Decoding the New Video for Twenty One Pilots' 'Levitate,' End of the Duo's 'Trench' Trilogy

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twenty one pilots, "Levitate"

Twenty One Pilots has delivered us the final video in their initial Trench trilogy, and it’s hard to say if it brought a sense of closure or just a million more questions. 

“Levitate” is the third track released off of the band’s upcoming album, citing the end of “a story from Trench”... which begs the question, what other stories will we be hearing and will they give us more answers? And will someone please confirm if Clancy is Tyler or someone else? If you’re just beginning your investigation, you may want to catch up on “Jumpsuit” & “Nico And The Niners” first. Otherwise, let’s dive into which loose ends were tied up in the latest video.

Let’s start with a quick recap of what we already know: In the Trench universe created by Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, DEMA represents depression and how you can feel trapped in it, similar to a prison. It’s controlled by Nico & The Nine, a group also known as bishops that appears to be this era’s counterpart to the last album cycle's titular Blurryface. They represent the thoughts and inner voice that keep pulling Joseph back into his depression. On the flip side, we have the Banditos -- a group on the outside including Dun -- fighting to help him escape, representing his family and friends. The most important fact we’ve discovered is that the bishops can’t see yellow, similar to how depression can make it impossible for you to see the good things around you. The last video ended with Dun and the Banditos breaking Joseph out of DEMA through a tunnel… and that’s where our current story begins.

The audio starts with the same music that plays in the outro of “Jumpsuit," which is odd because they don’t seem to go together chronologically. However, this could represent that the same events keep happening over and over, all blurring together. As can happen with depression, it’s not a linear path leading from “being depressed” to “being better." Every day is different, some days you’re in the Trench and other days you’re being dragged back to DEMA. If you listen closely, an ominous voice echos Joseph’s words in the background -- a voice that sounds far too similar to that of Blurryface.

We then visit the Trench for the first time, a camp set up at the top of the cliffs from the “Jumpsuit” video that seems to be a limbo between DEMA and the outside. A place where it’s easy for the bishops to find them and drag them back to the depression they’re attempting to escape from. Everyone here is wearing outfits covered in yellow tape -- to remain invisible to the bishops -- and each person places a piece of yellow tape on Joseph’s jacket as well. These pieces of tape represent the love and support of the people around them, and they wear it like battle armor. The Banditos shave Joseph’s head, bringing back memories of the “Car Radio” video from 2013. The imagery is similar to a man joining the army, which is another way to look at this. An army of Banditos fighting the war in their own minds.

Alongside this, “Levitate” directly references “Car Radio” through its lyrics, stating, “I got back what I once bought, back in that slot I won’t need to replace” in response to the chorus lyric, “I ought to replace that slot with what I once bought, cause somebody stole my car radio and now I just sit in silence." Back in 2013, the line referenced the dangers of being alone with your thoughts when music isn’t there to fill the silence. Now, it seems Joseph is again using music to fill in the silence. However, it now seems more active than passive, with him creating the music himself instead of relying on background noise.

This idea is referenced once again at the end of the video. When they finally sit down and stop performing, that’s when Joseph’s eyes glaze over and one of the bishops grabs him from his spot around the campfire. The Bandito sitting next to him says “welcome to Trench," perhaps signifying that this happens a lot around here. Those that make it to this point often fall back into the grasps of DEMA.

At other points in the video, we see more self-aware moments with the band: acknowledging the intense level of fame they’ve achieved since the success of Blurryface and even going so far as to make tongue in cheek remarks about their own songwriting style. The second verse specifically references the potential danger in sharing these songs about depression and anxiety when you can’t control the way it will be construed by your audience. The band continues their references to vultures, this time with Joseph likening himself to a vulture that feeds on pain to create. The best moment arguably comes when the lyrics state “chorus, verse, chorus, verse, now here comes the eight -- wait,” and the band members fist bump each other before bringing the beat back. Often in Twenty One Pilots songs, the beat will drop out and come back full force after the eighth count, and they tend to follow the same song structure. Hearing them say it out loud breaks down the fourth wall in a way that adds to the eerie feeling of what we’ve received from them so far.

These videos are packed so chock full of meaning, it’s hard to unpack all of it -- especially when so much of it is reading our own personal feelings into things. The first verse could be read with the "cowards" being the depression itself surfacing only when you’re alone, or people around you who are only there for you in the worst moments and not all the time, or any number of other interpretations. Fans on the band’s subreddit found a connection to the song “A Car, A Torch, A Death” off the band’s 2009 self-titled release: this all seemed to start with the burning car in “Heavydirtysoul” and was followed by the Banditos escaping by torch light. Should we be expecting a death? Seeing as this story is over, we may have to wait until the next one begins to find out. Welcome to Trench.


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