twenty one pilots alternative press cover 384 2020
[Photo by: Lindsay Fishman]

It’s a very special time of year for Alternative Press. June marks 35 years of publishing our print magazine. For well over three decades, Alternative Press has been championing musicians who have consistently dared to change the status quo. For this notable anniversary, we’re giving it to the fans who have supported us. To that end, we are honored to feature an exclusive new cover story with twenty one pilots

This year, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun had a massive summer schedule planned. After Joseph spent some time at home with his wife and newborn daughter, he and Dun were preparing to set off on a European arena tour, followed by what was expected to be some of their biggest shows in Russia. It was going to be a fitting conclusion to the mysterious world they had created on Trench.

Read more: 10 things you probably didn’t know about twenty one pilots’ ‘Blurryface’ era

And then biology got in the way. With the coronavirus pandemic moving across the planet, the world’s touring bands were effectively shut down from their livelihoods. For twenty one pilots, this was an even bigger blow. For a band who proactively care about their fans and maintaining their standards for a live show, the reality was even more jarring. 

In our exclusive bi-coastal interview (with Dun in Los Angeles and Joseph in Columbus, Ohio), the duo ponder what the future holds for not only themselves but for all aspects of music and fan culture. Will they ever play shows again?  Joseph has said on many occasions that the band simply cannot do what they do without the fans. He and Dun ponder everything from the necessities of social distancing to what shows might look like next year. They also wonder if the non-spectacle of livestreaming shows will be the new norm. Above all, since the pandemic hit, the duo haven’t actually played together for a while. 

Read more: Hear twenty one pilots get a fuzzy, lo-fi hip-hop twist added to “Heathens”

“This is crazy,” Joseph reveals with equal measures humor and frustration. “You know, I change every day. One day I’m like, ‘You know what? Let’s try to find some good in this.’ And then the next day, I’m just thinking, ‘This is the worst thing ever.’ I don’t know what the future looks like. And it starts to really weigh on you. It’s hard for Josh and I not to fake ourselves out, seeing everyone else do these private things that we’re just getting sick of. It’s like, ‘Well, we don’t want to add to the noise.’ Because of who our fans are, it would be special just because of that. We’re just trying to figure this out. I do know that even if it’s not livestreamed, Josh, we need to get in a room and play together sometime, too. This is getting ridiculous.”

In the interview, the duo take us behind the making of their hit single “Level Of Concern” and the do-or-die urgency of getting it out into the world. They discuss their trepidation to participate in the pandemic-imposed livestreaming culture, as well as the kind of art it will foster a year from now. Obviously, twenty one pilots don’t have all the answers just yet. But when you consider how much they’ve bucked conventional wisdom to get where they are today, knowing that they’re thinking about it is incredibly hopeful. Having a sense of humor about it goes a long way, as well.

Read more: twenty one pilots added another major achievement with ‘Trench’

You know, I could get back in the hamster ball, Josh,” Joseph suggests.

“That’s true,” Dun says. “There is an element of our show where there’s some hazmat suits, so I feel like if it was an arena full of people, it can still fit the vibe.”

“We might want to put each of us in a hamster ball for the end of ‘Trees’ when we play drums on people,” Joseph continues. “It’s not a production thing as much as it is a safety measure. Maybe the capacity for a concert is everyone gets into their own hamster ball and how many people we can fit on the floor are all the people we’re allowed to have in the venue. Like a giant McDonald’s ball pit.”

In addition to our TOP exclusive, we checked in with more artists who wanted to keep their fandoms informed and wish us a happy anniversary. This special issue also contains new interviews with BLACK VEIL BRIDES, I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, NECK DEEP, PVRIS and YUNGBLUD, sharing their thoughts on their next plans and the future of music.

All of us at Alternative Press graciously thank twenty one pilots and all the bands for participating in what we think is our best anniversary issue yet. Most importantly, though, we’d like to thank all the fans who have supported us for another milestone year. This issue is truly for you, and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did putting it together. The bottom line is that the love of music is what bonds all of us. Which is why we all will most certainly make it through this. Enjoy here or below.