We’re Getting Out of Dema With This One: A Skeleton Cliquer’s Response to Twenty One Pilots’ Upcoming Album

The back of a person holding a torch in a stone interior. (Unsplash/Linus Sandvide)

“Welcome back to Trench.”

The first words of the newest song released by American music group Twenty One Pilots resounded in my head as I hurried to lunch on Feb. 29, and for good reason. It’s been nearly three years, but the clique is more than ready to rumble once again. So get your torch out, put your jumpsuit on and I’ll start at the beginning. 

Twenty One Pilots creates very complicated music. There’s always a lot going on under the surface, even if the melody sometimes sounds simple. Twenty One Pilots is a two-man band comprised of Tyler Joseph, the lead singer, and Josh Dun, the drummer, both from Columbus, Ohio. They’ve released four major albums so far with the record label Fueled By Ramen: “Vessel,” “Blurryface,” “Trench” and “Scaled and Icy.” All four of these — but “Trench” and “Scaled and Icy” in particular — build a world and a plotline carefully hidden in song lyrics, music videos and obscure clues.

According to the newly dropped explanation video, the official Twenty One Pilots wiki, and a semi-secret official collection of files, the fictional world of Trench is a lush, green land containing the city of Dema. This city is controlled by nine bishops, the head of which is named Nicholas Bourbaki (which is also the name of a real-life 19th century general and a secret French math club, but that’s something you’ll have to check out yourself). Each bishop governs the people in his region. They hold to the religion of “vialism,” the highest point of which is to end your own life. There’s a lot more to the story, but suffice it to say that there’s one citizen, Clancy, who’s not happy about the situation and keeps trying to escape. Their last album, “Scaled and Icy,” released in 2021, contained mostly upbeat, “pretending” music, which represented Clancy having to perform for the Bishops.

The rest of that you can research for yourself; it’s a great rabbit hole, complicated and interesting. No one fully understands what’s going on; there are still plenty of unexplained pieces. New discoveries are being made all the time. But what’s all the excitement about now? What’s new?

Photo of a person holding a torch by M.T ElGassier on Unsplash edited by Naomi Speck. (William Jewell College/Naomi Speck)

What’s new is this: On Feb.15, 2024, all the official digital album covers on Apple Music, YouTube Music, and Spotify had red tape over them, covering the eyes of each featured character (and over the circle representing a dead bishop in the case of “Blurryface). That same day, some fans received official letters from the Sacred Municipality of Dema with new Twenty One Pilots information in them. The envelopes were red like the tape on the album covers. This is important because red used to be one of the main colors in earlier albums, but the more recent ones departed from that, first with yellow, and then with pink and blue. Something new was happening, but that something new must connect back to the band’s deepest roots. 

Fans became almost hysterically excited. Something was finally happening! Our long wait might be nearly over! On Feb. 17, random billboards began to go up all over the world with a new TOP logo on them. On Feb. 22, the band released a YouTube music video titled “I Am Clancy” which recapped the lore and added a bit of extra clarifying information. On Feb. 28, they announced their new single, “Overcompensate,” and the next day it streamed for the first time. On the 29th, they officially announced via Instagram that a new album is coming out on May 17, and that it will bring the Trench era to a close. “Clancy” is its name.

So what? Your niche interest no-particular-genre confusing music group is producing more music. Big deal. The big deal is that for the first time in several years, a very complex band is finally going to go back to their main storyline to wrap it up forever. We’re going to finally understand all the lore (okay, maybe it will be a while before we get there, but we’ll put together a lot more of the pieces), and even more importantly, we’re going to finally understand what it means. We’re going to be given the purpose behind all this effort over so much time, and we’re going to be able to trace it back to earlier songs and motifs. 

Finally, we’ll have enough information and enough comprehension to figure out what Twenty One Pilots is all about. And then what? Something totally new. We don’t know what comes next, but we do know that this era is closing forever with the May 17 album release, and whatever they produce after that will be entirely different. This is an exciting time for the Skeleton Clique, and I personally am thrilled for the end of the Bishops’ power and the start of a new narrative.

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