After unrelentingly touring for the better half of the decade, Twenty One Pilots were forced into a period of stagnancy. In the thick of the pandemic, the Ohio two-piece knuckled down on their sixth record, Scaled and Icy, their most sober outing to date.
“This was a break that was very different to anything we’ve ever experienced before. Going back out there wasn’t an option,” says Tyler Joseph. “As much as that was a sad realisation, there was also peace in being able to rest, take a second and truly recuperate.”
Joseph wrote and produced the record in isolation at his home studio in Ohio, with Joshua Dun engineering the album’s drums from Los Angeles. It’s the band’s first entirely self-produced effort, an experience Tyler Joseph chalks up to being “exciting and scary.”
“The majority of the record was just us, and when you’re finished with something like that, when you know it represents who you are and what you’re capable of, it’s equal parts exciting and scary,” says Joseph. “You know that whatever the reaction is to it, it’s only your fault if it’s not good. So it’s an exciting emotion to manage and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, it’s intoxicating.”
Scaled and Icy is entrenched in those all-too-familiar pandemic anxieties, but it forges ahead with optimism. The band touch on familiar themes: depression, fear, loneliness, but with a sense that they’re out the other side; lucid feelings brought on by pandemic introspection.
“I feel like I’m still trying to solve things that are familiar to what I’ve written about in the past,” explains Joseph.
“Now it feels like my feet are on the ground. I have a sense of direction, a little more control, instead of tumbling in an endless dark abyss. So even though I don’t claim to have the answers to these questions, I feel like I’m writing from a place where I’m anchored. I know what is up and what is down.”
On May 21st, the band celebrated the release of Scaled and Icy with their first-ever virtual concert, at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio. Seven months in the making, the boundary-pushing spectacle saw the band deliver performances of 20-tracks, complete with elaborate sets and visuals.
“I’ve always been hesitant about a Livestream concert,” Joseph admits. “There truly is no way to replace what happens in a real life setting. You can’t really capture that feeling and put it into a stream.
“With that in mind, we knew we wanted to do something that celebrated the release of the record but on a global scale, with our fans.”
Twenty One Pilots, Scaled and Icy is out now via Warner Music, you can listen to it below.