Twenty One Pilots "Trench" Anniversary
It's been a year since Twenty One Pilots released their fifth studio album "Trench". It moved fans into another era of the band's music and as well as introduces new aspects. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun from Ohio usually unfolds a theme throughout their tracklist and uses a color scheme to accompany the album's message. But, songwriter Tyler Joseph took a step further by making an entire world for the story of Trench.
"Trench is a world, this place that’s mostly made of trees and rocks and uncharted territory and wild terrain, and at the very bottom of the world is a city called Dema. Dema is the city that in this record, in this narrative, I’m from and I feel the need to escape, to leave, and more than anything the record represents that feeling. So, the narrative is really to try to describe some of those emotions that some people could come to feel as they travel through their own journey. " Tyler explains the world in an interview with MusicFeeds which you can read more of here.
The story was teased during their hiatus when a cryptic website was discovered. Vague photos and diary entries from the unknown "Clancy" resided here alongside the map of Dema. Fans theorized the possibilities of what could happen and then the music videos for "Jumpsuit" and "Nico And The Niners" dropped, later followed by "Levitate". While "Blurryface" captured Tyler's inner conflict, Trench broadens the conflict to represent other's who deal with the same turmoil and a place they can be safe from it. He does this by including the idea of the "Banditos."
"Jumpsuit" is the introduction to Tyler's imagination. It invites us into the World of Trench by giving hints and visuals on three important characters: Tyler, Nico, and the Banditos, led by Josh. In the "Jumpsuit" music video, we see the masked group of Banditos watching over Tyler. It appears he is looking for a way out of this trench but is being tracked down by the one of the Niners. When they find him, he briefly obeys and the lyrics show us his thoughts on complying:
"I'll be right there
But you'll have to grab my throat and lift me in the air
If you need anyone
I'll stop my plans
But you'll have to tie me down and then break both my hands."
In the past, Tyler Joseph has explained that he's most insecure about his voice and hands allowing him to sing and create. However, those are the things enabling him to fight his anxiety and express himself. If he is to comply with Nico and the Niners, they'll have to destroy those parts of him. It's here the Banditos try saving him by showering him in Sunflower petals. The color yellow is significant to the Banditos as it symbolizes hope and it contrasts with the Niners' red cloaks. However, Tyler doesn't escape the cloaked horseman which leads us into the next music video: "Nico And The Niners".
The song and video give us a view of Dema. The gray, enclosed city trapping whoever believes in the Niners. The video's beginning shows a vulture outside the room Tyler is leaving. The vulture may symbolize the death of creativity and individualism. The decay of one's spirit as they "shake hands with the dark parts of their thoughts." The Banditos are coming to get him. Through a series of tunnels, they have found a way to leave and return to Dema to rescue the captured. And from the multiple Sunflowers Tyler's kept in his room, it's difficult to leave without anyone knowing and being returned. While an escape is taking place, the Niners hold another assembly where they perform "vialism." Forming light trapped in glass. Making sure everything is controlled.
"In City, I feel my spirit is contained
Like neon inside the glass, they form my brain
But I recently discovered it's a heatless fire
Like nicknames they give themselves to uninspire."
His spirit cannot grow inside Dema. The city is meant to weaken you. Destroying the pieces vital to our existence. The Niners discourage self courage and understanding. The discord we know, from the previous album, Blurryface causes: feeding on insecurities. But accepting those lies equals a heatless fire shaping your mindset. This time Tyler and the Banditos leave for the Bandito campsite. The video ends with two kids discovering Tyler's jacket he left behind to encourage others to go outside Dema's walls.
Levitate's music video begins where Nico And The Niners ended. Josh and the Banditos successfully helped Tyler leave Dema. They travel back to their camp wearing the iconic yellow tape over camouflaged clothes. At the campsite, everyone is free. Dancing and celebrating that freedom from the Niners. Yet, the song implies conflict while also offering advice.
As "Levitate" finishes the Trench music video trilogy, many lyrics must be traced back to lyrics of "Jumpsuit" and "Nico And The Niners". Tyler's "jumpsuit" is an object helping him leave Dema. The lyrics in Jumpsuit, say "Cover me" as it's a form of protection from things after him: insecurities, anxiety, doubt. He is holding onto something keeping him from dark thoughts.
Nico And The Niners:
"I'm heavy, my jumpsuit is on steady
I'm lighter when I'm lower, I'm higher when I'm heavy,
I'm so high, my jumpsuit takes me so high."
The Jumpsuit assists his escape from whatever is holding him down. It allows him to literally rise above his problems. So "Levitate" advices, "You can learn to levitate with just a little help." Tyler speaks to his listeners to help them leave whatever keeps them stuck in their own "Dema." Since the band's lyrics voice topics difficult to speak on, asking for help implies opening up is worth it. Tyler and Josh help fans confide in the music openly addressing internal struggles.
Twenty One Pilots lyrics always have a double meaning. They never only mean one thing because Tyler has a lot to say and doesn't want to lean in the direction of ordinary. Analyzing and understanding their lyrics takes time and a good comprehension of the duo. Even then, a lot can be left to interpretation. For example, "My heart is with you hiding, but my mind's not made." It may represent Tyler's undecided feelings on leaving Dema. He wants to separate himself from the Niners but being unrestrained from conforming is new territory. It may also voice the fear of doubting his faith while his heart is still in it.
Tyler stated, “One of the misconceptions is because of where we are and what we’ve accomplished – and because people think we have some crazy rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle – that we’ve learned we don’t need God anymore, and that’s not it.” Tyler continued in his interview with NME, “I’m the type of person who needs to challenge everything and my faith is something I’ve always gone through seasons of strongly challenging and once I’ve put it to the test and seen what it is, I’m able to reaccept it. During ‘Trench’, there were moments specifically when you got to see where I was at in my seasons of challenging and re-accepting – and I was definitely going through a challenging time.”
Twenty One Pilots explore themes that have always been defining in their music: faith, mental health, and catharsis. This time, these themes are personified within the world of Trench. In Bandito he sings, “I created this world so I can feel some control." Trench enables Tyler, Josh, and the fans to place themselves in a world where they can face themselves and personal aspects overall. “It’s about using the art of storytelling to better understand a much less fantastical issue which is navigating your own psyche and giving it a destination and places you should and shouldn’t go and characters you should avoid. And that can be found inside each person’s struggle.” Tyler said to NME.
But the story of Trench isn't over. Tyler still has a story to tell and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the future. With Rock Sound, Tyler explained, “There’s definitely an end-game. There’s a story. I think I was very specific that there’s a reason why the record ends with ‘Leave The City’ and the song itself is a kind of cliff-hanger. I mean, the whole thing was it’s setting up for what’s next and it’d be silly to not at least resolve what we’ve already started. There’s a character that hasn’t been talked about on any record yet that plays a huge role in the narrative that obviously will need to be talked about and it’s probably where we’re going next.”
You can listen to the whole album again at Spotify below.