After a year of silence and staying off fans’ radar, Twenty One Pilots has finally spoken. On July 6 a small clip of an eye starting to open began to circulate online to correspond with the eye closing they posted exactly a year prior to declare their hiatus. It suggested the band was finally on the verge of waking up.
They even sent their devoted fans – known as The Skeleton Clique – on their email list a GIF of the eye with the caption, “ARE YOU STILL SLEEPING?” Then, on July 11, they announced their fall dates for the Bandito Tour, released two songs off their new, highly anticipated album, “Trench” and a music video, sending the Clique into a frenzy.
The songs, “Jumpsuit” and “Nico And The Niners,” have fans excited for the upcoming album, especially after the grand success of their last album, “Blurryface” (crowned as Billboard’s top rock album of 2016).
Both “Jumpsuit” and “Nico And The Niners” echo the alternative rock sound (like in “Blurryface”) that fans have come to love about Twenty One Pilots. In fact, “Trench” has been considered a sort of continuation of “Blurryface,” especially with the “Jumpsuit” music video taking place exactly where the music video for “Heavydirtysoul” left off.
Of course, there is a lot more to “Jumpsuit” and “Nico And The Niners” than meets the eye. In order to understand and catch onto the hidden messages woven into the lyrics of these two new songs, a review of Twenty One Pilot’s year-long hiatus is a must. It has been a year of silence, but also a year of cryptic messages for fans to decipher and debate.
The hiatus began with a visual of an eye closing on July 6, 2017. Radio silence from thereon out. However, within that same month, Josh Dun, the band’s beloved drummer, accepted an award on the band’s behalf for “Most Dedicated Fanbase” at the 2017 Alternative Press Music Awards.
In his acceptance speech, he explained that Tyler Joseph, the band’s lead singer, couldn’t make it because he was too busy “severing ties with DEMA.” Out of context, his comment didn’t make much sense. Who, or what was DEMA? Luckily, a website popped up this past April to clear the air about DEMA.
The website now is only an error message reading: “you are in violation. thEy mustn’t know you were here. no one should ever find out About thiS. you can never tell anyone about this – for The sake of the others’ survival, you muSt keep this silent. we mUst keep silent. no one can know. no one can know. no o ne c an k now_ (Violation Code. 15398642_14).”
If the violation code number is added to the website URL, fans will be taken to a new page where they can scroll through “Trench” related images and writings. Also, hidden in the error code as out of place capitalizations, is the phrase “EAST IS UP,” which is featured and heavily repeated in the song “Nico And The Niners.”
From these images and writings, fans brewed over hidden messages in file names that offered possible hints for future song and album titles. Some messages were just downright difficult to piece together, like the identity of Clancy and the focus on his journal entries. Not to mention that DEMA, other than the website, was still a mystery. Oh, and who exactly were Nico and The Niners? This particular speculation, of course, was before the release of the song.
Suddenly, with enough digging, some pieces start to come together. DEMA, or dakhma (know as a Tower of Silence), is a tower-like structure built by Zoroastrians (one of the world’s oldest religions) to aid in excarnation. In other words, the practice of leaving dead bodies to be picked clean by carrion-eating birds before burial. The album cover for “Trenches” features a vulture and, in this ghastly context, continues the darker perspective that Twenty One Pilots is notorious for.
Now let’s return to this question: Who is Clancy? Well, in “Blurryface,” the title itself was a character representing Tyler’s darker alter ego, like a destructive manifestation of his mental health. Perhaps Clancy is Blurryface’s foil. The journal entries explain his attempts to escape DEMA with a group of “Banditos” (an ode to the tour), ending with him realizing DEMA felt like home after his long stay.
However, he says he’ll never look back on it the same way after escaping it. Some have deciphered these letters as a portrayal of trying to overcome mental illness; it’s a means of separating the you who suffered through a rough patch and the you who survived it. In other words, Clancy is the one who escaped, while Blurryface is still stuck and full of negative emotion.
In the music video for “Jumpsuit,” several of these speculations bring more questions to light. Has the character of Blurryface disappeared? Is Tyler playing the part of Clancy in the video? Tyler (or Clancy) has his neck painted black by a man in red, and the “Blurryface” era has already explained that paint holds significance, representing insecurity (red was the main color accented in “Blurryface”).
Perhaps the man in red wants Tyler (or Clancy) to remain silent, serving as a potential nod to the hiatus and the insecurity symbolism. However, Tyler (or Clancy) rejects silence when he realizes he’s not alone (this is where Josh and Jenna, Tyler’s wife, feature in the video as a part of the ensemble throwing down yellow petals).
Just like how “Blurryface” emphasized the color red, “Trench” seems transfixed on the color yellow. The band’s new logo is in yellow and most of the cryptic messages, like the eye, have featured the color yellow in some way. The DEMA website has revealed to fans that Nico and The Niners can’t see the color yellow and that Tyler (or Clancy) can use it as “cover” while he escapes; this is heavily accented in the video with the yellow petals “covering” Tyler as he runs away and in the lyric, “Jumpsuit, jumpsuit, cover me.”
Yellow can also represent the light at the end of the tunnel, another metaphor for those who suffer from mental illness. So perhaps Tyler’s “jumpsuit” is his armor against mental illness, or a metaphor for the love and support he receives from his friends and family. Yellow becomes a color of hope to “cover” up the darkness (black paint) he suffers from.
This emphasis on mental illness and darkness is a trademark for Twenty One Pilots, and many fans have resonated with their music because of its sad but honest relateability. Critics have accused them of glorifying depression and keeping fans from seeking help, and “Nico And The Niners” fires back with its lyrics: “They want to make you forget, save your razorblades now, not yet… maybe from the money we made razorblade stores, rent a race horse and force a sponsor and start a concert, a complete diversion.” Their music is an outlet of painful emotion to inspire empathy, not a tool to hurt their listeners.
The song also includes a backwards message in the beginning, with Josh saying in a pitch-shifted voice, “We are banditos, we will leave DEMA and head true east, we renounce vialism.” Vialism has been mentioned on the website, but no meaning has been realized yet.
From direct references to DEMA in lyrics to music videos packed with hidden message symbolism, Twenty One Pilot’s new releases from “Trenches” have been a compilation of the last year of cryptic messages during the hiatus. Everyone is eager for more answers as they await the “Trench” full album drop on Oct. 5 and the beginning of the Bandito Tour on Oct. 16.
There is no question that Tyler and Josh are on course for more success with their excellent use of foreshadowing and the alternative craftsmanship of “Jumpsuit” and “Nico And The Niners.”
As for all the answers fans are still craving, it’s possible that they are still on the horizon in the form of cryptic messages, an album drop and the Bandito tour. Only time will tell if they will all be answered or remain in silence.