Words: Emily Carter (@emilycrtr)
From their tent-busting performances at Reading & Leeds in the summer, to the numerous awards they’ve been picking up around the world and the countless hits accumulating across YouTube, twenty one pilots’ fanbase is growing at a phenomenal rate – and with very good reason. And it’s not just the Skeletøn Clique’s lives that Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun are affecting – it’s the lives of the Kerrang! staff, too…
Whether you were made aware of twenty one pilots when they hit the road with the likes of Paramore and Fall Out Boy, or you only recently heard Heathens on the Suicide Squad soundtrack and delved in from there, we’ve all got a different story of how we became a fan of the extraordinary Ohio duo.
For me, I was recommended twenty one pilots a couple of years ago (I’m more than happy to admit I was kinda late to the party, given they technically formed in 2009…), so I stuck the Car Radio video on YouTube. Before I even got to the chorus, I (wrongly) decided that this weird, whiney rappy-thing wasn’t for me. But the video was compelling – this awkward, intense guy sat on the floor in a corner shaving his head – so I stuck it out.
By the end, having realised that the car radio in question was a metaphor for something much deeper, and getting my first glimpse at twenty one pilots’ electrifying live show later in the clip, I was totally and utterly hooked. Obsessed, in fact. I bought third album Vessel instantly, and it took no time at all for me to fall head-over-heels in love with their music.
The first thing that drew me to twenty one pilots was Tyler’s lyrics. On Vessel, I discovered Migraine addressed mental health, but hidden within the concept of a headache; Guns For Hands’ message was about suicide, delivered over the most happy-sounding beat possible; Holding On To You emphatically encouraged fans to fight self-doubt, with Tyler telling the listener to, ‘Take the pain / Ignite it / Tie a noose around your mind / Loose enough to breathe fine and tie it’.
Last year, once the band’s explosive, attention-grabbing album Blurryface was released, it became clear that this incredibly powerful insight into Tyler’s mind was only going one way: forward. Opener Heavydirtysoul hears the frontman rapping, ‘This is not rap / This is not hip-hop / Just another attempt to make the voices stop’, Ride admits, ‘I’ve been thinking too much / Help me’, and stunning album closer Goner ends with the words, ‘Though I’m weak / And beaten down / I’ll slip away / Into the sound…’.
All heavy words, but ones that have helped thousands of fans worldwide – myself included – tackle important issues and emotions going on in their head. twenty one pilots are arguably the first band since My Chemical Romance to have such a profound impact like that, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most crucial reasons listeners have latched onto them in the way that they have.
The first time I ever got to see twenty one pilots was when they headlined London’s tiny Boston Music Room (May 14, 2015) just before Blurryface came out. Singing (or, rather, yelling) such emotional, moving words back at the band with a room of fans doing exactly the same was such a cathartic experience, and it cemented my love for them even further.
Not only that, but I’ve never seen a band make that kind of spectacle in such a confined setting, with multiple wardrobe changes and carefully thought-out tricks at every turn. Who else makes that much effort to put on a show so grand in such a small venue? Exactly. And these kind of performances are never just reserved for the odd gig here and there – twenty one pilots’ live show is a real event night in, night out.
Since the release of Blurryface, the twenty one pilots’ trajectory has completely rocketed, and it’s an absolute joy to witness. Their message is ultimately one of positivity and fighting the good fight (a personal favourite lyric of mine will always be Car Radio’s ‘Peace will win and fear will lose’), and nothing makes me prouder than seeing that mentality being projected further every single day.
Not only that, but Tyler and Josh are affecting all types of audiences: the variety of ages, shapes and sizes enjoying their recent Ally Pally mega-shows was a brilliant thing to see. twenty one pilots’ music isn’t limited to just one type of person – it’s for everyone – and the welcoming attitude of the super-passionate members of the Skeletøn Clique is resounding proof of that.
So, yes, while twenty one pilots’ recent level of success is pretty mind-blowing, the number of people’s lives Tyler and Josh are changing – much like my own – makes perfect sense.
Long may it continue.
Now I’ve told you how this band changed my life, I want to know how twenty one pilots changed yours – let Kerrang! know in the comments, or over at [email protected]!
Don’t forget to find out the 12 Reasons twenty one pilots Are Taking Over The World: