In its purest form music acts as a conduit of self-expression that's free from the conventions of society and that spirit of fearlessness lies at the core of twenty one pilots, a group whose musical vision is completely their own. Over the past few years the duo of frontman Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun have built a hardcore following that seems primed to reach a fever pitch with the release of their Fueled By Ramen debut Vessel.
"The first song I ever played on the piano was my own. I never took any lessons," Joseph responds when asked about his musical background. "I looked at the piano and realized that music was a way of being able to say something; the phrase I always use is that 'music is a vessel' and that's where the album title comes from." Before long Joseph was writing and recording his own demos in his basement and twenty | one | pilots was born.
The Columbus, Ohio-based band started out like most acts but instead of aimlessly touring they concentrated on their hometown base and before long they were selling out huge local venues like Newport Music Hall despite the fact they only had two self-recorded releases available. "Every show we play our hearts out because where we come from you have to grab people's attention and make sure that they never forget you," Joseph says. "In our case we were able to build up a fanbase - one that walked with us to grab the attention of the music industry outside of our hometown eventually opening up the doors that have led to so many opportunities to take our music around the world on what is an amazing journey".
The duo's ability to build up this local base was confirmed when the band sold out the 2,300-capacity LC Pavilion last April to announce that they were signing to Fueled By Ramen, after being courted by over a dozen labels. That's right, there was no fancy marketing or gimmickry that lead to twenty one pilots' rise, it was based solely on the organic relationship they cultivated with their fans via their music, live performances and online content. "To our fans we say we never got our big break, you created our big break. Thank you," Joseph says.
For Vessel the band entered a real studio for the first time ever with Grammy nominated producer Greg Wells (Weezer, Adele) to craft an album which merges elements of hip-hop, indie rock and punk in a way that's so seamless that you'll be rapping along one minute and caught up in a lush orchestral line on a song like "Car Radio " in the next minute. "We're not trying to consciously do something different but we've just never emulated any other bands" Joseph explains. "We've never fit into any particular scene so we figured we would just make our own."
From the impossibly catchy groove of "Semi-Automatic" to the high-energy hip-hop of "Holding On To You" and the ambient electronic experimentation of "Trees," Vessel is a complex collection of songs that shows why twenty one pilots are the latest addition to Fueled By Ramen's extremely selective roster. "'Ode To Sleep' is a song I'm really proud of because it's really odd when it comes to structure; it challenges the listener," Joseph explains. "Ultimately I think those are the types of moments that make our fans really connect to our music."
Sounding so unique was never an obstacle for twenty one pilots early on, in fact it has been a trait that has endeared them to their fans. "I don't think there are a lot of bands that can play a hardcore show one night or a hip-hop show the next night and know that it will work," Dun explains, adding that the band's live performances have always been integral to the act. "We want our fans to leave all of their problems at the door and immerse themselves in the music, the moment, when we perform live," he adds. "In the end it's a giant release for everybody."
"We went from not having a glimmer of hope to all of the sudden having the opportunity to leave Columbus and make a record and that's something that we're never going to take for granted," Joseph summarizes. "The songs on Vessel represent who we are and now we get to take this collection of songs, this body of work, to the world," he continues. "It is not a short term thing for us, we're planning on being around for a long time."
Tapped as a '2013 Artist To Watch' by the likes of MTV, Billboard and VIBE, DELONG has been generating a strong buzz with "Global Concepts," the first single from JUST MOVEMENT. Its video made its debut across many various MTV channels including AMTV, MTV Hits, mtvU, MTV.com, MTV.com/music and mtvU.com. At radio, "Global Concepts" was first heard on the airwaves of WEQX/Albany, KROQ/Los Angeles Locals Only, 98.7′s Close to Home and KCRW over the summer of 2012. Since then, the single has gained great momentum making SiriusXM Alt Nations Top 18 Countdown, #8 on WEQX's Best of 2012, now amongst the Top 5 most played at KNDD/Seattle, support from Live 105/San Francisco and much more. Overseas, "Global Concepts" had continued to gain support on Triple J in Australia and it is also being played on XFM and BBC1 Radio, where it was named Zane Lowe's "Next Hypetrack."
The album itself showcases DELONG as a profoundly gifted singer/songwriter who raises questions about identity and spirituality. Those two elements join together on Just Movement, a dazzling collection of dance beats, pop hooks and thought-provoking musings that could very well be the soundtrack for 2013.
"The whole album is sort of a thesis statement for my philosophy," says the Los Angeleno via Seattle who wrote, produced, mixed and performed the entire album himself. What is that philosophy? "The first song ['Just Movement'] is the most basic kind of thesis statement," he explains. "For me, when you strip away all the human moral elements of a person, you're left with the fact everything is just moving, the whole universe is vibrating in different ways, moving around. Then the rest of the album is trying to figure out what to do with that and it's kind of a play on words too. 'Just Movement' is not only about the philosophical idea, but also 'Just Movement,' the idea of dance, that's kind of the primal response to music."
On the live front, DELONG is a one-man band who uses MIDI interfaces, a full drum set, guitar, drum pads, keyboards, laptops and game controllers, looping his music live to fuse electronic dance beats with striking melodies and lyrics with emotional heart. His charismatic live performance has caught the attention of many influential promoters, landing him performance slots at such major festivals as Ultra Music Festival, Coachella, Governors Ball, SXSW and Popscene SF this spring.
I started rapping "professionally" about 7 years ago, that included booking my own tours, sleeping on the floors of people I didn't know, bathing in public restrooms, and accidentally kicking off a feminist revolution in Romania. I was taught how to rap by way of Project Blowed in South Central Los Angeles, it had a very "8 mile" vibe and when I got booed off stage I would come back next week a better rapper. They taught me how to paint my nails, rap with stage presence, and fight for the right to party. At the time I was in and out of homelessness which I pretended was camping, I stayed hungry in all senses of the word and somehow found my way. For the past few years I've somewhat transcended out of underground hip hop and now reside in musical purgatory, a place without genre where people try to label you themselves. I am in fact the "black guy" rapping on the Skrillex songs. Don't mind the pale skin and breasts coming in short at 5'0 tall, I've somehow managed to stay true to my roots.
Now we pull up to what I'm currently doing, I released a mixtape called C.U.L.T. a few months back, it was about my life, peoples misconceptions, trying to box me in etc. We decided to rerealese it with two new songs on it, one's called "Made It" that was basically a freestyle about where I grew up and how I've finally "arrived" the other song's called "When I'm Gone". I was really moved by my fans (Cult kids) and how they've held me down through this whole wave, so I wanted to make them their own song. People always say "I love my fans, they're the reason I do this." Hate to break it to you but they're for sure lying, I love my fans but I do this because the alternative is a psych ward. The fact that I have fans is literally beyond my wildest dreams, I'm a kid who was never supposed to make it anywhere or do anything so I love the kids that feel the same and support me, we're in this together till the wheels fall off. C.U.L.T. Too Young To Die will be available as a free download on Tuesday 9/25
In its purest form music acts as a conduit of self-expression that's free from the conventions of society and that spirit of fearlessness lies at the core of twenty one pilots, a group whose musical vision is completely their own. Over the past few years the duo of frontman Tyler...