year later and began to manage their merchandise. Thomas remained a part of the merchandise distribution crew throughout the production of Blurryface and continues to stay actively involved in the band's tour cycle.[28][29]

Twenty One Pilots performing in 2012

With a new lineup consisting of only Joseph and Dun, Twenty One Pilots self-released their second album, Regional at Best, on July 8, 2011. The album was accompanied by a free CD release show on the grounds of New Albany High School. While Salih and Thomas were involved with the conceptualization of the album, neither they nor Dun claim to have had much involvement with its production, which was handled nearly exclusively by Joseph.[27] The album features Joseph's brother Zack on the track "Kitchen Sink" and Joseph's college acquaintance Jocef on the track "Be Concerned".[30][31]

In November 2011, after months of cultivating a fan base in the Columbus area via social media interaction and constant touring, the band played a sold-out concert at Columbus' Newport Music Hall. This notable accomplishment for an unsigned local group caught the attention of several record labels interested in seeing if the band's appeal could stretch outside of Ohio.[32] That same year, the duo put out two free songs via their email newsletter: the original version of "House of Gold" and "Two".[33][34]

Joseph and Dun embarked on the Regional at Best Tour with rock band CHALLENGER!,[35][36] documenting it in a series of videos uploaded to the Twenty One Pilots YouTube channel.[37]

2012–2014: Major label signing and Vessel

In April 2012, the band announced their signing to Atlantic Records subsidiary Fueled by Ramen, the label responsible for the commercial success of popular alternative artists like Panic! at the Disco and Paramore, during a sold-out show at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion.[6][34] On July 17, 2012, they released their debut Fueled by Ramen recording, an EP entitled Three Songs.[38][39] The next month, the band embarked on a short tour with Neon Trees and Walk the Moon.[32]

Tyler Joseph successfully negotiated to maintain ownership of the preceding self-titled album, which remains available digitally. However, as part of a signing agreement in 2012 with record label Fueled by Ramen, rights to Regional at Best were transferred to the label, meaning that Regional at Best was discontinued and removed from digital markets.[40] Regional at Best tracks "Slowtown", "Anathema", "Ruby", "Be Concerned", and "Clear" have since been made commercially unavailable,[41] and physical copies of the album are now rare and highly sought after.[42][43]

On November 12, 2012, the official music video for "Holding on to You", directed by Jordan Bahat, was released on YouTube.[44] On January 7 and April 19, 2013, the band released music videos for "Guns for Hands" and "Car Radio", respectively, both directed by Mark Eshleman of Reel Bear Media.[45][46][47]

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Joseph described Regional at Best as a "glorified mixtape" and confirmed that songs from that project would reappear on their major label debut studio album.[48] Ultimately, five tracks from Regional at Best – "Guns for Hands", "Holding on to You", "Ode to Sleep", "Car Radio", and "Trees" – were re-recorded and released for their third album.[9] "Lovely" was also re-recorded and released as a single in Japan on April 17, 2013.[49][50] "Glowing Eyes", "Kitchen Sink", and "Forest" appeared unchanged as bonus tracks on the UK version of Vessel.[51]

Twenty One Pilots' third album, Vessel, was released January 8, 2013; it would reach No. 21 on the Billboard 200, No. 9 on the Digital Albums chart, No. 17 on the Internet Albums chart, No. 15 on the Rock Albums Chart, and No. 10 on the Alternative Albums Chart.[52][53] The band's first charting single, "Holding on to You", reached No. 11 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Additionally, the singles "Guns for Hands" and "Lovely" reached No. 21 and No. 67, respectively, on the Japan Hot 100.

In May 2013, Twenty One Pilots were announced to join Fall Out Boy as opening acts on their Save Rock and Roll Arena Tour, along with Panic! at the Disco, also serving as opening acts.[54]

Frontman Tyler Joseph performing in 2014

On August 8, 2013, Twenty One Pilots performed "House of Gold" on Conan in their late night debut.[55][56] On October 2, the music video for the song was uploaded onto YouTube.[57]

Twenty One Pilots performing live in 2014 for "Boston Calling: Day Three"

On March 17, 2014, Twenty One Pilots performed a set at the MTVU Woodie Awards during SXSW.[58] On April 13, Twenty One Pilots performed "Car Radio" at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards.[59] On April 28, the band performed "Car Radio" on Late Night with Seth Meyers.[60]

In 2014, Twenty One Pilots played a number of music festivals and other events around the United States, such as Lollapalooza,[61] Bonnaroo,[62] Boston Calling, and Firefly.[63] Requests from many of these cities were incorporated into the band's first headlining tour, the Quiet Is Violent World Tour, which began in September 2014 and ended in November of the same year.[64]

On December 31, 2014, the band released a music video for the song "Ode to Sleep". Composed of footage captured by band creative director Mark Eshleman from three concerts over the preceding three years, the video depicted the band's rapid growth from their origins as a small local band to a nationally popular alternative act, an upward trend that would continue into the next album cycle.[65][66]

2015–2017: Blurryface

On March 16, 2015, the band announced that a new album, Blurryface, was to be released on May 19.[67] They released the first single, "Fairly Local", on March 17.[68] Their second single of the album, "Tear in My Heart", and its music video were released on April 5, 2015.[69][70] On April 28, "Stressed Out", the third single from the album, was released along with a music video.[71][72][73][74] "Stressed Out" became the group's highest selling single, peaking at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on both Alternative Songs and Hot Rock Songs charts, while also surpassing one billion views on YouTube.[75][76]

Blurryface was released two days early on May 17, 2015 and sold 134,000 copies in the first week in the U.S. which made it the band's first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.[77] On May 22, 2016, Blurryface won in the category of "Top Rock Album" at the Billboard Music Awards, while the band won the category of "Top Rock Artist".[78]

Twenty One Pilots performing at Shepherds Bush Empire in late 2015

The band began the Blurryface Tour on May 11, 2015, in Glasgow, Scotland. The tour spanned the United States, Australia, Asia, and Europe.[79] The U.S. leg began September 8, 2015 and featured Echosmith and Finish Ticket as openers.[80] Twenty One Pilots performed "Stressed Out" on Late Night with Seth Meyers on September 14, 2015.[81] The band announced a London show in February 2016, and later announced a run of UK dates, with a second London date added. The band Transviolet served as openers.[82] This run of UK dates ended the initial Blurryface Tour.

Soon after, the band announced a second tour for the Blurryface album, the Emotional Roadshow World Tour, which started in Cincinnati on May 31, 2016.[83] The tour covered the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Australia.[84][85] Chef'Special and Mutemath opened for the American leg.[86] Irish singer Bry joined the tour for its European leg.[87]

On June 16, 2016, the band released the song "Heathens" as the first single from the Suicide Squad soundtrack, earlier than the expected release date of June 24, after the song leaked onto the internet on June 15.[88][89][90] A music video for the song was released on June 21, 2016.[91][92] "Heathens" plays during the ending credits of the film.[93]

Twenty One Pilots became the third rock act to have two singles simultaneously chart in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100, joining the Beatles and Elvis Presley, in addition to becoming the third duo to accomplish this feat, after Outkast in 2003 and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ten years later.[94]

Twenty One Pilots performing in London in 2016

In September 2016, the band contributed a cover of the piano ballad "Cancer" by My Chemical Romance to the tribute album Rock Sound Presents: The Black Parade.[95][96] An animated lyric video followed the release of the song.[97]

Twenty One Pilots featured as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on October 8, 2016, performing orchestra-accompanied versions of "Heathens" and "Ride" in what Rolling Stone called their "most high profile performance yet".[98] The band later performed a medley of "Heathens" and "Stressed Out" on the American Music Awards of 2016, where they also accepted their first awards on American television for Favorite Pop/Rock Duo and Favorite Alternative Rock Artist.[99] On November 25, 2016, the band released a limited-edition live vinyl album documenting two performances at Fox Oakland Theatre, on the duo's 2015 Blurryface Tour under the name Blurryface Live.[100]

Twenty One Pilots performing in London in 2016

Joseph and Dun collaborated with alternative rock band Mutemath, for a five-song EP, TOPxMM, composed of remixes and re-imaginings of four tracks from Blurryface and Heathens. The EP was uploaded onto the band's official website free of charge on December 19; a 25-minute long video of the bands recording the songs live in studio was also released on the band's YouTube channel.[101][102][103][104]

On February 12, 2017, Twenty One Pilots won a Grammy Award for "Stressed Out" in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category. The band stripped to their underwear before taking the stage, with Joseph claiming in their acceptance speech that this was a fulfillment of a promise the duo had made each other in their early days as a local Columbus band.[105][106][107]

On March 27, 2017, the band began selling tickets for Tour De Columbus, a five-date hometown tour taking place in June 2017.[108] The duo performed at several small venues they first played as a local band including The Basement, Newport Music Hall, and Express Live!, before ending their tour cycle with arena shows at Nationwide Arena and Value City Arena.[109]

In an interview with Alternative Press in November 2016, Twenty One Pilots stated that after their last show, they will be "going dark" to focus on new music. Joseph stated that he would like to focus on lyrical content of the music, and bring the music back to the "authenticity, lyrics, delivery, and fearlessness of songwriting" similar to that of the self-titled album.[110] The band's last activity came in July 2017 in the form of posts on social media depicting an eye closing over lyrics from several of their songs.[111][112]

In March 2018, their song "Hometown" received a gold certification from the RIAA, making Blurryface the first full-length album to have every track achieve at least gold certification.[113][114][115]

2018–present: Trench

In April 2018, a cryptic message was uncovered on the band's web store, which revealed a website. Fans began using clues and found other sections of this site, hinting at the possibility of the band's return. There were multiple images uploaded to the website, including letters from a character named "Clancy".[116] In July 2018, Twenty One Pilots broke their year-long silence, first sending a cryptic email to fans and later posting a video to all social media platforms and updating their logo and branding.[117][118] Tyler Joseph made his first media appearance in over a year for an interview with Zane Lowe of Beats 1 from his home studio in Columbus, Ohio, in which he spoke about the band's year long hiatus, creating the new album, and battling against personal demons and insecurities.[119]

On July 11, 2018, the band released two new songs, "Jumpsuit" and "Nico and the Niners", as well as the music video for "Jumpsuit". They also made the announcement of their fifth studio album, Trench, scheduled to be released on October 5, 2018, and a new world tour, titled "The Bandito Tour", starting October 16.[120][121] Later, on July 26, 2018, the music video for "Nico and the Niners" was released.[122] The song "Levitate" was subsequently released as the album's third single via Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show as the day's "World Record".[123] The music video was also released, concluding the trilogy series.[124]

On August 20, 2018, at the MTV VMAs, a ten second long snippet of the song "My Blood" was played at the end of a commercial promoting the album. On August 27, 2018, the band made "My Blood" available on streaming services as the album's fourth official single.[125] Twenty One Pilots released their fifth album, Trench, on October 5, 2018.[126][127] On the same day, they released the music video for their single "My Blood" on their YouTube channel.[128] Trench debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Rock Albums and Alternative Albums charts. All 14 tracks from the album charted in the top 25 of the Hot Rock Songs chart, where five tracks were in the top 10.[129]

On September 12, 2018, Twenty One Pilots played their first live show in over a year, titled A Complete Diversion, at O2 Brixton Academy in London. They performed the four released songs from Trench, as well as some songs from their previous albums, to promote the album and the upcoming The Bandito Tour.[130][131] Twenty One Pilots performed their single "Jumpsuit"[132] at the 2018 American Music Awards on October 9, at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.[133] On November 1, the band performed stripped-down versions of "My Blood"[134] and "Ride",[135] as well as covered Damien Rice's "9 Crimes",[136] in BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge. BBC Radio 1 visited the band in their hometown and filmed the session at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio, for the kickoff of the Live Lounge Month, a month-long series of performances from different artists.[137][138]

On October 16, the band embarked on the worldwide The Bandito Tour, starting in the United States and continuing with legs in Oceania and Europe.[139] They also announced additional 2019 tour dates for shows in Canada, Mexico and the United States.[140] Gab Ginsberg of Billboard described The Bandito Tour as a "must-see performance," noting the band's stunts during the set which included leaping, backflipping, vertical crowd-surfing, suspended bridge walking, and scaffolding scaling.[141]

On January 22, 2019, the music video for "Chlorine" was uploaded to YouTube upon the song's release as a single and was directed by Mark C. Eshleman of Reel Bear Media, featuring an alien-like creature named "Ned".[142] The band headlined a number of festivals in the summer of 2019, including Reading and Leeds and Lollapalooza.[143][144]

On March 4, 2019, the band revealed to NME that they were already starting the writing process for their sixth studio album, mentioning a character that has not appeared in any Twenty One Pilots-related material yet.[145]

On June 19, 2019, a re-imagined version of "Chlorine", titled "Chlorine (19.4326° N, 99.1332° W)", was released. It is the first song to be released from the Løcatiøn Sessiøns. Other songs in the series will include "Ride", "Smithereens", "My Blood" and "Cut My Lip".[146][147] In 2019, Nationwide Boulevard in Columbus, Ohio was temporarily renamed to Twenty One Pilots Boulevard to celebrate two hometown shows at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, where the band also opened up a pop-up shop named "Ned's Bayou".[148]

On July 16, 2019, the song "The Hype" was sent to US alternative radio as the sixth single from the album Trench.[149]

On April 9, 2020, the band released a new single "Level of Concern".[150][151] The song's lyrics reference the anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its accompanying music video was filmed in Joseph and Dun's homes while they were under lockdown due to the pandemic. Joseph directed a portion of the song's proceeds to Crew Nation, a charity for live music crews who cannot be paid during the international quarantine.[152]


The duo grew up in strict Christian households where they had to either conceal their pop punk and hip hop albums from the censure of their parents, or find faith-friendly counterparts.[160] Both still identify as Christians, although doubting ones.[160] According to Dun, "I'd hide albums like Green Day’s Dookie under my bed. They'd find a Christian alternative, like Relient K, and make me listen to that."[154] However, his parents eventually relaxed on rock music, even allowing Dun to assemble a live drum kit in their basement.[154] Joseph's very first favorite band was the Christian rap rock trio DC Talk.[160] He taught himself the piano by playing along to songs on the radio by artists like the Beatles and Celine Dion.[154]

Musical style

The band's musical style has been described as alternative hip hop,[161][162][163] electropop,[162][164] indie pop,[165] pop rock,[166][167] rap rock,[168][169] alternative rock,[170][171][172][173][174] rock,[175][176] synth-pop,[168] pop,[176][177] electronica,[165][176][177] electronic rock,[178] indie rock,[176][179] hip hop,[175][177][180] and indietronica[180] with reggae,[159][174][168] folk,[181] psychedelic,[171] new wave[174] and funk[182] influences. Because their music is highly versatile and contains a mix of many genres, the duo has been difficult to categorize.[183] Dun admits it's hard to place themselves in a certain genre.[184] He claims the band's manager calls them "pop-rock-piano-rap", which he says is fitting but is a mouthful.[184] Joseph and Dun attribute this style to their background as independent and self-taught musicians who played the music they enjoyed. In response to criticism of their style as trying to be "all things to everyone", Joseph responded, "I'm not trying to be that. I'm being what I want to be for myself."[185] Dun elaborates one of their goals as musicians was to tear down the walls of musical genres and combine different aspects into their own.[184] Sharing similar sentiments, Joseph said as a songwriter that he wouldn't want to listen to music and anticipate what will happen next, saying that it doesn't sound interesting to him.[186] He prefers to catch listeners off guard before the song's end.[186]

The duo are best defined as alternative hip hop, a subgenre of hip hop known for its unconventional nature and blending of music styles that is embraced primarily by alternative rock listeners and college radio moreso than rap or pop audiences.[187][188][189] They create music borrowing from a wide variety of different genres, most often hip hop, electropop, punk, rock, and reggae.[187] Their songs contain a mixture of musical styles, intertwining rap rock rhymes laced with hard rock energy and piano pop hooks over synth-pop beats and reggae rhythms.[168][154] Early material is post-emo, following down the lane of bands like My Chemical Romance and Dashboard Confessional with show tune or glam soundscapes.[160] At the time of their major-label debut album Vessel, Twenty One Pilots was described as an indie rock duo.[190] The album featured a fusion of rap, piano pop, rock and electronica.[190] Their breakthrough album Blurryface expressed elements of pop, EDM, breakbeat, reggae, and dancehall.[160] As the duo progressed, hip hop has become an increasingly more prominent musical influence.[160] Twenty One Pilots has since become hailed as a leading contemporary alternative rock group, having sent three singles to the summit of the hot rock charts.[191]

Twenty One Pilots initially began with conventional live instrumentation, but they found success as part of a group that creates music on laptops.[160] Both musicians are accomplished multi-instrumentalists.[183] The duo achieve their sound through singer Tyler Joseph being a pianist, bassist and keyboardist and drummer Josh Dun playing a live drum kit.[154][160] Other instrumentation used in songs include synthesizers, piano, electronic keyboards, and occasionally ukulele.[183] Their tracks most prominently integrate programmed beats and keyboards, along with Dun playing drums.[160] This mixture provides the duo with a rock and electropop crossover sound.[192][183] Despite their chart-topping dominance of rock charts, many of their songs feature no guitar.[191] For their songs, software replace traditional rock instruments and loops take precedent over riffs.[160] Some listeners question whether Twenty One Pilots constitute as rock, considering that the duo neglect the use of electric guitar.[160][193] According to University of Virginia musicologist Karl Hagstrom Miller, Twenty One Pilots is a prime example of how modern bands are evolving from the guitar-bass-drums format, a staple of punk rock, to "other configurations of musical collaboration."[160]

During their songs, Joseph incorporates rapping, singing, and sometimes crooning.[160] He utilizes a fast-paced style of reciting poetic lyrics that is characteristic of rap music.[183] His rapping voice has a strong emphasis on flow and rhyme schemes, and been likened to that of hip-hop artists K'naan and Macklemore.[194] While he acknowledges Joseph's style of rapping is often compared to Macklemore, music journalist Carl Wilson opines, "but among the ranks of post-Eminem white rappers, I find Joseph more probing, sardonic, and expressive."[160] However, Joseph doesn't consider himself a rapper.[186] Joseph explains that he never intended to be a rapper, and simply finds the art form of rap the most effective way of trying to say something with his music.[186] He realized how little the amount of lyrics are in a full song, because they're sung and words are drawn out by melodies.[186] When attempting to write poetry he had written for the lyrics of a song, Joseph found there were way too many words to fit.[186] He soon found himself just saying the poetry in tempo and realizing that he was rapping.[186] His vocal performance, which sometimes also includes full-throated screaming lines, coupled with an earnest, patchy way of delivering word play atop Dun's drum rhythms is part of what allowed the duo to break out of the alternative scene.[195][160]

Lyrical themes

Tyler Joseph writes lyrics that are psychodramatic in nature and usually based around his piano parts.[160] He describes both his songwriting as well as himself as "very dramatic."[186] Joseph claims he began writing songs because there were things he wanted to say that he didn't know how to in normal conversation.[196] He is mostly inspired by chord progression and song structure, and his lyrics come afterwards.[186] Joseph usually composes the music first because he has a small studio in his basement. He is able to lay down thoughts musically in terms of chord progression, come up with a melody and then fit the lyrics to that song.[186] Their music inspire song lyrics depending on what is being imparted most of the time. However, Joseph also likes to write poetry so sometimes he'll musically create a song and then fit the poetry.[186] Dun's energetic drumming lays down a stable, equally prominent rhythm for Joseph as he shifts between expressive lyrics of his verses and an almost melodic style of rapping during many of their songs.[196]

Alongside their mixture of musical styles, the band melds relatable rhymes with angsty lyrics.[168] Lyrically, Twenty One Pilots is conventionally post-emo.[160] They coincide with a contemporary wave of emo revival fueled in part by millennial nostalgia for popular music from the early 2000s.[160] Joseph's confessional lines convey personal turmoils and deeply rooted insecurities.[168] Their songs contain moments where personal despair connect to a universal context, often relating to that of faith, location or community. Thus making the band more accessible than other more insular emo-inspired artists.[160] Having been raised in Christian households, the lyrics of their songs rarely engage in profanity and shock value. The duo still identify as Christians, and a significant portion of their fanbase interpret lyrics from their songs as an ongoing negotiation with God. From a more secular perspective, their words center on depression and anxiety, with habitual direct reference to self-harm.[160]

The lyrical themes most prevalent on the band's major-label debut album Vessel were introspection and fear.[186] Joseph wrote from a very introspective perspective, offering an inside view of what he was going through at the time. He feels that music is a catalyst to getting your emotions going. While he acknowledges many who write songs about love do so because its widely believed love is the most powerful emotion there is, he disagrees with the sentiment. Joseph instead thinks the emotion of fear is equally as powerful, if not slightly more so. As a result, much of Vessel pertained to the power of fear as well as dealing with and trying to find hope, peace and redemption at the end of and inside of fear.[186] Their next studio album, Blurryface was much like a concept album in that it was shaped by intimate themes regarding personal issues such as insecurity.[168] Due primarily to the childhood yearnings of their breakout single "Stressed Out", Twenty One Pilots have become emblematic of angst-ridden millennial entitlement.[160] The loose concept album is about Joseph attempting to defeat the alter ego of the titular monster-image representing his insecurities and self-hatreds.[160]

Band name, iconography, and fandom

According to the band, their purpose for making music is "to make people think" and encourage them to find joy in what they come to believe in life.[201] Twenty One Pilots derives their band name and philosophy from literary origins.[190][154] "Bicycle Thief" and "Chill Coat" were among some of the rejected band names.[202] This goes back to college days, according to Joseph, when he was studying theater at Ohio State University.[184] He got the band's name and meaning from reading the 1947 play All My Sons by American playwright Arthur Miller.[184][190] In the story, the main protagonist is a war contractor named Joe Keller who crafts airplane parts for war planes.[154][184] Upon discovering some are faulty and would fail if used, he must decide whether or not to recall them.[184][190] Keller is forced to make a decision to either spend his money trying to repair the faulty parts or press forward and use them.[184] Though he wants to do what's right, Keller is afraid to lose money and needs to support his family, so he decides to send the parts anyway, to Europe during World War II.[190][154] As a consequence of his decision, twenty-one pilots perish. At the end of the play, Keller commits suicide.[190] Joseph explained the story's themes of moral dilemma, between choosing the easy and the right decision resonated with him and inspired the name and formation of the band.[201][203] While the story is morbid, Joseph discovered a lesson within it.[184] It showed him that every decision he makes will have great outcomes or dire consequences.[184] Joseph stated, "We're constantly faced with decisions. A lot of times, the right ones take more work, it takes longer to see benefit; they're the long route. We know in order to get where we want to be and do what we want to be doing, sometimes we have to do what we don't feel like doing. It takes hard work, and the band name is a constant reminder of that."[190]

Twenty One Pilots' typeface logo as of 2018

The band's name was originally stylized as "twenty | one | pilots" on their earlier cover art; however, by the time of their second album, Regional at Best, the formatting was changed to "twenty øne piløts" with a diagonal line through the Os.

Former Twenty One Pilots member Chris Salih stated in an interview that Mark C. Eshleman, a longtime friend of and creative director for Twenty One Pilots, created the band's logo by "messing around with shapes". Joseph found that the arrangement resonated with him.[204] Regarding their logo, Joseph stated in an interview that:

It means Twenty One Pilots, the logo does. Why it means Twenty One Pilots, is it really goes along with one of our songs called "Kitchen Sink". The whole concept of that song is that I feel that humans are always struggling all the time when it comes to purpose, trying to figure out what their purpose is, what purpose even is, what's the point, justifying your own existence. A lot of kids and people my age struggle with "what's the point", and with the logo, what it really means is it's an encouragement. When someone asks me what the logo means to me, the logo means something to me because I made it mean something to me. That's the point. The point is that I created something that only I understand and whether or not I decide to disclose the meaning of it, that's the beginning of purpose for me. The meaning of purpose for me, is by creating something, if it be by writing lyrics, painting a picture, by expressing yourself through art if it's photography or music or theater, or whatever it is. It doesn't have to be artistic, but if you create something and only you know the meaning of it, that's the beginning of purpose for you. When you're in the room by yourself trying to decide whether to stay alive, you can tell yourself "I should probably stay alive because I'm the only one who knows the meaning of that thing", so the logo is an encouragement for people to create. That's what it means.[205]

Twenty One Pilots' official logo as of 2018

In 2018, a new logo was unveiled for Trench's release. An extra slash on each side was added to the previous logo. The color scheme was changed to yellow for the shapes with a solid black background, thus coordinating with the color scheme for the album's cover art. Joseph explained that, "If you were to look at those two logos that we had done in the past, and put it together, it would create a logo that is two upward slashes and two sideways slashes. It's kind of a continuation of what we've been working on." He further explained that the extra slashes represent "the feeling of being surrounded by something that's protecting you... I knew I wanted that logo to have those extra layers of protection".[206]

Skeleton Clique logos

The band's fandom has been dubbed as the "Skeleton Clique" or just the Clique, in reference to the band's use of skeleton iconography in many performances, graphics, and music videos. The Skeleton Clique are represented in the band's official iconography by logos of a skull and alien head atop lines resembling keys.[207] In November 2016, during the Blurryface World Tour, the Wood Green tube station in London was decorated in Clique-related artwork, spanning over one-hundred advertising panels.[208] During the 2017 Tour De Columbus, Twenty One Pilots hosted a public art show, dubbed "Artøpia", exclusively for Clique-related artwork at the Nationwide Arena in the United States.[209]

Twenty One Pilots became a local favorite in their hometown of Columbus, Ohio thanks to their energetic live concerts.[190] According to Dun, "We played hardcore shows, hip hop shows, no one knew where to put us. But we've approached live shows as a way to build something from nothing."[190] The duo usually perform with pre-recorded keyboard tracks and programmed beats rather than a full band.[160] However, Dun also plays a live drum kit while triggering the pre-recorded backing tracks.[154] A former skater, he often breaks his performance up by using acrobatics, such as backflips.[160][154] Meanwhile, Tyler Joseph wears masks and occasionally body makeup while rapping and singing.[160] He plays multiple instruments while live wearing a balaclava.[154] During their early shows, Joseph would wear a flowered robe onstage. Dun stated, "We thought it was kind of cool, new and different to wear masks onstage, but yeah, people were confused."[190]

Band members



Concert tours


Opening act

See also


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External links