Decoding Twenty One Pilots' 'Nico and the Niners' Music Video

twenty one pilots: Nico And The Niners
Courtesy Photo

Twenty One Pilots, "Nico And The Niners"

Twenty One Pilots' new album "Trench" is due Oct. 5 on Fueled by Ramen.

From a year of sitting in silence to two new videos in two weeks, Twenty One Pilots are back and ready to share the story of Trench. The duo dropped a pair of new songs -- “Jumpsuit” and “Nico and the Niners” -- on July 11, along with the former's video, the first part of a three-clip series.

After attempting to decode the clues in the first installment, the “Nico and the Niners” video presents a whole new wave of symbolism and messages for us to unpack. With no way of knowing how soon we’ll be watching the final video, let’s get to the bottom of what this one has to teach us.

Let’s start with a quick recap of our past theories so we can better understand what we’re seeing. In the Trench universe, DEMA represents depression and how you can feel trapped in it (similar to a prison or other facility). The facility is controlled by Nico and The Nine, a group that appears to be the Trench-era counterpart to the tormenting character of Blurryface. They represent the thoughts and inner-voice that fight to keep frontman Tyler Joseph trapped in his depression. On the flip side, we have the Banditos. They’re a group on the outside fighting to help Joseph escape, representing his family and friends -- a very honest representation, as they include his wife Jenna and bandmate Josh Dun. The most important fact we’ve discovered so far is that Nico and The Nine cannot see the color yellow, similar to how depression can make it impossible for you to see the good things around you.

The video opens by showing us DEMA for the first time. As we previously explained, DEMA is also known as a “Tower of Silence” where past religions would leave their dead exposed to carrion birds. This is further confirmed by the presence of vultures perched on the facility. The center is marked by nine pillars of different heights, which match up with The Nine and also the nine circles on the cover of Blurryface. Each of those circles matched up with a song on the record, which could perhaps lead us to understand more about each of The Nine themselves. It’s hard to believe that there would be nine involved in each of these things unless there’s a connection, when Joseph and Dun's every other action is so intentional.

We find ourselves in Joseph's room, where he’s laying the flower he found in the last video in a drawer with a dozen others. This likely represents the number of previous escape attempts he’s made, which harkens back to a “FAILED PERIMETER ATTEMPT” message on the mysterious website they’ve been posting clues on since April. 

We then cut to our first look at the full Nine as they create fluorescent light bulbs in some sort of church or sanctuary. They seem to be worshipping these bright white lights and attempting to influence the other DEMA residents to worship them as well. Since they’re unable to see the colors in real light, it makes sense that they would create these artificial substitutes to try and take its place. Perhaps it represents the false comforts of becoming comfortable in your depression, or the false happiness of finding other people to wallow in your depression alongside. 

Joseph starts packing up items from Blurryface-era videos into his backpack, including his red beanie and the white sunglasses he wore in “Ride”. It seems like a very on-the-nose way to show he’s carrying his emotional baggage with him wherever he goes. He then departs from his room and runs into the Banditos carrying torches -- true light sources exactly opposite to the lights of The Nine.

For longtime fans of the band, this is likely the most emotional part of the video. I know I had trouble recounting it later without feeling a lump well up in my throat. The leader of the Banditos pulls down his bandana and reveals himself to be Dun. Joseph gives him a blank look. Dun initiates their infamous handshake (which you may recognize from a dozen past moments, most notably the “Stressed Out” video) and they both share a smile before breaking into an impromptu performance.

As it says in the lyrics, they’ll “start a concert, a complete diversion”, and that’s exactly what they did. Clancy, who we believe to be the Trench version of Joseph, mentions in his past letters how it’s impossible to escape without being seen, so they’ll have to make sure they’re all noticed together. As they begin, Joseph's jumpsuit with the yellow tape resurfaces, matching the large swatches of yellow covering Dun and his drum kit. It’s almost like the little human connections -- like a best friend handshake -- reminds Joseph of the people who love and care for him, snapping him out of it enough to attract back some of the yellow, positive thoughts he’s collected.

They perform and it shakes DEMA’s foundations, bringing Nico and the Nine storming their way. By the time they get there, the Banditos are escaping through underground tunnels, leaving behind the drum kit, Joseph's jacket, and his emotional backpack on a statue in the background. Two children find all of this, perhaps signifying how others can find hope and solace in their music and use it to help themselves in their own battles. 

Without his jacket, it seems like Joseph has left behind all of the yellow again, but his friends quickly affix yellow tape to his own shirt in the same pattern as before. His armor is still intact, and they venture forth by the light of their torches.

For these first Trench-era visuals, the band has again partnered up with video producer Andrew Donoho, who directed the duo's previous videos for "Heathens" and "Heavydirtysoul" that we’ve already analyzed and reanalyzed a dozen times over. The one common thread between each of these videos is the dystopian or chaotic element to the video concepts. These videos aren’t one-off ideas that are made to be cool or trendy; they’re thoughtful elements to a more fleshed out story that the music tells and the videos enhance.

There’s a lot to know at this point, and it’s hard to catch up without analyzing charts and data. We’ve broken down a serious deep dive into the previous info in our last article, and we’ll be here to decode the chronicles of Clancy & the Banditos again when they return to share the final part of the trilogy with us.