There’s no denying that in 2018, Twenty One Pilots are a very important band. Leading up to this year, the band (who are nearly ready to celebrate their 10 year anniversary, next year!) released four studio albums, played hundreds, maybe even thousands of live shows, cultivated a dedicated and supportive fanbase like no other, won a Grammy Award (which they collected wearing just their underwear, of course), and established the very importance that lives on today.
With their fifth album ‘Trench’ (out today!), the importance of the band rings true even louder across all 14 tracks. From ‘The Hype’ (which might be the most The Killers-esque you’ll ever hear Twenty One Pilots sound), to ‘Neon Gravestones’, where the lyrics “I could go out with a bang / They would know my name” tell you everything you need to know about that song, to ‘Bandito’, where frontman Tyler Joseph declares, “I created this world / To feel some control,” the album is a true journey filled with catchy hooks and contemplative lyrics along the way.
The ‘world’ which Joseph refers to in ‘Bandito’ is something he’s spent years working on, and when talking about sharing that world with the real world; our world, he still seems nervous, explaining that, “We don’t know how it’s going to do, or if people are going to enjoy it.” All wariness aside, after playing the first live show of this era in London a few weeks ago, and with the Bandito World Tour on the horizon, people are already readying themselves to enjoy the album, on a big scale.
Coup De Main caught up with Twenty One Pilots on the phone a few weeks ago in London ahead of the release of ‘Trench’ to discuss their upcoming return to NZ, Jason Statham, and other important matters…
COUP DE MAIN: Very importantly, you guys are coming back to New Zealand this December! Are you looking forward to coming back?
TWENTY ONE PILOTS - JOSH DUN: Yeah, absolutely. I think whenever we’re not in New Zealand, we miss New Zealand.
CDM: What can people expect from the Bandito World Tour?
JOSH: Well, me and Tyler will for sure be there. So that’s one thing, that’s a for-sure.
TWENTY ONE PILOTS - TYLER JOSEPH: For sure.
JOSH: Definitely. I would say, some old songs, and some new songs, and we wanted to put three or four more lights up in the production vault.
TYLER: And we got ‘em.
JOSH: We got the 'okay'.
TYLER: We got the converters for them - the power. It’s gonna work out.
CDM: I’m so happy for you. It’s also your last show before Christmas, so I’m really hoping for a Christmas-themed show.
TYLER: We’ll completely change the set for that.
CDM: Tyler, you could bring back your beard from the hiatus and dress up as Santa.
TYLER: Mmm, yeah. That sounds like a plan.
HOW WE FEEL ABOUT COMING BACK TO NEW ZEALAND...
CDM: Second most important question: Did you name your pet cheetah in ‘Pet Cheetah’ after Jason Statham because of him dancing in cheetah-print briefs in a ‘90s music video?
TYLER: I did not! But you learn something new everyday.
CDM: You need to go watch The Shamen's video for ‘Coming’ On’. He stars in the background, I think you’d really enjoy it.
TYLER: Wow, that’s a deep cut. All right, I’ll look it up.
CDM: ‘Trench’ is such an incredibly thought out and planned world, I’m sure you’re really looking forward to inviting fans into the world to hear the songs you’ve been working on for so long. And your fans are SO SMART, when you guys first returned via the dmaorg.info website, they were amazing at uncovering clues. Are you excited to see how the fans interpret ‘Trench’, and build their own personal meanings for the songs?
TYLER: Yeah, I mean one of the most exciting moments is when our album comes out - it’s something we’ve worked really hard on, and we’re still pretty nervous about it. We don’t know how it’s going to do, or if people are going to enjoy it. Hopefully they do. One of the questions we get a lot is, 'What are our favourite songs on the record?' And even more particularly, 'What’s your favourite song to play live?' I’ve always found that it’s difficult to answer that question until the record gets out, until the fans get hold of it and inject not only their own meaning, but their involvement in each song can change our meaning to that song as well. I don’t think they ever fully realise that. So I’m excited for the record to come out for a lot of reasons, but that one in particular, to see what songs they gravitate towards, and stuff like that.
CDM: Music is such an interesting art medium - things like books/film/TV are a one-way conversation, once it’s released it doesn’t change, but music does have the ability to change when it gets taken on tour, almost like a part two to the album.
TYLER: Yeah, that makes sense.
CDM: In ‘Leave The City’, Tyler you sing: “Last year I needed change of pace, couldn’t take the pace of change moving hastily, but this year though I’m far from home, in Trench I’m not alone.” Did you feel that feeling of not being alone on Wednesday night when you were face to face with your fans for the first time in just over a year?
TYLER: If you were sitting in front of me, you would see me start to smile as you asked that question, so yes, absolutely. I mean, that first show here in London, it was a complete mystery about whether this was going to make sense and whether it was going to work. And it did, it made sense - I can’t wait to continue to play these songs live.
CDM: Tyler, can we please take a moment to appreciate Josh’s drumming on ‘The Hype’ - it’s just SO good. How often are you just in awe of Josh’s talent?
TYLER: Uhhh, the only time I’m not in awe of Josh’s drumming is when I’m eating, because I’m solely focused on that. So in between every meal is mostly when I become in awe of Josh’s drumming.
CDM: So there’s just a small gap in the awe-ness?
TYLER: Yeah, a very small gap.
OUR FAVOURITE SONG ON ‘TRENCH’ IS…
CDM: The bridge in ‘The Hype’ is huge-sounding. What inspired the production behind that?
TYLER: I think that song in particular, I wanted to go back to-- When I was a bit younger, maybe even in grade school, just some of the production of that song reminded me of that. But also, lyrically addressing who I was when I was a bit younger, and what I wish I would’ve heard. That song particularly is kind of talking about the difference between an internal pressure and an external pressure. A lot of the things that I write about come from wrestling with an internal pressure, but there are those external pressures of the world around us that can be addressed as well, and that song particularly addresses those in a way that-- Just an encouragement to keep going, to let things roll off your back that deserve to be put aside.
CDM: I love the line, “It might take some friends and a warmer shirt / But you don’t get thick skin without getting burnt,” in ‘The Hype’. What other aids do you recommend for protecting one’s self from getting caught up in the hype machine?
TYLER: That’s a good question. But man, hearing you say those lyrics back, those are some really good lyrics. <laughs>
JOSH: I’m personally in awe of the lyrics.
TYLER: Yeah! Why haven’t you asked Josh how much in awe he is of me? Come on.
CDM: That’s my last question, just so you know.
TYLER: Okay, we’ll hold onto it then. But I don’t know, I’d have to think about it, I feel like I have to follow up [the question] with something super poetic. I think the community in which a live show is set, or a fanbase, kind of feels like that [aid] - that place is a good place to be, especially when it’s safe and accepting, which I think that our fans are pretty incredible at creating a safe and accepting space for people to enjoy the art that we’re making. I’m really proud of them, and look up to them in that way.
HOW WE FEEL ABOUT THE RELEASE OF ‘TRENCH’…
CDM: “I created this world / to feel some control,” you sing in ‘Bandito’. Do you feel a power over the world you created, and the feelings and parts of yourself that live there now? Did writing the album give you the control?
TYLER: Yeah, I guess. The lyric by itself kind of feels a little cocky or confident, but really, inside of the song, it’s a moment where, if anything, it’s admitting that the majority of the time you feel like there is no control. I think that’s something special inside of creating art, and writing songs, is that you do have control of that - and that has, in a sense, filled me with a sense of purpose, and it’s been very helpful for me, and in a way was encouraging other people to do their own version of that, because I’ve found a lot of strength in building something that is mine, that I have control of in a positive way.
CDM: As promised, the last question is for you Josh. How often in awe of Tyler are you?
JOSH: That’s a great question. I would say it’s pretty often whenever I’m eating, I’m pretty in awe of Tyler. But I’m eating more than I'm not eating, so pretty much all the time.
TYLER: So every time I’m not eating, you’re eating?
CDM: Do you guys just have one communal food bowl, that you pass between yourselves?
TYLER: It’s a trough. <laughs> Our new record, ‘Trough’. <laughs>
Twenty One Pilots’ album ‘Trench’ is out now - click here to purchase and listen to ‘My Blood’ below…