The word ‘anthem’? The word ‘millennial’? I wasn’t thinking about any of that stuff. I was thinking about my brother and our relationship now and our relationship when we were growing up. He was my only friend for a big part of my life. I don’t think that’s a generational thing — I think my dad relates to that song as much as I do.”
For a duo that is about to embark on their EMØTIØNAL RØADSHØW WØRLD TØUR, their reflection on 2015
BLURRYFACE‘s “Stressed Out,” their first huge hit, is a cause for consideration.
“Now we’re insecure, and we care what people think.”
Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun make up the Twenty One Pilots duo. They formed in Columbus, Ohio in 2009. The group’s name comes from the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller. The plot is about a man who sends 21 WWII pilots faulty plane parts in order to financially better his business, causing their deaths. He must decide how to move forward, to confess or not, and the play teeters between the moral decision of what is right and what is easy. It inspired Joseph to name the band after the play’s theme. He turned down a basketball scholarship to Otterbein University to focus on his music.
The original Twenty One Pilots lineup originally consisted of three people: Joseph, Nick Thomas, and Chris Salih. Joseph met Dun at an Ohio State campus show that Dun attended. Their friendship fiercely formed due to a similar musical objective for their future careers. After a year of close friendship, they began playing music together.
“…But now we’re stressed out.”
There is no aspect of their music that isn’t purposefully executed. Therefore, when listeners associate “Stressed Out” as a millennial-only track, it doesn’t sit well. Whether this is because millennial holds a negative connotation, there’s more of a personal flair behind their chart-topping hit than an umbrella theme to a generation.
However, the current age of young people do completely vibe with this song. Maybe it is also relatable to a Generation X or Baby Boomer. Yet, it holds a stiff resilience with millennials because the problems that “Stressed Out” delves into permeates most lives. Whether Twenty One Pilots meant it intentionally or not.
This is why this quirky, almost eerie duo is actually stunningly relevant to the millennial generation. Though they defy mainstream, pop norms, Twenty One Pilots send a message that kids agree with. “Out of student loans and treehouse homes, we all would take the latter…” It digs into the worries and insecurities that have root in modern day society. Mounds of student debt and the increase of anxiety in young adults is an ever-present issue. Twenty One Pilots took this, even in an unintentional form, and weaved a radio hit out of very abnormal radio material. This is because they speak to a huge platform of kids going through these exact same issues, and that bond is strong.
“My name’s BlurryFace, and I don’t care what you think.”
Blurryface, a character created by Dun, is an example of their wrangle with insecurities.
Blurryface is this guy who represents everything I’m insecure about. Honestly, we all know that we’re insecure about certain things, but what we don’t totally understand is how those insecurities affect our day-to-day life. So it’s helped me give my insecurities a seat at the table, so I can stare across at him and give him a name and face and personality.” –Paper Magazine interview May 2015
The invention of an alternate character that narrates songs’ stories and plays an active role in albums is fascinating. Artists have alter-egos when performing, some with names. However, a personality in music is something that elevates Twenty One Pilots. A huge portion of the current generation struggles with insecurities. This is heavily due to outside influences due to social media, the Internet, and the effects of those mediums. Many battle anxiety, depression, or another related issue that hinders one’s ability to feel confident and happy. For Twenty One Pilots to name a character that embodies vulnerability and self depreciation is an iconic move. It is the reason they are relatable even with masks and paint on Joseph’s face during performances. Though their shows are highly performative and character-driven, it only excites instead of takes away from the “I get you” message in their songs.
Since their origination in Columbus, OH, the duo has risen to chart-topping fame. However, they still hold a place for their home town. Joseph has a home in Columbus with his wife, Jenna, and Dun still frequents his family’s home often. They remain humble and aware of fame’s short spark, which in turn, keeps them centered.
Their 2017 EMØTIØNAL RØADSHØW WØRLD TØUR U.S leg begins January 17th and goes until March 5th. Twenty One Pilots will then do a short leg in Australia and New Zealand in late March and early April. They are touring with Judah and the Lion, and it is the second large tour since the release of
BLURRYFACE. As the two have remarked during interviews, they want to put on a show for their audiences always, so a concertgoer never really knows what to expect. What a concertgoer can expect is a quirky, intense, entertaining performance that leaves one curious for more. Below is a highlight video after their 2014 world tour, before the radio got a hold of Twenty One Pilots, to see a little piece of what a world tour is like on autoPilot.