Twenty One Pilots' 'Trench': Decoding the Clues They've Left About Their New Album
Twenty One Pilots devotees -- a.k.a. the Skeleton Clique -- are among the most passionate fans in music. After waiting for three years for a new album, their heroes finally gifted them yesterday with not one, but two new tracks.
Both “Jumpsuit” and “Nico and the Niners” show fantastic growth upon the foundation built by Blurryface (which was Billboard’s top rock album for 2016 and has earned 3.6 million total album equivalent units to date). However, the multi-layered messages buried in the lyrics to the two new songs might be lost if you didn’t spend the last three months deciphering hidden meanings out of the bread crumb trail left across the Internet by members Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun.
Trench, the band's upcoming fifth album, is out Oct. 5 -- lucky for you, we’ve done the heavy lifting so you won’t miss a reference in the new era of Twenty One Pilots.
The duo officially started its break on July 6 of last year, showing a visual of an eye closing that mirrored the eye we’ve seen waking back up again this week on social media and in email blasts. It’s been radio silence in between the two images, with the exception of Josh’s acceptance speech for Most Dedicated Fanbase at the 2017 Alternative Press Music Awards. He apologized for Tyler’s absence, mentioning he was “severing ties with DEMA”. This was an odd comment out of context, but now we have the info we need thanks to a website that popped up this April.
The webpage itself seems empty, but if you add the code at the bottom of the page to the URL, you’re suddenly forwarded to a collection of Trench-related writings and images. Fans have been busy unraveling clues for months now: Hidden messages in the file names of photos gave early references to song and album titles, along with things still left to be deciphered. Who is Clancy and what is the significance behind his journal entries? What is DEMA? Who are Nico and The Niners?
Once you start digging, everything starts to fall into place. Or at least some of everything. Dema -- or dakhma -- is also known as a Tower of Silence. It’s a raised circular structure built by Zoroastrians (one of the world’s oldest religions) for excarnation -- that is, the the practice of leaving dead bodies exposed to carrion-eating birds. Suddenly the vulture on the album artwork seems a little more disturbing. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this represents the band’s feelings towards suddenly being a household name. People love them, or love to hate them. It would be easy for them to feel like they've been left out to be picked apart by critics or the public in general.
On Blurryface, the title referenced a character that represented Tyler’s negative alter ego. It seems that Clancy may be the yin to his yang. His journal entries chronicle his attempts to escape DEMA with a group he calls the Banditos, and ends with a letter explaining how DEMA felt like home after being there for so long, but he’ll never see it the same after escaping it. For anyone who’s ever struggled with their mental health, this feeling is familiar. When you don’t remember life before your tribulations, you wonder who you’ll be without them, or if things really are better on the other side. Once you get there, you’re not sure how you ever thought things were okay. He mentions the others who are still “asleep,” potentially people who revel in their sadness instead of trying to get better, because their misery is somehow comfortable. Clancy represents the side of Tyler that fought to get better, against the worst wishes of Blurryface dragging him down.
Speaking of Blurryface… is Nico his Trench counterpart? In the new video for “Jumpsuit,” Tyler (or is it Clancy?) is approached by a man in red on horseback who repaints Tyler’s neck black. Josh has explained the significance of the paint before, citing insecurity as the reason behind where it’s placed, and the red is the main color used during the Blurryface era. It seems like the man on horseback is attempting to silence Clancy or remind him of his insecurities. It starts to work, until dozens of people standing above them -- including Tyler’s wife Jenna and Josh himself -- start throwing yellow petals down. Tyler then breaks into a run in the opposite direction.
As we’ve learned through the hidden website, Nico and The Nine are unable to see the color yellow (specifically hex code FCE300) and it can be used to “cover” Tyler while he escapes. Again, back to the mental health references: depression stops you from being able to see the bright side. But if you have other people there helping you, they can “cover” you while you pull yourself from it. “I’ll be right there, but you’ll have to grab my throat and lift me in the air” means he’ll fall back into his dark thoughts again, but this time, not without a fight.
Following this line of thinking, perhaps the jumpsuit is a manifestation of the love and support Clancy receives. He isn’t currently yellow himself, but he can put on the jumpsuit and use it to help him until he can feel it himself. In the video, it has pieces of yellow taped to it. Will the jumpsuit become more yellow as time goes on? Will we eventually have all of the black paint replaced with yellow? Only time will tell. For now, we’re sure that the “Jumpsuit” video picks up where “Heavydirtysoul” left off, with Tyler taking his jumpsuit out of the trunk of the burning vehicle he was previously trapped in. He’s moving forward, and we’re coming along for the ride.
Twenty One Pilots are often criticized for their sad subject matter, with people insinuating that the band is marketing depression as something relatable and incidentally keeping fans from seeking help. “Nico and the Niners” seems to take a direct shot at that with lyrics such as, “maybe from all the money we made razorblade stores, rent a race horse and force a sponsor." With the increasingly positive mindset set up by the clues so far, this criticism may become a thing of the past. This track also includes a backwards message at the beginning, with a pitch-shifted Josh uttering, “we are banditos, we will leave DEMA and head true east, we renounce vialism”. “Vialism” was also mentioned on the hidden website, but we still don’t know what it means.
There’s already so much information to sift through, and we’re only on the first week of Twenty One Pilots’ return. October is still three months away and the weeks leading up to release day are bound to be packed with more secret messages and music videos full of clues to analyze. World-building has become a huge part of 2010s concept albums, with artists like Halsey sending out newspapers from the Hopeless Fountain Kingdom or My Chemical Romance continuing the story of Danger Days through a comic book. If you feel like you’ve been thinking too much (help me) about these clues, just wait for a sign from Clancy. It’s time to wake up.