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  • Lauren Johns

Twenty One Pilots: “I am Clancy”

By: Lauren Johns

The illustrious duo, Tyler Joseph (vocalist) and Josh Dun (drummer) are returning to the ethereal world of Trench after a long hiatus. “Clancy '', the continuation of this storyline, and their seventh studio album, is set to release May 17. To add to “The Hype”, they also released the first single, “Overcompensate” on February 29, a funky, psychedelic sounding tune that seems to switch up the tempo every few seconds. And…it contains a heck ton of lore. 

Image credit: Wall of Sound Blog

According to an interview with Tyler Joseph via BBC Radio, the track features a specific lyric in the chorus, “dangerous bend symbol” that refers to those street signs warning people of sharp turns ahead. When people fail to slow down in time, they have to overcompensate with the steering wheel to avoid wrecking. Tyler used to have that full speed ahead mentality.

Sound-wise, the new single starts with a classical piano ballad and a distorted voice overlay: a mix of German, Spanish and French (who knew that Tyler and Joseph were multilingual). Based on some rough translations, it seems to say: “this small eerie island has made me a weapon. We both believe we can use it to change the momentum of this war,” (Songfacts blog).

Proceeding the foreign language bit, avid fans can expect to be brought back in time with some “Bandito” lyrical references, (a song from the “Trench” universe). This bout of nostalgia actually clarified some words for me. Back in 2018, when “Trench” was released, I thought the words in the bridge of “Bandito” were, “falling in sorrow”. But no, my hearing isn’t 20/20 afterall. They are actually, “Folina Sahlo''.

 If you’re scratching your head here, I’ll enlighten you, or the dictionary will. Urban Dictionary says that “Folina Sahlo” is used by Banditos, aka rebels, when they are in need of saving, an SOS equivalent. But actually the first verse has this line: “this is the sound we make, when in between two places”, that seems to be relevant, turning the whole thing into a higher stakes game of “Marco Polo”. In other words, it’s a way of signaling your location to others. 

The song flows ahead as smoothly as Tyler’s raps have become, and considering the amount of beat changes, it’s infinitely more impressive. He starts with a nod to Adidas, (product placement?), and later on mentions a person named Clancy.

As quoted from the interview, Tyler said, “Clancy is our protagonist in this story we’ve been telling, stretched out over the last several records. He’s the type of character who, for a long time, didn’t know if he was a leader or not, didn’t want to take that responsibility. [With] ‘Overcompensate’, there’s a confidence and swagger in it that the character needed to embody in order to take on a new role in his story.” If you’re like me, and you struggled to follow the lore, or were just too lazy (on energy saving mode), to make the effort, the duo has answered your prayers. They posted a four minute video called, “I am Clancy”, in February that detailed nearly a decade of lore. They went from bread crumbing to spoon feeding. And I don’t know how I feel about it. Would you want Taylor Swift to release a cheat sheet to all of her easter eggs? No, you wouldn’t. Would a reveal like this be more effective after the new album’s release? The world will never know. 

According to the video, Trench is a luscious green continent, surrounding a cement city called “Dema”, where Tyler is a citizen. But Tyler is also a poor excuse of an escapee, as he is consistently captured by Nico (aka Blurryface, the name he gives himself, his face is always obstructed by something). Furthermore, I guess Tyler’s got a target on his back, since Nico is an authority figure in the city, the leader of the nine bishops, (and the inspiration for a song, “Nico and the Niners”.) The leaders follow a religion called “Vialism”, which they force on their citizens, the end goal being that you take your own life (to reach paradise). Once someone dies, much like donating an organ, they donate their entire body to be used as a vessel, this is called “seizing”. No need to fret though, only the dead have this “privilege” and the bishops are (supposedly) the only ones who possess the ability.

Map of Trench, credit to: Reddit

The storyline continues with Tyler undergoing (yet another) escape attempt. He sets a fiery diversion via a burning car (acting as a sequel to “Heavydirtysoul”, where Tyler was driving a car that was slowly catching on fire). As Tyler starts wandering away from Dema, he eventually grows fatigued and is captured again, (not a very well thought out plan). 

This all plays out in the “Jumpsuit” music video, filmed in Þórsmörk, a small town in Iceland, (Billboard). As the leader, “Blurryface'' approaches Tyler on his gallant steed, Tyler looks up towards the canyons and sees a crowd of Banditos, gazing down at him. Meanwhile, Blurryface reaches him and leaves black marks on his neck, symbolizing ownership, based on a fan theory site, and the black marks grow larger. In this way, Tyler’s demons have caught up to him. As he stumbles after the enemy, he notices a yellow flower patch and is reminded of the Banditos. He seemingly breaks out of his trance, and gazes upward, only to discover that the air is filled with yellow flower petals like snowfall. In this way, giving him a glimpse of hope, the bright yellow sprinkling across the dreary landscape.

The flower becomes a sort of surrender, but not to the enemy, to the ones he loves (aka the Banditos). Maybe, it’s his decision to finally get the help he needs. In addition, the “Jumpsuit” metaphor could represent a sort of higher power. With the lyrics: “dusting off my jumpsuit, cover me”, he’s either rediscovering his purpose in life, or rediscovering his faith. This especially applies to the bridge, where he sings of being there for someone, but only if they take away what he loves first. If they “break both hands”, he can no longer play music or write. If they “grab [his] throat and lift him in the air,” he can no longer sing or speak. All in all, he won’t give up until he’s lost everything that matters. 

Stills from the "Jumpsuit" music video, credit to: Youtube

Lorewise, after he was marked by Blurryface and recaptured, he immediately joined forces with the Banditos. Unfortunately, their escape plan failed once again, becoming an endless game of cat and mouse. Now he was a well-known fugitive in Trench, forced against his will to perform for the citizens of Dema, to distract them with pretty music and keep them complacent, (“Saturday” music video). Hence, the entire 2021 album, “Scaled and Icy”, (otherwise known as, “Scaled Back and Isolated”). This album was innovative by being completely un-innovative, each track sugary enough to become department store hits. Good thing I have a sweet tooth. It was a complete 180 from the brooding, melancholy of the Trench album (2018). Tyler and Josh were forced to create songs for the masses. 

Shifting gears back to “Overcompensate”, it is revealed at the end of the music video that Tyler was seizing, (using someone’s body as a vessel), which was a power only reserved for the bishops. To add, he seemed to be drawing his powers from Ned’s fully grown antlers, (Twenty One Pilots Wiki). 

To explain further, Ned is an animal that represents Tyler’s creativity and is characterized as having a large belly, wide black eyes and tiny antlers. Tyler discovered another Ned (they were believed to be extinct), after he finally escaped Trench and wound up on some island called “Voldsoy” (“The Outside” music video). And that is where Tyler obtained his seizing powers.

To give a bit more context on Ned, there’s a music video for a song called “Chlorine”, (from the Trench album), where the duo are sitting near an empty pool. When Ned appears, he seems shy and timid. Knowing he loves chlorine, the two proceed to fill the pool with dangerous levels of the chemical. As soon as he feels the amount is to his liking, he dives in and swims happily, his horns starting to grow. When likening this to creativity, it doesn’t always want to show its face. The circumstances have to be just right. Eventually, the chlorine runs out and the creature is sad again, causing his horns to shrink. He cares more about the loss of chlorine than the water itself. In this way, creativity has the potential to be toxic, causing high levels of stress from societal pressures and expectations. Oftentimes, inspiration needs pressure to form metaphorical diamonds. 

Still shot of Ned, credit to: Twenty One Pilots Wiki

I will admit that as much as I loved their new song, “Overcompensate”, I was completely overwhelmed by the abundance of lore leading up to it. Despite their video acting as a “lore for dummies” guide, there is still a bit of information to be desired. So I encourage you, as the reader, and explorer, to blaze your own trail of conspiracies, and follow your intuition. After all, music is as subjective as it is meaningful. Safe travels. 




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