When we catch up with Tyler Joseph, one half of alternative hip-hop duo Twenty One Pilots, it’s days after their MTV Video Music Awards performance and the weekend before the start of their U.S. tour.
The guys are promoting their new album “Blurryface,” which reached number one on the Billboard 200 chart and had multiple singles in the iTunes Top 10 the first few weeks after its May 18 release. It’s the busiest time in their lives, but Joseph talked with us at length about the darkness behind his lyrics and what we didn’t see on TV while watching the VMAs.
What goes into a VMA performance
Twenty One Pilots and A$AP Rocky nailed their VMA performance on the main stage, but Joseph says it almost didn’t happen. “MTV came to us and said we got to play the VMAs, but there was a catch—we had to perform with a particular artist,” Joseph says. “When they told us who the artist was, we thought long and hard about it and we decided [the collaboration] didn’t make sense so we said no. I don’t think anyone had ever said no to them before.” MTV came back to the duo and suggested A$AP Rocky and the guys said yes. But because of their European tour, they didn’t meet for the first time until just two days before the performance.
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“We rented out a rehearsal space to hash out our ideas and to be honest, the first six hours were not going well at all,” Joseph says. “We were not connecting creatively. Honestly, there was a moment when Rocky looked at each other, like, this is not going to work.” Of course, the guys made it happen in the end and it became one of the buzziest performances of the night.
One big reason for the duo’s success is the honesty behind their lyrics. On the new album, Joseph created a character, Blurryface, to represent his personal insecurities and struggles. “The character not only helped me write the record, but also to continue to perform it live,” he says. “I love [performing], but there’s also something that’s really hard about it, just the transparency and vulnerability.”
He says writing the record was emotionally exhausting: “When I was done, I felt completely drained, like everything I’ve ever wanted to say has been said.” But luckily for fans, that was not the case. In fact, he’s writing again and already thinking of the next record. “That voice that longs to say something important has come back to life,” he says.
If you go:
Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.
601 N. Christopher Columbus Blvd.
Sep. 12, 7 p.m.
Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
290 Northern Ave., 617-728-1600
New York City
Sep. 15 and 16, 7 p.m.
311 W 34th St., 212-279-7740
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence