Nominated for four awards, including Album of the Year, at the inaugural Alternative Press Music Awards that were held here over the summer, twenty one pilots certainly made an impression at the event. During its performance, singer Tyler Joseph climbed to the top in a daredevil stunt. So was it rehearsed? “No,” says drummer Josh Dun in a recent phone interview. The band performs tonight at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. “Tyler will surprise me sometimes and climb. It sometimes freaks me out a bit. I sit there and play and silently pray for him. It’s sometimes just in the moment. It worked out pretty well. He’s still here and alive.”
Dun joined the Columbus-based band in 2011, after it had already been around for two years. He plays on the group's latest album, last year's Vessel. Bands that dabble in so many different genres (the group has alternately been described as rap rock and indietronica) get lost in the shuffle. But these guys are the exception as songs such as the piano-driven hip-hop number “Car Radio” and the poppy “Migraine” are so distinctive.
“Personally, I grew up listening to all sorts of different types of music,” says Dun. “A lot of people in our generation are the same way. I’ve heard things that try to incorporate those elements and it’s rare that it sounds good. I’m aware of that. There’s a line between two crazy different worlds. One side is very safe side of songwriting and one is very artistic. If you’re too far on either side of those, it’s not going to work. If you’re somewhere close to that line, you could have something that’s good. If it was only up to us and we didn’t care what anyone thought, we’d be changing styles and tempos a lot more frequently. You can’t get too crazy. A lot of that comes from us growing up and listening to all those things and realizing that people do get bored.”
Joseph actually started rapping simply because he found that the poems he’d written were so long, he couldn’t squeeze them into the songs. Rapping made it possible for him to maximize the word count.
“He started out more writing poetry,” Dun says. “He was trying to sing it and it turned out coming out like rap. He was self-conscious about it for a while. His little brother Zac loved it and encouraged him to keep doing it. He finally decided to give it a try and has been doing it ever since.”
Not that the band plays straight-up hip-hop. The folk-y “House of Gold” was written on ukulele.
“I think when Tyler wrote that, we were at a friend’s house on our college campus,” Dun explains. “He just bought it and was trying to figure out how to play it and what the chords were. I didn’t see him for an hour. He said he just wrote a song. It just started with one chord. He ended up finishing it a little later. At that time, I hadn’t heard anything on the radio with a ukulele. It was fun for us to chase that idea of recording a song with a ukulele that was bought at a used shop for $100.”
It’s encouraging that the band has had so much success without making any compromises, something that Dun says the group doesn't take lightly as it starts to write songs for a highly anticipated follow-up album.
“We had no idea the band would become successful,” he says. “As we go on and get to play shows and seeing that some of these songs are resonating is crazy for us and very encouraging as we’re about to record our second national release. That’s kept in mind as we write the new songs.”