Open Letter to the Clique from Mark
Dear Skeleton Clique,
We are slipping.
Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun use their many talents to send a message of hope and community to those who feel hopeless and alone. The band’s mission is for this message to reach those who struggle (usually with depression, since this is the struggle they (specifically Tyler) understand best), in hopes that it will also help the listener overcome the obstacles they share. They do send other messages, but this is the most immediate and by far the most important.
When a fan base selflessly rallies around this kind of mission and message for the sake of helping others to stay alive, it’s unspeakably beautiful and actually lifesaving. When that same fan base selfishly rearranges its priorities to put fan-status ahead of the mission, it’s unspeakably ugly and detrimental to everything it stood for to begin with. It isolates the message from those who genuinely need it most. It’s an ego-driven, life-threatening mentality.
If there wasn’t so much at stake, I wouldn’t care enough to write a single word about this. The reality, however, is that a truly lifesaving message is getting heavy pushback from many who claim to believe and live out these truths – all in the name of self-glorification. When that happens, we withhold goodness from so many people. Again, we withhold aid from those who need it, and I refuse to just sit here and watch that happen.
I’m not just assuming this negativity and selfishness exists, but rather watching it unfold firsthand. Furthermore, I’m not just assuming that people could really benefit from the message. How many times have you read “Your music saved my life” in the comments? Has it saved yours? Would you want it kept from you?
Let’s take a look at some (paraphrased) attitudes we constantly see:
1) “I’ve been a fan since [album title/year]”
I completely understand why somebody would be proud to have watched a band grow from the beginning. In that case, there would be few who could claim to have seen what you’ve seen, and that’s special in and of itself.
However, it’s not meant to be a trophy for you to shove in anybody’s face. The most likely reason somebody would do this is so that others might acknowledge and validate some high-level of fandom that they possess. Instead of seeking this approval for no good reason, acknowledge your fandom to yourself and move on. Validate your fandom by being a fan. Support the band and its mission.
Honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to find more than one legitimate instance in which you should bring up how long you’ve been a fan. The only one I can think of (and it’s rare as hell) is if somebody asked you directly, but even then, just tell them and move on. Somebody was a fan before you, and there’s likely a band you’ll love that – through no fault of your own – you haven’t even discovered yet.
Boasting the number of years you’ve served in the clique doesn’t drive any of your points home. Not a one. Instead, it divides us, which is foundationally against the message and mission of the band to come together and stay alive.
2) “I hate that they’re getting famous.”
If that’s the case, you simply don’t love or support this band. Let me clarify.
There are only two cases (that I am aware of) in which it makes ANY sense to be upset about your favorite band getting famous: 1) They did so by way of “selling out.” In other words, they sacrificed their mission and message and abandoned what they once stood for as a means to an end (but even in this case, you’d be more upset about the means (selling out) than the end (fame)). 2) Their concert tickets are now much more expensive, which makes it more difficult for you to see them live. In these two cases, absolutely be mad.
The reality you need to accept is that if you love this band, it should bring you unspeakable joy when fame allows their message to reach more people. Otherwise, you’re pushing back against the mission of the band, likely because you just don’t want to share, which brings me to my next point…
3) “This is my band.”
I believe the “this is my band” mentality is responsible for a lot of the issues I’m discussing. When you link your personal identity so heavily with something that is fundamentally meant to be shared, you will inevitably forfeit your identity to the public when it actually becomes shared. You will lose yourself entirely.
4) “I hate how people call themselves fans but they only know Stressed Out/Tear in my Heart/House of Gold/Car Radio.”
Show me even one person who claims to be a Twenty One Pilots fan while simultaneously admitting to only knowing one or a handful of song(s). Seriously, if you see somebody do both at the same time, comment it below. Let’s see how many actually exist.
In other words, those who are upset about self-proclaimed fans only knowing one song likely have no way of proving that the person actually only knows the one song. Rather, they assume the worst of a stranger based solely on whichever song they listed as their favorite. If it’s a radio hit, they often call out the poor soul who simply said they like Stressed Out. Even if they do admit to only knowing the one song, in most (if not all) cases, it’s paired with something like, “…but I love this band,” suggesting they expect to dig further into the discography based off of how much they love what little they’ve heard.
The truth is that these songs are powerful enough for one of them alone to move somebody. If you’re not willing to accept that truth because you feel somebody isn’t doing the entire catalog justice, you don’t even understand these songs, let alone support the mission they drive. No matter how ideal it would be for someone to know the whole catalog, no matter how cohesive and intentional each album is as a whole, that can’t possibly diminish the fact that each song can speak volumes by itself. It’s no crime for somebody to recognize that. In fact, it strengthens this community and allows it to grow.
5) “It’s ‘Twenty One Pilots,’ not ’21p’ or ‘TOP'”
I actually agree that we should spell out the band’s name. They requested that we do so out of respect. However, we need to realize something.
Those who abbreviate the band name are almost never doing so to diminish what Twenty One Pilots is. Abbreviating is common with band names, and people are usually just being people. If you’re seeking to invite the person to understand the spelling-out of the band name, do so kindly and in a way that fosters community. This is usually the route the clique takes, and I’m grateful for that. This is just a friendly reminder.
Again, this is no time to take people’s innocent ignorance personally (see point 3). There is never a need to prove how much you know just for proof’s sake.That divides the fan base and pushes back against the band’s mission and message.
EDIT: Since this article was posted, Twenty One Pilots has released official merchandise with their band name abbreviated in nearly every way imaginable (2NTY ØNE PLTS, TØP, etc), which I have to imagine was their decision. Do what you will and remain inviting.
6) “Vessel is not their first album”
Again, those who suggest Vessel is the band’s first album almost never do so just to get under your skin. Don’t let it anger you. Instead, realize that it actually makes a lot of sense for someone to believe Vessel is their first album considering the difference between independent releases and label releases (some of their work isn’t actually allowed by law to be sold commercially or publicly). Be welcoming and kind. Nurture the clique. Let it grow.
7) “Twenty One Pilots is not indie/rock/pop/rap/whatever.”
The lines separating genres have become so blurred at this point that it’s almost pointless to even try to assign one to a band anymore. There’s no reason to get upset if you think Twenty One Pilots has been misrepresented by genre. That being said, by all means have a discussion about what you think it might be. But don’t get upset. That just doesn’t make any sense.
For the record, they’re self-declared as “Schizoid-Pop” and I have no idea what that’s even supposed to mean. Discuss.
Being a part of the skeleton clique should make you feel proud. We are the foot soldiers in places the band can’t reach alone. By spreading this message, you help the band help others, and that’s all they want. That, and to see the clique grow.
If somebody flat-out disrespects the mission and message of Twenty One Pilots, by all means fight back. Don’t be rude, just be real. Defend the truth with more truth.
In that same vein, spreading this message is crucial. Let it through. Do not keep it for yourself. This band is not yours, it’s ours. Not everyone in the clique is guilty of this selfish mentality. In fact, I’d say the vast majority is still on track. However, I say again, we are slipping. Let’s find our footing.
Stay alive, friends. |-/