Flight to Fame: The Story of Twenty One Pilots

Staff Writer: Kylee Jones

Music is something that speaks to the soul and bonds with your heart. It can convey emotions and combat depression. Music can have deep meanings that only the truest of fans will understand. The perfect example of this is Twenty One Pilots. This band, composed of 27-year-old singer Tyler Joseph and 28-year-old drummer Josh Dun, has quietly become the biggest band of the year without even the use of a guitar.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Tyler Joseph formed a band with his friends Nick Thomas and Chris Salih in 2009. Tyler came up with the band’s name while studying All My Sons, a play about a man who caused the death of twenty-one pilots in World War 2 when he sent them faulty airplane parts for the good of his business. Tyler says that this story of moral dilemma was the inspiration for the name of the band. They released their first album, dubbed “Twenty One Pilots” in 2009.

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(Album cover for “Twenty One Pilots”)

Nick and Chris left the band for personal reasons in mid-2011, which then led to the previous drummer for House of Heroes, Joshua Dun, to join. Their second self-release, Regional at Best, was released July 8, 2011 with the new lineup consisting only of the duo. Although many labels fought over the band, it was ultimately decided that they would sign to the Atlantic Records subsidiary label Fueled by Ramen.

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(Josh Dun [left] and Tyler Joseph [right] after performing a show)

They worked with Greg Wells, producer of Adele and Katy Perry, on their first album with their label. The album was released January 8, 2013, and was called Vessel. It reached No. 9 on the Digital Albums chart, No. 10 on the Alternative Albums Chart, and several other high numbers on other charts.

As the band began to grow in popularity, more and more people began to flock to their shows. The fans became known as “The Clique”, stemming from lyrics of Fairly Local, where it states “Even if my clique were to pick and the people were to vote, it’s the few, the proud, and the emotional”. This saying became a staple to the fans, who constantly use

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(Official symbol for “The Clique”)

In 2015, the band released their single “Fairly Local”. Their second single , “Tear in my Heart”, and its music video were released on April 5, 2015. On April 28th “Stressed Out”, the third single from the album, was released along with a music video. “Stressed Out” peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and number one on both Alternative Songs and Hot Rock Songs, and kick started their fame.

The band began their Emotional Roadshow Tour, which started in Cincinnati on May 31, 2016. The tour went through the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Australia. The tour ended on August 11, with their largest show ever, selling out Madison Square Garden two nights in a row. Tyler made a speech now known as the “We did it” speech, which thanked the entire community for all the support they had given them.

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(Twenty One Pilots performing “Trees” at Madison Square Garden)

Twenty One Pilots bring a mix of piano (sometimes an electronic keyboard or a keytar), synthesizer, drums (sometimes mixed with electronic drums), vocals, and occasionally the ukulele. Their songs are usually poetry-based (written by Joseph and Dun); Joseph has stated that when poetry is too long, he needs to start rapping to fit the lyrics in.

People typically have trouble affiliating the band to a specific genre to describe them, since they bridge so many. However, many fans (and themselves to a degree) have labeled their genre as Schizoid pop, a technically unofficial subgenre of pop. However, most people simply label them as Alternative.

According to the band, their purpose for making music is “to make people think”, as well as encourage them to find joy in life. Their songs are about becoming stronger, fighting depression, and other deep topics that most would tend to avoid. The songs tend to have a lot of personal meaning that the fans connect to, and draws them in to the music.


  1. Amber Alexander says:

    This is a fabulous piece of literature! Great read!

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