twenty one pilots

Musician Ian Johnson did not let his brain go to mush during the COVID-19 pandemic, nor did he wallow in his sorrows about not being able to tour.

He took a proactive approach, writing a song a day.

“I focused on my craft,” said Johnson, who records under the moniker Arrested Youth. “I built on the dream that I started three years ago. I had a few setbacks and struggled. I’d like to think I kept my energy and movement looking forward.”

Now that the entertainment industry has resumed performances, Johnson took advantage of it. He said he was one of the first bands on the road. His upcoming shows include gigs opening for Twenty One Pilots on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at The Wiltern, Thursday, Sept. 30, at The Greek and Saturday, Oct. 2, at The Forum.

“We’re in a pocket, keeping things very safe,” he said. “We have good preventative measures. I feel lucky. I feel like we’re in a small group of artists getting to move forward.”

Johnson and Arrested Youth recently released his first studio LP, “Nonfiction,” on Lowly/Big Noise. The album was produced in LA by Goldfinger’s John Feldmann and sees Johnson at his most vulnerable, offering fans a glimpse into his recent struggles and triumphs — tackling everything from mental health to relationships. Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus is on the focal single “Find My Own Way,” a coming-of-stage story that sees Johnson grapple with understanding his motives. 

He’s known for his uplifting music, however, as a direct reaction to the “darkness in the world.” 

One focus is the importance of engaging his fanbase. Johnson wrote and released a collaborative EP with his fans during quarantine. 

Writing music throughout the pandemic challenged Johnson to think more positively about life itself.

Johnson has seven tattoos — all of which reflect important moments in his career — and recently woke up considering another. 

“I haven’t gotten a tattoo in two years,” he said. “I want to commemorate this new cycle of music. When I was starting music, I got a couple tattoos on my right arm, that is. I got them while I was thinking about starting Arrested Youth to remind myself if I didn’t go for it and try it, I would always have to reflect on that. I made it super symbolic.”

To keep his mind and body healthy, he runs 8 miles a day, as he “loves to run.”

“I love to explore the town we’re in,” he said. “I also love coffee. We all like a good beer, and we’re checking out cool breweries. I do all the things that you would expect from hipster musicians. I’m an industry artist, but an indie hipster at heart.”


Twenty One Pilots w/Arrested Youth

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29

WHERE: The Wiltern, 2790 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles

COST: Sold out

WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 30

WHERE: Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles

COST: Sold out

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29

WHERE: The Wiltern, 2790 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles

COST: Sold out

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2

WHERE: The Forum, 2900 W. Manchester, Inglewood

COST: Tickets start at $59.50