Coinciding with the release of Vessel, a Spotify exclusive commentary by Tyler Joseph was made available for a short time. This page contains a complete transcript of Tyler Joseph's track by track account of the album, broken in to sections for ease of use.
Edited for clarity and formatting.
This is Tyler from Twenty One Pilots and I’m gonna do a track for our new album, which is called Vessel
The first track is called Ode To Sleep and I remember back when I was first trying to name the song, we actually played it live first before it was named, and this is back when we had kind of a small following in our hometown and it was small enough that everyone got to write on a piece of paper and put into a bucket it which name they wanted the song to be named. One was Ode To Sleep, I forget—I honestly forget the other names of the songs, but it was cool because a hometown audience got to name the song. I like putting this song first on the album, because it kinda puts the listener through kind of a song structure boot camp, if you will, when it comes to them being able to anticipate what the rest of the album is. So Ode To Sleep is definitely one that we like to intro with, we open up a lot of our sets with this song and I’m really proud of how weird it is.
This next song is called Holding On To You and—if I’m being honest with you—I’ve never been super pumped on the name. I didn’t really know what else to call it other than just taking the words that I say most in the song and naming it. I always get this weird like 80’s rock vibe from the title of the song, which has always bothered me, but since then have gotten over. I remember the riff for the song Holding On To You—I can see it now, on the piano, on the keys. I’m very visual when I write music and I remember I accidentally jumped over a few notes when I was tryna figure out just the riff and I didn’t think it worked. Then I listened to it again and actually the riff anticipates the chord progression in a really nice way and then I fell in love with it. And then obviously, this is one of our key tracks that has been on this album that Josh and I—the other guy in my band—we’re a little…we don’t really know what it means exactly to have a single out because we’ve always just worked on a body of work, but this is one of those songs where we have to introduce ourselves and say “this is kind of who we are.” You know, this is one of those songs that’s kind of a staple for us.
This next song is called Migraine and it’s probably some of my favourite verses. The content is something that I worked very hard on. When it came to the lyrical side of it everything kind of came together. I got the idea from—I actually did have a headache the day that I was writing it for sure, but then that wasn’t really the point, you know, I was trying to make that a metaphoric thing, where there’s a lot going on in his head…and what’s really cool is that this is one of those songs that as a songwriter, I like to kind of just emit some sort of message, almost like a ripple in the water and when I feel that ripple bounce off of someone else who resonates with what it is I’m going through and it starts coming back at me it’s just a really cool feeling of you know, I’m not alone in what I’m going through. So Migraine is one those, kind of, almost a distress call type of song lyrically—and then it’s [got a] pretty dirty beat too.
This next song is called House of Gold. Honestly I walked into this used music store place and I saw a ukulele and I bought it, just kind of spur of the moment. I wasn’t really thinking. I had no idea how to play it. Taught myself how to play within, you know, a few days. It wasn’t—it’s not a very hard instrument to learn and I just knew that, you know, I don’t wanna be playing other people’s songs on this thing. I wanna try to write a song which is how I’ve always approached instruments. So I tried to write a song right away and started off very simple, just strumming out that bottom string, you know, which is a C. And I just kept it going and I was just—and I kept doing that until I found the melody I was looking for. And you know my mom is a big inspiration to me and so the song really talks about her and what it is that I wanna do for her and whether that be financially or just in other ways too. So she means and lot to me and so this song House of Gold is about her.
This next song, Car Radio, is an interesting one. I really don’t remember making decisions on the structure, it just happened and I don’t remember slaving over when to bring in the beats, when to stop the beat…it just—it was one of those songs that just kind of happened for me when I was demoing it out, it just—the structure just seemed so natural to me. And when I was done with it and I was showing other people, that’s when I realised that it’s a very unnatural song…but it just worked for me, so that’s kinda why I stuck to it. It’s one of those songs where, when we show people our stuff for the first time, they don’t really get that one, but I kinda like that. And so the song Car Radio actually is about—I was going to college, and my car radio got stolen out of my car and, I don’t know if anyone’s like me, but whenever you get into a car the first thing you do is turn on music and I was unable to do that for a while. Of course, I’m an emotional dude so I wrote a song about it. But it was interesting to see how, when I remove the distraction of music from my life and my car, where my brain would go. You know the thoughts that would go through my mind. It was interesting and I still encourage people to take some time to just sit in silence every once in a while ‘cause a lot of things can come out. A lot of things that need to come out, come out, so that song reminds me of that time in my life and that lesson that I learned.
This next song, Semi-Automatic, is one of the newer ones on the album, and we haven’t played it live very much, which—it’s hard for me to get really attached to a song without playing it live a bunch. Most of the other songs on the album, we’ve kind of—we’ve formed and kind of developed what that looks like live, and that’s truly who we are. We’re a live band and we love playing live music. So Semi-Automatic is one of those kind of challenging songs where we’re looking forward to trying to make that a part of our repertoire. And, lyrically, it’s a lot of the same themes as the rest of the album. It’s very introspective, and I know I talk about the night time a lot. I feel like I listen to a lot of pop music today that talks about the night in a completely different way than I talk about the night. There’s a lot of writers that talk about the night as in like it’s [an] awesome time, that everyone’s partying or whatever, and usually night time for me is like the worst—that’s when everything comes out for me. That’s when I realize that I don’t really understand why I’m here or what I’m doing and it’s when the doubts happen. So a lot of these songs are kind of showing you the things that I’m thinking at night. So it’s—Semi-Automatic is definitely one of those songs.
Screen is a song that I also wrote on the ukulele, which is interesting. I’ve always… I’ve never wanted to be ‘the ukulele guy’. You know, I don’t want like one song to be defining my career as a song writer. So every time I write a song on the ukulele I’m like “I hope this isn’t a hit ‘cause I don’t wanna be the ukulele guy.” But this song, Screen, is—I’ve always pictured people singing this song with me. I’ve never not pictured a bunch of people singing this song with me, it’s always been a very collective group mentality to this song and which is why it’s got kind of that upbeat feel to it and it’s very different than most of the other songs on the album, but which song isn’t, you know. I truly don’t want anyone to anticipate what’s happening next. I don’t know why any writer would want that. But Screen is one of my favorite to play live. It’s just fresh. I like it.
The Run and Go is a song I actually wrote in the studio when we were recording our album. There’s a lot of downtime when you record an album, whether that be waiting for someone to get drum tones, or you know, waiting for the producer to work on other tones and edit stuff. So, I was in another room on a piano a lot for the album—and actually going back to, you know, Migraine, I wrote a lot of Migraine on that piano—I wrote The Run and Go on this piano as well. So this was kind of a brand new idea brought to everybody from the recording process. And this song, The Run and Go, I always put myself somewhere mentally, you know, when I’m writing a song with ‘where do I wanna play this song?’ and I’ve always pictured myself playing a song like that on a festival style show where obviously there’s a ton of people. And I don’t know if you’ve picked up on it, but I have a pretty crazy imagination and my dreams are pretty big, but this is one of those songs where I picture myself playing in the middle of the day—‘cause we’re not that big yet, we’re not playing night time slots at festivals, but that’s okay, we can still be awesome during the day, you know. But The Run and Go is one of those songs that I hope to play during the day at a festival.
The next song, Fake You Out, I was really excited about this one when I first started writing it. I think that the melody inside of the verses is one of my favorite melodies where it goes to falsetto. I think that a lot of times I feel like writers slack on verses when it comes to melody. I feel like it’s like “these are my verses, this is kind of the part where people wait for the chorus.” And I’ve always felt like why not have the verses—the melody of the verses be just as infectious as the chorus? So I’m proud of this song in that way. Also, you know, it does the whole, you know, mash-up genre thing that everyone is freaking out about. Truly, I just didn’t know that there were rules to song writing and, you know, so I just worked on transitioning from one genre to the next. I wanted to hear a song that did that. I’ve never heard a song do that before, I wanna hear that, so I made that. So this song is called Fake You Out.
This next song, Guns For Hands…I don’t dive too specifically into the lyrical content just because, one, I obviously want it to be something to someone and wouldn’t want to ruin my definition of it, but also, you know, it’s very close to me, you know, sometimes it’s hard to talk exactly about what it is I was going through in that moment and try to explain the song’s lyrics, I just want to listen to the song. I mean, I’m saying exactly what I’m trying to say in the song, for me to explain what I’m trying to say in a different setting is kind of weird for me. But, Guns For Hands specifically, I like to talk about what that song’s trying to say. There was one show in particular that this song was inspired by. I was playing a show in Cincinnati, Ohio, and it’s just this kind of a barn full of kids, and after this show, more than usual, there was kind of an unusual number of kids came up to me and felt inclined to share with me what it is they were going through. You know, a lot of their struggles, a lot of their, you know, whether that be depression or suicidal thoughts, a lot of stuff along that vein. And I just thought, I was like wow, I mean I’m—am I just in a hotbed of kids going through stuff, I mean is this just kind of like a crazy ratio of everyone struggling with this thing? And then I remember not too long after that, I was in New York, and I was—I think I saw like a pizza shop or something and I saw a magazine that was you know at the entrance of the pizza shop, this big article about this specific town in New York that has a lot of kids, you know, high school age, going through a lot of the same stuff. And I realised you know, this isn’t just a—it’s not just an isolated event, it’s something that there’s a lot of kids throughout the entire country—even the world—that are struggling with the questions that they have, you know, ‘what’s the point?’, ‘what’s my purpose?’, ‘why am I here?’ and when you don’t have the answers to those questions, sometimes it can lead you to do something that you ultimately shouldn’t do.
So, Guns For Hands is talking about I wanna tell you that I know you have the ability to hurt yourself. You do. You have that ability. I feel like a lot of the older generation when they hear about someone struggling with it, their first reaction is like, “No, you’re not, you’re not struggling with that. Don’t think about that, you know, think about something else, you know, you’re just trying to get attention.” But this song was really trying to say like; “Listen, I know you have the ability to hurt yourself. I recognize that, but let’s take that energy and let’s point it at something else, let’s divert that, let’s kind of shift that momentum and look at something like art, or something like this music specifically, or even point it at me, you know, just point it anywhere, but don’t point it at yourself.” And so that’s what that song’s saying and that song will always be important to me. And I’m not a professional when it comes to this topic, but I write songs, and I feel like someone should say something about it.
The song Trees…it’s one of the songs we play towards the end of our set, and Josh and I are usually pretty wiped towards the end of our set, so we try to just kinda put everything into it. And Trees is one of those songs for us—Josh and I have talked about it—it almost gives us a second wind, we don’t even know where that energy comes from, you know, we feel like there’s nothing left and then we play trees and something else kicks in. And so it’s one of my favorite songs to play live in front of a room of people who know the song. It’s really fun for us—it’s really fun to hear people sing those words to me, and to themselves, and to the room, and it’s one of those songs where you kinda get to give the show back to the audience and tell them; “This is your show; do what you want with it,” and I’ve seen a lot of crowds run with this song and it’s one of my favorites to play live.
This song, Truce, is kinda diving into my more mellow side of song writing, which I actually have experience—you know, I’ve been in the mellow side of song writing for a long time and I really enjoy it, it’s just never felt like there was a place for it on this album other than towards the end of the CD, it kind of shows my maturity as a songwriter, you know, when you have as many options as you want, you know, when I sit down at the keyboard, I have any option—I can make the song do this, I can turn it into this, and a lot of times one of the first things that you learn as a songwriter and as a programmer is patience; being able to just dial things back and don’t throw too many things into the pot. Obviously, you could look at the album and be like “yeah you didn’t do a good job of that,” you know, I’m sorry but the song Truce is cool ‘cause it’s just me and the piano. I remember when I was talking to my producer about what we wanted the piano to sound like, he put it best, he said; “You know, I want the piano to sound kind of distant, like it’s behind several layer of curtains or something,” and so we kind of got a sound that [is] kinda a little but eerie and not too in your face, just to kinda give the vocals that—the room to really say what it is that they’re trying to say. And Truce is one of those songs that I just wanted to tell people; “hang in there, you know, there’s someone out there who does know what you’re going through.” I know that there’s a lot of bands that say they want to use music to help people and I know a lot of that might be full of crap. But if someone is encouraged, at all, by the music that I write, then my whole life will be justified, so I mean I would be crazy not to try. So this song is called Truce and it closes out the album appropriately I think.
|Twenty One Pilots|
|About||Twenty One Pilots • Tyler Joseph • Josh Dun|
|Albums||Twenty One Pilots (album) • Regional at Best • Vessel • Blurryface|
|EPs||Three Songs (EP) • Migraine (EP) • Holding On To You (EP) • Quiet Is Violent (EP) • The LC LP • Double Sided|
|Singles||Holding On To You • Guns for Hands • House of Gold • Car Radio • Fairly Local • Tear In My Heart • Stressed Out • Lane Boy • Ride • Heathens • Heavydirtysoul|
|Tours||Mostly November Tour • Blurryface World Tour • Emotional Roadshow World Tour|