Twenty One Pilots on the Coolest Part of 'Blurryface' Going No. 1: 'Seeing People's Confused Reactions'

Smallz & Raskind
Twenty One Pilots photographed on Oct. 15, 2015 at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

BLURRYFACE
1 Week On The Billboard 200

Twenty One Pilots are actually two guys on a big stage. Tyler Joseph, 27, sings, raps, plays the piano and plinks a ukulele. Josh Dun, 27, drums, crowd-surfs and crowd-surfs while playing drums. During the last three years, the alt duo’s manic performances became its lure -- festival spectacles that drew fans away from other stages. “Their live shows just got bigger and bigger,” recalls Mike Easterlin, GM of Fueled by Ramen. “Every kid who came back brought 10 friends, not just one.” In turn, those friends bought Vessel, the band’s 2013 LP, which peaked at No. 48 on the Billboard 200 but since has averaged weekly sales of 2,000 copies, according to Nielsen Music. All those gradual discoveries crescendoed in May, when the group released fourth album Blurryface -- and suddenly a Midwestern synth-emo band was No. 1, selling 134,000 albums in the first week.

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JOSEPH Blurryface was recorded on the road and very much inspired by our live show.

EASTERLIN I was getting four songs at a time. Every new batch kept getting better.

PETE GANBARG, head of A&R, Atlantic: We were doing our in-office handicapping: “Do you think we can go top 10?” Then it was, “We might be able to go top five.” Then, selling that amount the first week? Whoa.

 

CHRIS WOLTMAN, manager: Not only was it a No. 1 album, but it also was an extremely strong No. 1 -- the kind that makes our industry stop, pause and say, “What actually is happening here?”

DUN You know what was almost cooler than being No. 1? Seeing people’s confused reactions to our being No. 1.

Billboard Year in Music 2015

This story originally appeared in the Dec. 19 issue of Billboard.