Twenty One Pilots: From Bedroom Gigs To ‘The Biggest Band In The World’

The Ohio band has paid their dues, and now, as MTV Artists To Watch, are gunning for global domination.

Twenty One Pilots have one rather simple mission for 2013: global domination.

“Well, one of our goals for this year is to be a headliner, a ‘hard ticket’ as they say. We have the option to go out and be an opening band for a more established act, which obviously helps you gain fans and get exposure, but we’re looking forward to being a headliner,” singer Tyler Joseph explained. “And our dream? We want to be the biggest band in the world.”

And if you think Joseph even blinked while saying this, well, then you probably don’t know Twenty One Pilots (though given that they’re the first pick in MTV’s Artists To Watch campaign, that might change soon): The dynamic duo — it’s Tyler on vocals, piano and keyboards, and manic masher Josh Dun behind the drumkit — hail from Columbus, Ohio and have clawed their way out of the epicenter of Buckeye Nation thanks to their mix of supreme confidence and a positively killer live show, one that brims with energy, acrobatics and theatrics and leaves both men absolutely spent each night. Of course, they’d have it no other way.

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“We came from a place where we had to get people’s attention. That started from playing in these bars, playing in these clubs, and making sure that even the three people who were there remembered us,” Joseph said. “And now that we do have people’s attention a little more, that aspect hasn’t changed about us; we’re still going to make sure you remember us when you come see us play.

“We’ve done everything. There was an older couple that had us come to their house, and we played in their bedroom one time, and there’s the small clubs that people just go to hang out, they don’t want to listen to music anyway,” he continued. “And there’s a lot of theatrical moments to our set, and a lot of people would see those moments, and they’d think we were just trying to make some sort of statement; but the truth is, we had to do that stuff in the beginning, just to get people to turn around. It’s tough to compete with $3 pitcher night.”

And while their shows pack plenty of punch, what’s also earned Twenty One Pilots a fervent following is the deeply personal streak that runs through Joseph’s lyrics. It’s readily apparent on their new album, Vessel, which features songs like “Holding On To You” and “Guns For Hands,” tracks that tackle tough subjects and serve as a cathartic release for the band’s fans. And, not surprisingly, given his lofty ambitions, Joseph said that’s been TOP’s mission all along: to harness the power of music and, hopefully, help save some lives.

“Obviously music has helped me personally, and as much as I want to give back, it’s not the main motivation. The main motivation is interacting every night with these people that are hurting; and it’s not just kids, we get approached by all ranges of ages,” he said. “Josh and I, we’re able to go out and talk to people after the show, and we get to hear a lot of stories. We get to hear how our music has been affecting someone personally, and that’s the stuff that fuels you. That’s the stuff that justifies why you’re in that city that night … and talking to people every night and hearing their story is what inspires us.”

Head to MTV’s Artists To Watch page for more on our picks for 2013