Given the success of the band’s last LP, 2013’s Vessel (and its breakthrough lead single ‘Car Radio’), it’s fair to say Blurryface was highly anticipated. Twenty One Pilots – completed by vocalist/ songwriter Tyler Joseph – are signed to a big-name label (Warner subsidiary Fuelled By Ramen), and it’s inevitable that the label would insist upon a similar level of commercial success. Never mind that though, because upon its release, Blurryface exceeded expectations.
“When we were about to release this record, the people around us who work with us were starting to make projections,” Dun says. “I kind of like to stay out of that frame of mind. The business side of it – as much as I am involved with it, at the end of the day, going on stage and playing my drums, that’s what I love the most. That being said, there are always conversations; our manager was like ‘I want us to try for a number one album,’ and then he was like, ‘here are some projections of what some other people think it might do.’ What I will say is that it’s already surpassed those projections.”
Indeed; not only did Blurryface reach number one in the Billboard charts, but the album also debuted at number 11 in the ARIA charts. For Dun, it took a little while before the significance of this achievement really sunk in. “I didn’t even know what a number 1 US record meant, and I kind of didn’t care that much,” he says. “But then as I sat with that and thought about it, what I realised was that there were actually people resonating with this and kind of investing in it and making it their own thing, and that to me is amazing. There are people out there who are dedicated to spending some money on iTunes or going into a store and picking up a copy or even streaming it. That means a lot to us.
“The first time Tyler and I ever hung out, we stayed up until probably 8am sharing with each other our visions and dreams, musically,” he adds. “We were both just so on the same page. We both shared [the idea] that this whole thing could be bigger than ourselves or could potentially reach a lot of people.”
Blurryface was put together in a bunch of studios around the US with a collection of producers, including Mike Crossey (who’s worked with such crossover acts as Jake Bugg, The 1975 and Gaslight Anthem), Ricky Reed (of pop-hip hop act Wallpaper) and Dr. Dre collaborator Mike Elizondo. Taking into account Dun and Joseph’s united creative vision, they weren’t going to let outsiders lead them astray.
“The first thing that we had out was really finished in Tyler’s basement and put on iTunes, because it’s just easy to do that,” Dun says. “Then we signed with a record label and they were like, ‘It’s time to go into an actual studio with a producer and work with professionals.’ That was a really scary thing for us, because we’re both very particular and kind of specific, even down to sounds that are generated from a computer or maybe the structure of a song.
“We worked with four or five different producers on this album,” he continues. “We walked in with the songs already close to where we wanted them. So from there, there are obviously ideas that a producer will bring us or talk about. [If we’re not feeling it], that can sometimes be an awkward conversation, but at the end of the day, it’s an album that we’re making and we’re putting out. There were some times where we would leave a studio and Tyler and I would have a lengthy conversation about a decision that was made that day and be like ‘We’re going to be playing this song at least for the next two or three years.’ Thinking about things from a live perspective, it was a nice look at that sort of moment. We want these songs to be exactly what we want, because we’re the one’s playing them.” Exactly right; there’d be nothing worse than spending years regretting a change that you didn’t really want to make. “We had a lot of good conversations with these producers and that got us to a place where these guys got to know what we were envisioning,” Dun says. “Then there’d be suggestions that they would bring up later that were a lot more geared towards what we wanted. It’s always just good to be honest when you’re dealing with your art.”
Blurryface is out now via Fuelled By Ramen.