Arthur Miller may have scripted the death of twenty-one pilots, but Twenty Øne Piløts has soared to the top of charts. I first became aware of the band when they took off for mainstream success with Stressed Out. As the single infiltrated Top 40 airwaves, I gravitated toward its alternative sound and concept. In an age where a lack of standards allows pop music to be occupied by generic commercialism promoting shallow parties and sex, confessions regarding the pressures of societal responsibilities spoke to me. The innovative track prompted me to explore the duo’s other music. I soon dove into the emotively artistic realm that is Twenty Øne Piløts. My mind had been blown, and Stressed Out had converted me to a Skeletøn Clique affiliate.
With the recent drop of the duo’s latest album, it has been an especially exhilarating time for the clique. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun recently hit the road to promote Trench on their Banditøs Tøur, a spectacle which I have fortunately witnessed. Observing the genre-defying musicians’ evolution from the Blurryface era to their current album cycle has been fascinating. Receiving the privilege to see TØP perform to a sold-out audience at the “world’s most famous arena” made it hard to fathom the band began their career with playing to a handful of people in basement corners.
Tyler and Josh epitomize the possibilities of a DIY career without an initial record label. Their Ohio-born efforts have grown from a local community to a worldwide movement. Thankfully for social media, it has become easier for artists to conduct their own paths to success without the advantages of money or connections. Online culture has empowered individuals to build awareness of a craft while serving as their own public relations consultant. TØP’s example of this method of self-made success has encouraged me throughout my journey of blending art and design with social influence.
Tyler’s raw poetry also demonstrates many of the goals to which I aspire. His lyrics complemented with varying sounds, tempos, and Josh’s percussion lend a voice to the voiceless. Their music has precisely articulated thoughts I never realized I contemplated. TØP’s genius has empowered me as well as countless others to realize it is okay to not be okay. Tyler and Josh have continuously offered acceptance to a struggling youth while reassuring that emotions involving depression, anxiety, and insecurity are valid.
I experienced this epiphany when I first heard Stressed Out. Balancing my mental health, finances, and pursuits with an uninspiring college experience certainly stressed me out. The strive to have my frustration understood dominated my mind. No one recognized this situation with an anthem until Tyler crooned about nostalgia surrounding a less complicated age.
Although music’s spokespeople for an emotionally complex generation have maintained awareness of struggles on their recent album, Twenty Øne Piløts has gracefully recognized the possibility of misinterpretation by inspiring strength to overcome obstacles. Many of the tracks included on Trench lend insight on seeing clearly past the illusion that a suffering psyche may cast. Visuals of the Banditøs Tøur complemented this optimism as well. The red bird separated from a flock of white birds used to depict the prior album’s Goner track was replaced by a union of yellow birds to imply a defeat of loneliness. As an artist, I especially appreciated the transformation of this concept.
I anticipated how TØP would reinvent itself after the visual dominance of the Blurryface era. Its complex identity consisted of a carefully curated color palette, distinct prints, composition of nine circles, and a particular type treatment. This language had become so cemented, I wondered if it could be demolished. I eventually realized the possibility when Tyler and Josh teased teased the band’s new logo. Green and yellow replaced the combination of Blurryface’s red, black, and white palette. Camouflage print and floral illustrations swarmed various platforms. Costumes consisting of red beanies, edgy streetwear, black body paint, and red eye shadow were traded in for battle attire customized with yellow tape. Tyler and Josh certainly executed the assumption of a new image while archiving their prior brand’s appearance.
When the boys sent the fandom into hysteria with the release of new music, I recognized instantly that TyJo’s camouflage jacket accessorized with yellow duct tape would be an iconic look to recreate. The Trench era ensemble would serve as the perfect follow-up to my Stressed Out video costume I wore for Emøtiønal Røadshøw. However, I also realized the Jumpsuit ensemble would prompt most fans to dress similarly. Opting for a more unique role, I dressed as Tyler’s pet cheetah also named Jason. My spotted attire received many compliments from the clique waiting around Madison Square Garden. Fellow fans would recite the “pet cheetah, cheetah” outro or shout approval. I reveled in the sense of community the fandom provided as well as its support for my distinct take on a costume.
Participating in such a movement has filled me with inspiration along my own journey. Hearing my idol acknowledge his family in the MSG audience while reflecting on how far the band has come since its minuscule productions triggered tears. Tyler and Josh have demonstrated how anything to which I aspire is attainable despite professional and social struggles. When TyJo lastly declared, “We’re Twenty One Pilots, and so are you!” as per tradition before retreating backstage with Josh, I remembered that I too can serve as a pilot in navigating toward my own success.
Thank you to Stressed Out for introducing me to these indescribably special artists as well as their world.