twenty one pilots’ Tyler and Josh: The songs that changed our lives

They make all kinds of music themselves, but what sort of stuff do Tyler and Josh actually listen to in their spare time?

twenty one pilots’ Tyler and Josh: The songs that changed our lives
Emily Carter
Ashley Osborn

The impact that twenty one pilots have on fans' lives with their heartfelt honesty is incomparable. But what inspired Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun? Donkey Kong, apparently...

The first song that I remember hearing…Barbara Streisand – Hello, Dolly! (1969)

Tyler: “I don’t know how old I was, but my mom and dad would sing it – poorly, in fact! ‘(Impersonates Louis Armstrong) You’re still glowin’ / You’re still crowin’ / Mmm…’ My dad would do the growly voice and my mom would do Barbra Streisand.”

The song that reminds me of my childhood…Donkey Kong Country – King K. Rool (Final Boss) (1994)

Tyler: “Oh my gosh, I love that song with all my heart! I spent a long time on that game, and I still play it every once in a while. When I hear it now, I can see the living room of my house, and we’re trying to get the last few games in before my mom tells my brother to go to bed. That’s my childhood.”

The song that made me want to be in a band…twenty one pilots – Trees (2011)

Tyler: “I was writing songs before I realised that I wanted to be in a band. I definitely wrote a song like Trees before I even fathomed actually playing it in front of people.”

The first song I moshed and crowd-surfed to…Mutemath – Odd Soul (2011)

Tyler: “It was when they played the Newport Music Hall in Columbus. I went nuts for that show, and honestly at that point you’re not really listening to the song – you’re just trying to stay alive and not suffocate (laughs).”

The first twenty one pilots song I ever heard on the radio…twenty one pilots – Holding On To You (2013)

Josh: “I was in downtown Columbus, for the Fourth of July, and I rode my bike down there to meet with some friends for the fireworks. But I got down there and there’s, like, 200,000 people…”

Tyler: “No, dude, there’s more! There’s, like, 1.5 million people.”

Josh: “So, there’s a lot of people (laughs). I get down there and realise that, because there’s so many people, I have no cell service. So I was just like, ‘Well, I’m gonna watch the fireworks by myself.’ So I just put my bicycle down and sat by it, and the radio station in Columbus – there’s a station that plays a playlist for the fireworks, and everyone tunes in – played that song, and it was the first time I’d ever heard it on the radio. Even though I was by myself, I felt like there were people turning around surrounding me that knew it, and it was one of the weirdest things. Even now it still feels kinda weird, but it’s really cool.”

Tyler: “It’ll never not be weird!”

Josh: “As a teenager playing music and hoping for your band to make it, you maybe sort of imagine hearing your song on the radio, but that’s a big deal.”

My favourite song to play live…twenty one pilots – Jumpsuit (2018)

Tyler: “Jumpsuit has taken the top spot pretty quickly. It’s exactly what I saw in my head when I was writing it – I knew it was going to be at the top of [Trench] and the top of the show. I think the song gives off the energy that is required to be injected into a room that can sustain for the course of an entire set. It’s a very useful song.”

The song that I listen to when I’m down…Sigur Rós – Fljótavík (2008)

Tyler: “I listen to a lot of Death Cab [For Cutie] when I’m down.”

Josh: “Yeah, I like to wallow in it when I’m sad. Or Sigur Rós. I like Fljótavík, and there’s naked guys on the cover, so that’s cool (laughs). It feels like it’s a soundtrack to my thoughts…”

Tyler: “Yeah, Sigur Rós songs always lack a bit of a set tempo or structure – and that’s always the most difficult type of song to write. But a lot of times, what you’re going through and the emotions that you’re wanting to enhance while listening to a song feels best when there are no boundaries or guidelines in the actual sonics that are coming through to you. That’s what Sigur Rós do so well.”

The song that I listen to when I’m happy…Death Cab For Cutie – Bixby Canyon Bridge (2008)

Tyler: “Bawitdaba by Kid Rock. We’ve listened to that a lot (laughs).”

Josh: “We keep bringing up Death Cab, but we listen to them a lot, too. Bixby Canyon Bridge is a good one.”

Tyler: “‘(Starts singing loudly) The Bixby Caaaanyon Bridge!’ That’s a good chorus for when you’re driving and you get to a stoplight, perfectly timed with when the bass and drums drop!”

The song that I’ll listen to for the rest of my life...Mario – You Should Let Me Love You (2004)

Tyler: “Look, it’s a good song, okay?!”

Josh: “I’ll say Trees by twenty one pilots…”

Tyler: “Wow. Thanks, man.”

Josh: “Does playing Trees every night make me sick of it? No!”

Tyler: “This guy can tour for years and years and years, and never wear out…”

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