Where are Twenty One Pilots now? Well, chances are you’ve heard the Ohio duo on a radio station quite recently, you will hear the duo on a radio station sometime in the near future, or they may even be playing as you read this very line. The genre-fusing duo has managed to take a stranglehold on popular music at large, to this day racking up constant airplay on everything from alternative stations to top 40s. Seemingly overnight, Twenty One Pilots witnessed an astronomical level of growth that left the duo with tracks racking up well over a billion plays on Spotify alone, plus a wealth of award nomination and wins. Yet, the now Grammy Award–winning duo wasn’t always the massively successful household name that they are today. Before the sold-out arenas, the Grammy win, and superstardom, we saw the rising duo as stars in the making, presenting one of their earliest tours. Twenty One Pilots were undeniably Ones To Watch.
In charting the path of Twenty One Pilots from Ones To Watch to the infamous history-making duo, it’s difficult to choose a place to start. One could begin speaking about their unique and constantly evolving style that fuses together elements of electronic music, rap, pop, and rock, earning them comparisons to artists seemingly disparate as Eminem and Panic! At The Disco. Or perhaps one could begin with charting out their exponentially growing fan base, leading them from making a stir selling out local shows, to becoming a must-see festival staple, and eventually selling out arena shows all on their own. Wherever one may choose to start, it’s hard to argue against setting the opening of Twenty One Pilot’s story in the band’s birthplace of Columbus, Ohio.
Originally founded as a trio in 2009 during Tyler Joseph’s time Ohio State University, the band would reject the names Chill Coat and Bicycle Thief before settling on the moniker Twenty One Pilots, based on the Arthur Miller play, All My Sons. The following two years would see the trio go their separate ways, with the previous drummer inviting Josh Dun to take his place and thus, forming the Twenty One Pilots duo we know today. Dun and Joseph would take a guerilla approach with the band in the year to come, aggressively touring the Columbus Ohio area to the point where they were able to sell out the iconic Columbus’ Newport Music hall without any label backing. This, of course, would lead to the record label Fueled By Ramen taking notice of the duo’s steadily growing fan base and adding them to their roster in 2012 alongside artists such as Paramore and Panic! At The Disco.
Photo: Jabari Jacobs
The following section of Twenty One Pilot’s story reads like it was played at ten times speed, as the coming years would see the band grow from cult Ohio hit to international sensation. Working with Greg Wells, who was known for producing hits for Adele and Katy Perry, the band would release their first full-length studio album, 2013’s Vessel. The album would land itself on US’ Billboard 200, UK’s OCC, and fourteen other countries’ weekly charts. An indisputably phenomenal breakout entry into the music world at large, Twenty One Pilots had officially emerged and caught both ours and the world’s eyes. The remainder of the year would see the band fully hitting its stride. Following the release of Vessel, the duo made their late night debut on Conan, had two viral hits with “House of Gold” and “Car Radio,” and we geared up to present their 2013 autumn tour.
As the band continued on tour and Vessel grew with age, two things became readily apparent about Twenty One Pilots as a band. The duo had an irrefutable talent for both delivering electrically charged live shows and crafting high-energy and moving albums that never failed to contain at least one standout hit, “Car Radio” and “House of Gold” serving as prime examples of the latter on Vessel. The former would play into the band’s exponentially growing fan base, as word quickly traveled that a Twenty One Pilots show was an experience not to miss. Fans apparently weren’t the only ones to share and spread the sentiment, with the duo booked to play nearly every festival imaginable in 2014. This festival takeover only led to even more requests from cities for a proper Twenty One Pilots show of their own, which led to band’s first headlining tour, the Quiet is Violent World Tour.
At the time, it would have been seemingly impossible to imagine that this small local Ohio band who had experienced such rapid growth in a matter of three years would go on to reach even higher summits, yet that is exactly what happened. 2015 would see the release of Twenty One Pilot’s most successful album to date, Blurryface. The accolades Blurryface would earn are enough to constitute its own article. It would be the band first’s number 1 album on the Billboard 200, win Top Rock Album at the Billboard Music Awards along with winning the band Top Rock Artist, and the performance of its standout singles “Stressed Out” would take home the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance in 2017. The time in between the release of Blurryface and the subsequent years where the duo was showered with awards and praise would also see the release of “Heathens,” the leading single from the Suicide Squad Soundtrack and catalyst to one the duo’s most noticeable achievements to date.
Beyond all the accolades, universal praise, and accompanying fame, Blurryface and the release of the radio hit single “Heathens” had cemented Twenty One Pilots as a band that had officially made music history. The band will forever go down as the third rock band in history to have two charting singles in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100, preceded only by Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Despite the band’s worldwide level of fame and making music history all in the matter of a short few years, the duo has never for a second forgotten their roots. In June 2017, the band announced the Tour de Columbus, a series of five shows in their hometown of Columbus, Ohio, including the Newport Music Hall where it all began. In their hearts, Twenty One Pilots will always be the local Ohio band that gave every ounce of their being to those hometown shows that started it all. In the same vein, in our hearts, Twenty One Pilots will always be Ones To Watch.