In 2009, the band Twenty One Pilots was formed by high school students Tyler Joseph, Nick Thomas, and Chris Salih. The band’s name came from a play called All My Sons written by Arthur Miller which won the Tony Award for Best Author and Best Directions of a Play. Twenty One Pilots refers to the twenty one men who died due to a faulty plane design by one of the characters in the play. In 2011, however, Salih and Thomas both left the band, which then Tyler hired a drummer named Josh Dun, continuing the band as a duo. Their music has always been about their struggle to face their demons and the support of their loved ones, especially Tyler’s wife, Jenna.
They have had four albums so far: Regional at Best, Vessel, Blurryface, and their newest one, Trench. By far, the last two have been their most popular as the song “Stressed Out” on the Blurryface album was the one that brought them to stardom. They also gained more spotlight as they made a song to go along with the movie Suicide Squad called “Heathens”. As they gain more followers, their original fans fear the newcomers will not realize the deeper meaning behind the songs such as a demon that represents all of your insecurities, a Utopian city called Dema, a cult called the Niners, and the apocalypse.
Yes, Nico is a very important character on the record. Nico is one of the nine bishops that govern the city of Dema – now stay with me here – his real name is Nicholas Bourbaki and basically this record is a continuation of the story of Blurryface.
Blurryface, or as he is known in the new album Trench, Nico, is a demon that is supposed to represent everything you hate about yourself. He is immoral and he doesn’t hold back his punches both figuratively and literally. The album Blurryface is supposed to be about Tyler’s fight with Blurryface and his suicidal thoughts. In the end, Tyler wins the fight against Blurryface as heard in the final song of the album, “Goner”. However, Blurryface comes back in Trench with his other demons called the Niners as called in their song “Nico and Niners”.
From an interview with Music Feeds, “Yes, Nico is a very important character on the record. Nico is one of the nine bishops that govern the city of Dema – now stay with me here – his real name is Nicholas Bourbaki and basically this record is a continuation of the story of Blurryface.
Last record, Blurryface was a character that represented insecurity, and the more you learn about those insecurities and the more you learn about that character, the more control that you can have over things like that in your mental game of war. With this record being a continuation of that, one of the things that I knew I wanted to do was to figure out Blurryface’s real name, and Blurryface’s real name is Nicholas Bourbaki.”
The entirety of Trench is supposed to be about Tyler’s escape from the city called Dema, controlled by the Niners with freedom fighters called “the Trench” as shown in the “Jumpsuit” music video. In the very last song “Leave the City”, Tyler sings “In time I will leave the city. For now I will stay alive”, meaning that he will stay and fight, although he dreams of leaving one day as referenced to in the lines “But this year, though I’m far from home, in Trench I’m not alone. These faces facing me.”
You can see Trench, Niners, and leaving the city of Dema as a metaphor for the apocalypse. Tyler Joseph is a Christian who doubts his faith a lot but tries to remain strong. You can call the city of Dema “Earth” as all groups reside in it, the Niners “the workers of Satan” as the ones who fight for God. Leaving the city could be used as a metaphor for ascending to heaven as referenced to the line from the song Nico and the Niners “East is up”. As in the city of Dema, the walls of the city, and the only way out is on the east side. In the line where Tyler says that he will stay alive to fight Dema, he means that although he is depressed, he will stay and support all those can as long as he is alive.
Many students face clinical depression, including myself, and their music can be considered as something that gives us all hope. For me, their music perfectly encapsulates my fears, my demons, and my love for the people who support me.
Blurryface by far is an intriguing character as he is relatable to everyone. Some people may have different names for it, but there is still the same concept of all your insecurities being the voice in your head. Twenty One Pilots should get more recognition than they already do for their work in masterfully creating a story, making amazing music, and giving hope to all those who suffer mental illness.