Columbus, Ohio-formed band, Twenty One Pilots, is soaring to new heights on the broad-backed wings of their rule-breaking talent, but also thanks to their down-to-earth, grassroots approach to music.
Tyler Joseph and Josh Dunn didn’t traverse the musical horizon based on antiquated ideals or old-school ways of operating. The pair adopted a progressive approach to songwriting and a precise plan of attack at playing shows.
Quickly, Twenty One Pilots went from a small band named after the plot-line of an Arthur Miller play and demoing songs in a basement to one that elicits pride throughout the state of Ohio.
Unlike many up-and-coming bands who inundate their local music scene with a superfluous amount of shows, Twenty One Pilots strategized a plan to get them known all over the state.
Joseph told Stryker that he put together songs, spent some time analyzing and learning about his local music scene, combined his knowledge with social networking and decided that because there’s “so many bands out there” that he was going to “do the opposite.”
“If I were to give advice to someone that just started a band and how to get someone’s attention, you’ve gotta have a central hub. For us, it was Columbus, Ohio,” explained Joseph. “Then outside of Columbus, we’d play all these small shows without promoting. If we go up to City A and we play a show for ten people, we make ten fans; you have to have the live show to kind of solidify them. Then you go up to City B.”
According to Joseph, the trick was to not promote City B so that fans from City A wouldn’t go to the show. The main hub was their city of Columbus. When they’d have a big show in the hub, that’s when they’d blast out their whereabouts on social media, effectively attracting people from all the outer regions they played to one central point.
“When people came out, they were more blown away by how many people were there than on the show. But then we obviously had to capitalize on giving them a good live show. So we did that four or five times, leaving months in between, then by the end of that, we were able to get people’s attention and that’s kind of why we’re here [in Los Angeles].”
The band don’t see Columbus, Ohio as very different from Los Angeles besides the “fake boobs, dogs, and purses”– and the fact that while they were in town they pulled up to Dr. Dre and took a camera phone pic of him.
A lot of Twenty One Pilots’ memorable moments happen in the car, including the inception of their popular single “Car Radio.”
Joseph said that while he was going to college to major in Communications (or in his words, a fancy way of saying undecided), he pulled his “horribly beat up car to the place” where he’s “supposed to learn for thousands of dollars” and because he was late, didn’t lock the door. As one might suspect, when Joseph left class his car was gutted with his CD Player, GPS, and car radio stolen.
“And because I’m super emo and all about looking for inspiration, I wrote a song about that moment.”
Joseph said that sans car radio, he had more time to be introspective. “That song kind of just documents where you let your mind go when you don’t have a distraction to keep it in its box.”
Lacking a worldly distraction was a good point of transition for Joseph, who ended up teaching himself how to play keyboard and recording Twenty One Pilots’ recently-released album in his basement.
For now, the band is getting used to going from their grassroots technique to the “rules and structure” of a record label and living up to expectations.
“The label has been awesome,” said Joseph. “We have the way that we like to do things that they have kind of come and been very creative with marketing and promoting and ideas that we have…It’s been very exciting.”
Twenty One Pilots’ Vessel is now available on Fueled by Ramen.
–Nadia Noir, KROQ Los Angeles