The band Twenty One Pilots has tried to remain true to itself since its 2009 start in Columbus, Ohio, with music that blends electronica, emo, hip-hop and balladry with a strikingly visual stage show that often includes kabuki makeup and crowd surfing.
Things ratcheted up for the duo — singer/keyboardist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun — when two singles off their 2015 album, “Blurryface,” topped the alternative charts and invaded the pop charts. “Blurryface” is still in the top 15 on the Billboard charts and recently won a Billboard Music Award for top rock album.
We spoke to Dun when the duo was at John F. Kennedy International Airport, waiting for a flight to London before starting their biggest summer tour yet. We had only 13 minutes to talk.
The band plays a sold-out show at Sprint Center on Sunday, with guests Mutemath and Chef’Special.
Q: Have things changed since you went to No. 1? Have you sensed anything different?
A: Every once in a while I can kind of see that there’s a little bit of a difference, and I think some of that includes just being put on a broader platform, whether it’s different TV things, or radio, or whatever it is.
And it becomes an interesting thing when you’re put in front of somebody who doesn’t care or who never asked for us to be put in front of them. A lot of times that’s when you see more of the negativity or negative comments about what it is that we’re doing.
But I think there’s still such a core group of people who have invested in this thing, whether it’s from the beginning or if it’s from yesterday, that are still attached and so committed, that it’s hard to latch onto a lot of the negative comments when there are these incredible people who have been supporting what we do for so long.
Q: How has all this popularity altered your life, as far as what you can or cannot do?
A: I think the biggest thing that we see is that we’re able to play in bigger venues now, in front of larger audiences. That’s what we had in mind for this thing since the beginning — not with the intention of being famous or known or looking really cool — but we really believe in the music and the songs. So being able to present that in a larger stage and play to bigger audiences has been the coolest thing for me.
Q: You’re a band that has had no sponsorships and based your name on an Arthur Miller play (called “All My Sons,” in which a manufacturer knowingly ships faulty plane parts to the military, leading to the deaths of 21 pilots), and for a long time you were even your own roadies. Are you still able to maintain that direct control?
A: I think one of the craziest transitions is having people on a crew with us that set up our instruments. It’s a crazy thing for us, because we did it for so long.
We’d carry Tyler’s piano down two flights of steps, or up flights of steps in the wintertime and have these big drum boxes, and carry those things everywhere, figure out how to pack a trailer. … With more people added to this tour and crew, it could be easy for us to take our hands off certain aspects, but I like to say we’re still involved, at least to some degree, in every aspect of what you see or hear that has Twenty One Pilots’ name on it.
But nonetheless, it’s been nice having a little bit of help setting up my drums.
Q: Do you worry about keeping the equilibrium of the band and the kind of integrity you built it on as things get bigger?
A: Something that Tyler and I started using that I think is very important is called vision casting. Initially, when we were hanging out years ago and realized that we were on same page about certain things and had these visions and ideas, then it’s about sharing those things with everybody who’s involved.
This whole idea of vision casting is not just a one-time thing, where we sit everybody down and say, “This is the branding” or “This is the kind of thing we’re going to pass on, and say, ‘Absolutely not, we’re going to do that.’ ” … It’s part of a constant thing, where we’ll all come together and have these conversations, and make sure everybody is on the same page. And those times are important.
But I think the group of people we have surrounding us are people who agree with and believe in what it is we’ve started from the beginning. And the integrity, as you said, of what we started in the beginning, and that’s the last thing we want to loosen our grip on, because we do believe in it.
Q: Why do you think your music has become so popular?
A: I think people want honesty. I know that when I look at a band that I enjoy or look up to. I want to see the real versions of them onstage, and I want to see the real versions of them in interviews, and I don’t want to see a fake version, a version that is created out of them trying to be cooler than they are. …
I think that we try to be honest as we can, within our songwriting and the way that we portray things. I get the sense people have been able to spend time with the songs and resonate with them in a way that is almost therapeutic. Music is that way for a lot of people. That’s my only guess.