“There are certain moments which don’t happen very often – at least for me as a songwriter – where it’s like, ‘This is a moment where I need to be black and white,’” says Tyler. “I had a lot of things stirring that I wanted to get out, and I think that – not to judge the past – it’s hard to say ‘suicide’. It’s hard to talk about suicide…”
twenty one pilots have tackled dark matters in their music before – from the metaphorical (Guns For Hands, Holding On To You), to more literal lyrics such as Ride’s ‘Yeah, I think about the end just way too much / But it’s fun to fantasise.’ But never before has Tyler been so direct.
So what made now the time to make a song like this?
“I definitely think it was a reaction to what was happening in our culture,” he acknowledges. “I think it shouldn’t go unnoticed that I’m also very… like… proud of our culture, in that song, too. And I still am. I’m proud of the strides that we’ve made, in talking about it, and addressing it. This has been a theme of our songwriting for some time now, and I’ve always felt a little bit alone in that. And now, not so much, which is a good thing. But, at the same time, I felt inclined to bring up a new perspective – a perspective that comes off a bit more aggressive and more of a challenge. But, I knew, if there were people like me, we respond to that challenge positively. Ultimately, that’s what I was trying to do.”
During Neon Gravestones’ inception, Tyler admits, his bandmate was concerned about the sensitivity of the song. “When I first started writing it, you wanted to make sure that it was coming across correctly,” he says, turning to Josh. “And that, in itself, gave me a huge heads-up on the importance of the topic that I was talking about. When Josh was like, ‘Yes, this feels right, I can get behind this,’ at that point I knew, ‘Now this can go.’”
If you’re looking for answers to the many questions that Trench poses, Neon Gravestones is one of the best places to start. Not that Tyler himself wants to give it all away. As ever, interpretation is left up to the listener.
“I could go all the way down and answer every question,” he says. “I don’t want to yet, but Neon Gravestones is a view into the deeper reasons of what’s going on in Dema that feels like I have to leave.”