Columbus duo talks about their deal to join the label home of Paramore, Fall Out Boy and more.
During Saturday's sold-out concert at LC Pavilion, Columbus duo Twenty One Pilots announced that they have signed a record contract with Fueled By Ramen Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records and home to the likes of Paramore, Fun., Fall Out Boy and more. After announcing the deal, frontman Tyler Joseph proclaimed to the 2,200-strong crowd, "Ohio and the people of our initial fan base are important to us... Ohio is always going to be so important to us."
In the lead-up to Saturday's show, the band discussed the events that led up to signing the deal and their plans to take Twenty One Pilots nationwide with Fueled By Ramen's help.
Alive: How did you end up signing a record contract?
Joseph: Last time we played Columbus, we played at Newport. And we ended up selling that show out, which we didn't anticipate. Turns out, when you sell out a venue like that, it gets to more than just people who are in Ohio. And people from the music industry got wind of that somehow. That's part of the story that we don't know how it happened. From that sellout show, those fans were - as a band, you kind of like, you travel around thinking that you're going to play as many shows as possible so that you might play at the right place in front of the right person and get your big break. That's what fueled us, too. We played around just trying to get connections and maybe getting our big break that night. For us, the way it happened - and obviously we still have a lot of work to do - but to be introduced into the music industry, our big break was created by our fans because they sold out the Newport. They did that. They are making all the noise. And then people in New York and L.A. decided that, "OK, we can't ignore this anymore." So that was in November. Then December, January and February were the craziest months of our lives. It was nuts. At the end of the day, we had a dozen labels interested in signing us. And it was the craziest three months of our lives. It was crazy. We were like, "What the heck happened?" We went from no one in the industry caring to all of the sudden it was the hot thing for every label, independent and major, to be interested in some way. So we went through a process of trying to figure out, "Does Twenty One Pilots want to be a signed band?" Do we want to be, you know - are we going to be able to continue doing what we're doing without changing the key ingredients and the things that people had fallen in love with about us. And that was the question we had. We were really encouraged by the answers to those questions with a few labels. And we narrowed it down. Our goal is to communicate this next step for us to our fans so they're on board. Because the last thing we want to do is forget what they did for us. There's a lot of people who have a bad taste in their mouth about labels, about the music industry in general, and they feel like in a way they will be losing their band. And that's the last thing we want them to feel. So really, we put a lot of time and thought into, "Does this make sense for what Twenty One Pilots is becoming, to be involved with a label?" And at the end of the day, you're going to have people who hate on your decision. But do you want Josh working at Starbucks for the rest of his life? Do you want me to be working at a church for the rest of my life? We want to be able to do this for the rest of our lives, and in order to do that, sometimes you have to involve entities that are bigger than yourself. The last thing we want to communicate is that we're copping out, but it's a huge opportunity for us. So, you know, we had all these different labels. After talking, we went with a label that's called Fueled By Ramen that is associated with Atlantic Records. There are a lot of people who, they know the big-name label companies, and when you say Fueled By Ramen you don't really associate that with a major label. But they are responsible for Paramore, Panic at the Disco, Gym Class Heroes, Fun., Fall Out Boy, who else?
Dun: Those are the main ones, I think.
Joseph: So we decided to go with Fueled By Ramen. Our partner is going to be them. We've been working with them for the past few months, just getting ready for that announcement on their end and on our end.
Dun: And the big thing, I think really one of the biggest factors in the decision is that they're one of the labels that really allow a lot of creative control, that we're allowed to maintain. Which is something that I'd like to reiterate just because that is one thing that people fear, that ideas or vision that we had might be stripped away just because of things that the label has said or done or discouraged. And so far that hasn't been the case at all. There's a great artistic connection between us and them.
Joseph: And really the overall theme to the whole story is not - we don't want to keep it just about us. We want to encourage people who are in Ohio - I mean, it's like, when you travel around and say you're from Ohio, people are like, "OK. That's disappointing that you're from Ohio." Because I mean, it's like, they think of corn and, like, farmland. The point is Ohio is not New York and L.A. But we love Ohio and the fact that we're from there. And we want to encourage everyone that's in a place that they might not seem like they're very connected to the main industry of whatever they're pursuing, that if we can get their attention from Ohio, then you can get their attention from anywhere. And local bands can make it with the power of a local fan base. That's the message that we want to communicate as we move forward with that. Because I feel like that can be such an encouragement to so many people that we've bumped into and so many people that we've been able to get to know. We know that there's so many more of those people out there that are, like, day to day struggling to accomplish their dreams. So we couldn't be more excited about the future, and we're ready to work. And everywhere we go, we're going to be taking our local fan base with us. And Ohio is always going to be something special to us, no matter where we go. And what's really cool is the label totally buys into that. They like that it starts in one area and it spreads. And they like that it's only two people! We were worried about somebody coming in and saying, "OK, you need to get a guitarist and a bass player," but they've actually bought into the whole thing.
Alive: I understand the day after the show you're leaving to work on the album?
Joseph: Yes. Saturday's the show, and then Sunday, April 29, we are getting on a plane and we're going out to L.A. We're working with a producer out there by the name of Greg Wells. And working on our first national release, I guess is what you would call it. You know, we have like two CDs out now, but I would consider those more glorified demos than anything. It's just kind of showing what it is we're capable of. And that's what our fans really were clinging on to. So we want to maintain a lot of the characteristics that people fell in love with in our demo songs and make sure that's still present in the CD we're putting out. The CD will consist of, you know, half of it will be songs people have heard before, just kind of revisited. And then the other half, maybe more than half, is going to be new ones that we're really excited about sharing with not only Ohio but the nation. So that'll be fun. And then we go on the road and never come back. Well, we come back to play - all the time.
Alive: Speaking of which: Do you have tour plans at the moment?
Joseph: Because we don't have an album ready - and the tour cycle would be on an album - we're working with an agency called CAA out of L.A. And they've been the ones that got us a few of the cool college dates with Cobra and Jack's and stuff. They are piecing together some really cool festivals and different shows. And it's kind of like being pieced together right now. And it's not going to be a consistent tour that we're on once we're done recording because that usually will come with once you have an album and once you have something to tour on. Hopefully at that point they'll be able to utilize their connections to either get us on as an opening act for somebody who's bigger or, you know, slowly starting to build up our fan base around this area. Which, that's what we've been doing for a while, so we're cool with either.