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Twenty One Pilots: Not so stressed out

With five Grammy noms, this could be the two-piece Ohio-bred band's biggest year yet.
Jabari Jacobs

Twenty One Pilots’ two broody hit tracks, “Stressed Out” and “Heathens” (of “Suicide Squad” fame), haunted airwaves and earned the duo five nominations at this year’s Grammy Awards — including the elusive Record of the Year. The Columbus, OH natives — Tyler Joseph, singer, and Josh Dun, drums — shift genre gears repeatedly on their 14-track LP, “Blurryface,” making them a tough act to nail down, with threads of bouncy pop-punk and emotional electronica woven throughout Joseph’s cheeky and occasionally neurotic rhymes. The longtime friends are headed on tour before setting their sights on the festival season, a marathon, rather than a sprint, to promote the critically acclaimed album. Dun calls from Ohio before the tour jumps off for its first stateside date in Providence, RI.

You’re coming up with five Grammy nominations this year — do you remember where you were when you found out?

I woke up at home and had text messages from friends in the industry. They were the ones who told me, and I’ll be honest, I’ve never done this before with the Grammys. I’m not educated in how it works, and I didn’t know if [the nominations] were a public thing, or even real. [Laughs] I quickly realized that it was, in fact, real, and people knew about it. I don’t even know how to describe that feeling. It was a proud moment for us as a band, and knowing what the people who listen to us are capable of doing. Making that much noise has gotten us recognized to this point.

Touring is grueling, but now you also have the impending awards coming up, too. Are you finding yourself stressing or obsessing about it at all?

I put [the nominations] aside when I’m thinking about going on stage every night. At this point, walking in front of that many people every night is such a surreal task in itself. I don’t think it’s a natural feeling to walk in front of that many people and be expected to entertain, but it’s my favorite thing to do. Then, before and after the show, I sit in a dark, quiet room with a candle going and some soft music. I like that dynamic of contrast — feeling very isolated to being in front of thousands of people. It’s that surging of emotions that rids us of our dark thoughts and anxiety.

Because you brought it up, I have to ask. What kind of candles do you burn?

[Laughs] So there’s this spot here in Columbus called the Candle Lab. I have way too many candles from there. You can create your own scents or pick from what they’ve got. I’ve got all sorts and I light them up in hotel rooms and dressing rooms.

At this point you must be tired of talking about genre-jumping, but I want to know, how much consideration do you give that when putting together a tracklist and order of an album?

Honestly, with the order of the tracks, the main thing we’re thinking about is how it’ll translate live. We were born into the industry by playing live shows, so everything we had for a while was like, “What does that look like live? How does that experience translate to people in the audience?”

When we finished “HeavyDirtySoul,” we were like, “That’s a show intro. So that needs to be the first track on the album.” I think the songs flow into each other to translate live for us. Even before an album is done recording, we’re like, “OK, Tyler needs to play bass on this song and this song, so let’s put them next to each other so the transition [on stage] is easier.” There’s a lot of that type of conversation and intention when deciding which song goes where.

 

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