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Twenty One Pilots | Audacy Check In | 5.24.24

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Twenty One PilotsJosh Dun and Tyler Joseph joined host Brad Steiner for a special Audacy Check In at the Hard Rock Hotel New York to celebrate the release of their 2024 album, Clancy, upcoming tour dates, and more.

The duo’s new offering, Clancy, is named after the protagonist introduced on 2018's Trench, and marks the final chapter in Twenty One Pilots' intricate story told across multiple albums, beginning with the band's 2015 breakthrough, Blurryface. Throughout the four album series -- which also includes 2021’s Scaled and Icy -- everything from art details to music videos had been specifically chosen for a reason.

“The story, I guess it was a bit of a hybrid in the overall arc of it was written out from the beginning, but there were a lot of twists and turns inside of the journey that we made,” Tyler says. “I guess in a way, we were really inspired by our own fans. As the story was being told, there were certain details that came out of the story because of watching how people reacted to it and what they were drawn to.”

“We knew what we were gonna say and what we wanted to accomplish with the story,” he adds. “Basically, the album ‘Blurryface’ is a reference to a character in the story that we've been telling, who's kind of the antagonist. We find out his real name is Nico and he's constantly -- basically, the lead character of ‘Clancy’ is constantly hunted down by this character. A lot of details go into where they're from and how they got there, and I'm really excited to tell how it all ends -- and that's what this, this album is gonna do.”

The idea to build a world around their music, Tyler says, arose when he realized that inside of his and Josh’s common goal of making music together, there were “so many artistic opportunities, whether it's the colors you use to tell the story, the font that you use, the band name, the album title, the album cover…. So, where it just starts out as ‘I just wanna make music and maybe perform some of it in front of some people,’ you quickly realize, ‘Oh wait, there's a ton more opportunity to be creative other than just making the music.'”

“We have some awesome people on our team too,” Tyler adds. “They've been helping us on the creative side for a long time. Shout outs to our crew of creatives that help us. ‘We'll be like, OK, hold on, what is the weather supposed to be like in this world in the city of Dema?’ I’ll remember we established that, you know, it's cloudy here and there's a sound that happens at night -- there's a lot of details of the world that you create, and sometimes you need to be reminded of, ‘What was this character's motivation, and what were we trying to do again?’ To have a few people to help you kind of collect and archive all of the story that you've been telling has been really important.”

“Like Tyler said earlier,” Josh adds, being inspired by fans has been a major driving force, “because when we started, we were playing in clubs so we didn't know. We had kind of like visions and dreams of what this would turn into, but we didn't know how deep we could get into it. Even starting the story, it's kind of just like, ‘OK, well, I hope people care enough to look into the story.’ As time's gone on and we've seen people do like find things and understand things, then that gives us more freedom really to be able to expand on that and have different areas in which we can share those visuals.”

As far as intricate fan theories go, Tyler admits, “Sometimes we'll text each other, we'll see something where someone's theorizing… they spend a lot of time coming up with that theory, you want it to be right for them. So I would say, ‘Should we tell them that's not right?’ There have been times where we've wanted to jump in and be like, ‘It's close, but not right.’”

“I can't think of anything particularly that's made it in,” he says of the many fan theories that have evolved. “If anything, they brought a lot of clarity to who these characters were and what their motivations were.”

In celebration of the new release, Twenty One Pilots’ has plans to hit the road on The Clancy World Tour this summer, set to kick off in Denver, CO on August 15 and make stops across the U.S. and Canada before heading overseas to Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and finally ending with two nights at London’s O2 arena in May of 2025. 

“We've always talked about, when we write songs, it's hard not to imagine what it's gonna feel like to perform the songs live,” Tyler explains. “In a way, a lot of times the decision-making when you're writing the song can be impacted and influenced by the fact that it will happen live. So, I think I'm just really excited to play some of the new songs.”

“I've been to shows where an artist has a new project or a new album,” he says, “where I've felt a little disappointed in the show because the artist put so much emphasis on the new stuff that it almost felt like they were turning their back on some of the old stuff. We want to balance out what is kind of a delicate thing, which is the setlist: ‘How much of the new stuff do you put in? How much of the old stuff do you keep in?’ I was doing the math the other day, we've got over 90 songs that we've released. So to pick a set list out of there -- it's getting harder and harder each round. I guess it's hard for me not to just get excited about the new stuff, so I have to kind of remind myself that you got to balance it out.”

While breaking down some of the album’s lyrics, Joseph acknowledged, “We're so lucky to be here having done this for, you know, 12-plus years now and a lot has changed since we started doing it. We've personally changed… maybe live music is the thing that's changed the least. But the way that people listen to music has changed, the way that people share music has changed, what people are writing about in music has changed a lot. When I first started writing music, I didn't think anyone would hear it, so there was a honesty just naturally there that is hard to recreate, because now I know that if we write a song, people are going to hear it. Because people resonated with it early on, the honesty, I realized that honesty was really important.”

“So, we started writing songs honestly, hopefully that's at least how they were perceived and accepted. I do think that we now live in a time of music where culturally it's way more common, in a good way, for people to be writing about mental health and about their own personal struggles and what they're going through. That seems to be a part of our overall musical culture more than it was when we first started doing it,” he adds. “Because of that, I feel less inclined to articulate what a song is specifically because I think we all know, we're all familiar with the terminology of depression, and what it could mean, and how it could impact someone we know. As a culture, we're more aware of diagnosing it personally, or with someone we know. I feel comfort in that knowing that we're now in a culture that feels way more accepting of that conversation.”

Words by Joe Cingrana Interview by Brad Steiner

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