Unleashing an audacious concoction of club jams, indie hip-hop and the kind of kooky eccentricities that can come only from arty college nerds, Twenty One Pilots have blazed a unique trail through the everything-is-in-play landscape that is post-Fall Out Boy emo pop. And with the January release of the album Vessel (produced by Grammy-nominated Greg Wells of Adele and OneRepublic fame), the duo is now prepared to make the leap from cult favorites to pop stardom.
Coming together in the mecca of All-American college towns (Columbus, Ohio), Twenty One Pilots started as a quartet but soon whittled themselves down to just Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. Between 2009 and 2011 the pair self-released two full-lengths, as well as a string of eye-catching viral videos (all of them produced by pal Mark Eshelman). Most importantly, they conquered the Midwest indie/emo scene with their action-packed and (at times) acrobatic performances. Singer and rapper Joseph is a lightning bolt of energy. One minute, he's banging away on his keyboard; the next, launching himself into the sweat-soaked audience (who are always more than willing to embrace their wiry hero). Eventually, the band's rabid, grass-roots following was impossible for the "bigs" to ignore. In early 2012, it earned them a contract with vaunted emo-pop imprint Fueled By Ramen, who quickly got them in studio, recording the music for what would become Vessel.
But beneath all the headlines-grabbing theatrics is a musical vision that is as tender and heartfelt as it is post-modern and recombinant. Sounding like a uniquely 21st-century fusion of Maroon 5's Adam Levine and Eminem (plus a half-dozen shots of espresso for added kick), Joseph frantically spits out the myriad thoughts knocking about his noggin, while Dun bashes his drum kit. Needless to say, there's a lot on the young man's mind, from sex and sleep to youthful insecurity and migraines. And it's exactly this kind of naked honesty that has endeared Twenty One Pilots to so many over the last few years.