Twenty One Pilots are putting one of the biggest live shows in the world on right now. The US duo have just wrapped up their biggest Australian tour yet off the back of their new album Trench.
2015’s Blurryface awarded the band their biggest success yet, transforming them from a cult act into arena-filling megastars. Following up that kind of success can be daunting for most, but Twenty One Pilots relished in their new stardom and confidently returned with the highly conceptual Trench. Appropriately, their live show is the biggest they’ve ever put on. The bigger crowds have given them the chance to bring the Twenty One Pilots vision to life with theatrics, pyrotechnics and huge props.
Before they kicked off their Australian tour in Perth, we spoke to the band about the development of their live show, the dedication of their fans and the surprising success of their Suicide Squad hit ‘Heathens’.
Music Feeds: How’s the tour feeling? You’re about 30 shows in now.
Josh: Yeah just about. This is the first night of the Australian tour and I always say that going overseas and playing our music feels like it validates what we’re doing a little bit more. We’re not just driving around our state or country playing music, it feels more legit. We still wonder though because we’re on the other side of the world whether people here dig it.
Music Feeds: Last time, the fans in Australia were crazy for you guys. They were following you, meeting you at the airport, lining up for shows. Do you ever wonder whether you’ve done something to change that this time around?
Tyler: Maybe we smell worse and people don’t want to be around us [laughs].
Music Feeds: On our walk here, two girls told me they’d been queuing since 7am so I think you’ve still go plenty of people on side.
Josh: Really? Oh man.
Music Feeds: Is it a relief for you guys getting over the first leg of the tour and knowing that these new songs are translating from the studio to the live stage?
Tyler: Yeah I would say we’re very hands on with our live show all the way from set list to production to transitions. To put together the first tour in the States in a sense was starting from scratch. What’s the right setlist? How do we get from this place to this place? And the overall feel of each song. Plus all the production and the lights. We can still think back to when we were performing with just us. Now there has to be a lot more people on the same stage. So it was a daunting task but once we got the first leg over we can build on it. We don’t have to start from scratch. Two gigantic feats back-to-back is finishing a record and then designing the live show.
Music Feeds: You guys are very conceptual and narrative driven. Has the success from your last album opened up possibilities to bring that to the live show?
Tyler: Yes. We try to connect that as often as we can but it’s expensive. Something that we’ve always believed in, even with the money we’d make playing locally, we have a band account and that money was spent on the band. If you apply that same principle to what we’re doing tonight, we want to put on the best show we can. Every little thing up there is costing us money. On the business side of it there’s a decision to make. We could make more money just by putting on a show with little production but we just know that we have to rely on that philosophy we’ve had the whole time. We want to put the money back into the show so the fans keep coming back to see us.
Music Feeds: You’re so connected to the fans. I saw the bunker you recorded Trench in. Was it scary to go from connecting with all the fans on the road to being around no one?
Tyler: I would say that it was difficult just to shift into a new schedule of not touring. Our lives had been on the road for a solid seven years and then to take time off and not do anything. It took time to get used to that.
Music Feeds: Was there a restlessness at the beginning?
Tyler: I always preach that songwriting is an art form but it’s also a skill so if you want to be good you have to work at it. You won’t always be inspired when you work on songs, you have to force yourself to get better at what that is. Whether it’s lyrics or song structure. You can’t sit and wait for inspiration to strike because if you sit and wait for it and you haven’t cultivated the skill to execute then you’re going to miss out. You have to force yourself to get better at it.
Music Feeds: I love the idea of Trench being the middle point between A and B and that journey. Normally, you would’ve had Blurryface, a break, and then Trench a few years later but in the middle you had this huge hit with Heathens. Was that weird getting one of your biggest hits like that?
Tyler: Yeah that was just an exercise for me. I’d never written a song with a movie in mind and the ideas they threw my way I brushed off. I was expecting them not to like it. I was writing a song for a future record. I wanted it to be a Twenty One Pilots song the whole time and then when it ended up in the movie, we didn’t expect it to become a huge song but I listen back to it now and it’s just such a good song.
Twenty One Pilots finish up their Aus/NZ tour in Auckland this week. Their new album Trench is out now.