Twenty One Pilots specialise in playing a fun cat-and-mouse game with their adoring fans. Ever since the Ohio duo unveiled their fifth album, ‘Trench’ in 2018 via an elaborate trail of breadcrumbs that involved cryptic clues smuggled in awards acceptance speeches and semi-secret websites, their devotees – the Skeleton Clique – have dedicated lengthy Reddit threads to deciphering hidden meanings in each move frontman Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun make, and unravelling the complex lore they’ve created.
But where are the band going next? Like some kind of CSI Dema, fans have been forensically examining evidence for what the next album will involve. Dig out your green fatigues and yellow masking tape, as we present five of their theories.
1: The new logo suggests the Bandito resistance is growing stronger
When Twenty One Pilots released ‘Trench’, the new era was accompanied by a yellow modification of their ever-evolving abstract, lines-within-a-circle logo, replete with an additional upwards and sideways slash added to represent “an extra layer of protection”, according to Tyler.
So in November 2019, when the duo updated their logo – the previously faded lines have become more defined – fans were quick to investigate, with Reddit sleuth user/king-of-the-clouds unearthing that it had been tweaked to a different shade of yellow.
What significance could this hold? Well, it’s all linked to the wider ‘Trench’ narrative (the allegorical city of Dema ruled over by nine dictatorial bishops – and the rebel force of Banditos seeking to liberate its inhabitants) and the established rule that bishops can’t see yellow, as well as the enigmatic way ‘Trench’ was teased on the website dmaorg.
This gif on the site is labelled as _they_ca_ntseeFCE300.gif. FCE300 is a hex code for a specific shade of yellow, so it effectively translates as ‘They can’t see yellow’. The new logo’s hex code lines up perfectly with this, whereas the original ‘Trench’ one was slightly different: F3EFOO.
“People are also saying that the updated logo looks more “solid,” or “complete,” like the Banditos are getting stronger, and, assuming that the bishops can’t see this shade of yellow, this would kinda play into that,” writes user/king-of-the-clouds. “As for what that means for the Banditos and the overall storyline of ‘Trench’? No clue, but the colour change is definitely there, and it was definitely intentional.’”
Does it mean the Banditos have triumphed? Perhaps spotting fans’ fervid speculation, the band later posted a live shot on their social media with the caption ‘makeitallyellow’. Are they hinting that something new is on the horizon or is it an act of Herculean trolling?
makeitallyellow • pic.twitter.com/HM7tZ8nFXB
— twenty one pilots (@twentyonepilots) November 26, 2019
2: Clancy will play a big role on the next album
In NME’s extensive, revealing Big Read with Twenty One Pilots last year, Tyler let slip that he was already working on ideas for the next album, which would further delve into the intricate saga that they began on 2015’s ‘Blurryface’ and continued on ‘Trench’.
“There’s a story. I think it’s very specific there’s a reason why the record ends with [the song] ‘Leave the City’ and the song itself is kind of a 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,” he said.
“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,” he continued.
“So it’s not going to be rehashing all the same themes, but it’s gonna recall all that and introduce a new character, a new direction.”
This galvanised the Skeleton Clique into theorising that Clancy – the founder of the Banditos whose online journal entries offered us our first window into the Dema universe (but has as yet not been mentioned on an album) – might play a pivotal part on their upcoming record.
3: The forthcoming album will focus on family
In September last year, Tyler announced that he was set to become a dad, bringing his pregnant wife Jenna Joseph onstage during Twenty One Pilots’ Lollapalooza Berlin gig. No, the name of the child (probably) won’t build on the Dema mythos. When a voice-of-reason Twitter user pointed out that “If she’s [Tyler’s child] named Faith/Hope/Grace, it would not be bc [sic] of Tyler’s struggle with religion. Please just be mindful that she will exist outside of Twenty One Pilots’, Tyler quipped back: “Was leaning toward Heathers or Stressica” – referencing their famous tracks ‘Heathens’ and ‘Stressed Out‘.
However, some fans are doggedly suggesting that – with Josh engaged to actress Debby Ryan – it will mean a greater focus on their personal relationships for album six, less camouflaged in fantasy. Admittedly, it’s a wild-card theory, but with ‘Trench’ containing a trio of tracks that exist outside the narrative – ‘Smithereens’ (a love song for Tyler’s wife), ‘Legend’ (a tribute to Tyler’s late grandfather) and ‘Neon Gravestones’ (a pointed and poignant response to the media’s glorification of suicide) – does it suggest that Tyler is becoming more confident to fully drop his guard for Twenty One Pilots’ next opus?
4: Album six will introduce a god-like figure
Hold on to your (red ‘Blurryface’) hats – this one’s a bit of a flex.
‘Trench’ culminates with the sweeping ‘Leave the City’, which Tyler has said is about a crisis of faith. Both Tyler and Josh identify as Christian, with the former once claiming that writing ‘Trench’ is the closest he’s come to “entertaining a world where there isn’t a god.” This has sparked fan theories that – since fans, family and friends are represented on ‘Trench’ but not god – the next album’s “new character” will be some form of spiritual lodestar.
See below for the full explanation.
5: The future’s orange
Browsing a Dulux paint wheel must be a minefield for the Skeleton Clique at the moment, as they hotly debate what hue the next album will be. We’ve already had ‘Trench’’s yellow, while ‘Blurryface’ – whose eponymous lead character is a personification of Tyler’s anxiety and insecurity – was represented by the colour red.
Reddit user DemocraticLeftist presents a compelling case for the next logical step being orange.
He argues: “It seems with confusing lyrics like, ‘In time I will leave the city, for now I will stay alive’ that Tyler can’t choose between staying in the depressing red world, or leaving it and killing the depressing version of himself to go to the yellow happiness, and finally be positive. After all, the “bishops”, aka thoughts, commonly pull him back to the red. Why not find the perfect combination of depression and happiness? A balance of sorts? In between red and yellow, is orange.”
Is the next step in Twenty One Pilots’ cosplay going to channel demob-happy easyJet-workers? As with all this speculation – and especially from a group known for creatively keeping their cards close to their chest – only time will tell. Only one thing’s certain: the Skeleton Clique’s fan theory game is as strong as ever.