The So-Called Cult of 30 Seconds to Mars

The name Jared Leto may be familiar from movies like Requiem for a Dream, Fight Club, Panic Room, etc. He also stars in Jaco van Dormael’s new sci-fi fantasy Mr. Nobody (set for release this fall). But a lot of people still don’t realize he is also the front man for the increasingly popular rock band 30 Seconds to Mars (30STM).

Yeah, I know. Like me, your first thought may have actually been a snicker (thinking of the much-maligned efforts of other actors like Keanu Reeves or Russell Crowe). However, unlike the bands of those actors, 30STM sold over 100,000 copies with their first self-titled album (referred to as S/T).

Their sophomore effort, A Beautiful Lie (ABL), went platinum (over a million copies sold). A few critics still dismiss 30STM as just another actor’s “vanity project,” which is ridiculous in terms of the numerous awards they have won over the last few years. This band is not only unusually dedicated to its global fan base, the members actively promote and support awareness of both environmental and social issues. And their fans… are just as eclectic and devoted as they are.

How I First Heard 30STM

A fan of My So-Called Life (MSCL) when it was plastered all over MTV in the mid-late 90s, and a film buff, I’ve been aware of Jared Leto’s acting career for many years. I knew he was also in a band but never heard any of the music. About two years ago, I noticed both he and 30STM were repeatedly referenced in the Entertainment section of After reading about the band’s substantial international fan base, and the success of the last album, I became curious.

Noticing my local library had an increasing collection of CDs, I searched 30 Seconds to Mars one day and found both albums listed. Not being one to read a sequel first, I picked up the self-titled: I loved it. The band claims Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Rush as influences; S/T has an otherworldly quality similar to those predecessors, although S/T’s sound is more textured and the lyrics more obscure. [Other influences: The Who, The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Bjork]

After listening to S/T god-knows-how-many-times, I checked out ABL. I really liked it, but it was a bit of a disappointment right after listening to S/T. ABL sounded more like other music on the radio and music channels--although I wonder what I would have thought if I had heard ABL before S/T, like many of their fans did. However, I still listened to ABL god-knows-how-many-times before returning it several weeks later. I actually like listening to either album while working out: the pounding rhythms and screaming make it easy to keep your heart rate up…

S/T: "Capricorn (A Brand new Name)"--with lyrics

The Band’s Origin and Development

30STM was formed in 1998 by brothers Jared and Shannon Leto. Jared wrote the lyrics, sang, and played various instruments while Shannon played drums. S/T came out to mixed reviews in 2002: the sound is multi-layered and heavily synthesized. The lyrics focus on esoteric subjects like destiny, astronomy, and religion (the music is typically characterized as alternative, progressive, or post-grunge).

When the band first started, Jared refused to let his name or picture be used to promote the band (he wanted the music to speak for itself; he did not want to attract fans based on the acclaim of MSCL). His growing filmography makes it difficult to ignore his acting career altogether, but most fans cringe at the phrase “Jared Leto’s band” (or become openly hostile)—as far as many of them are concerned, he’s basically the front man, the lyricist, “the guy on vocals.”

From early on, 30STM was frequently referred to as a “cult band.” The band and fans don’t mind embracing this, as indicated by “Yes This Is A Cult” printed on some of their merchandise.  A Cult in the sense of extraordinary devotion (to both the music and the band’s goals), not in terms of a spurious religion. While a few fans may take the “And I will start my own religion” lyric from “The End of the Beginning” (on S/T) too seriously, they do not find agreement with the majority of the fan base.

Provehito in Altum “Launch Forth Into The Deep” (30STM Motto)

ABL, released in 2005, is less synthesized with more accessible and personal lyrics. Bass player Matt Wachter joined the band in 2002; lead guitarist Tomo Milicevic also joined before the recording and release of ABL (Matt Wachter has since left because of the extensive international touring). The more mainstream sound of ABL gained 30STM a larger following and the album eventually went platinum, winning a slew of American and International Awards from MTV, Fuse, Kerrang!, etc. Many of these awards were for videos directed by Jared Leto under the pseudonyms Bartholomew Cubbins (a Dr. Seuss reference) and Angakok Panipaq (a Greenlandic reference to shamanism).

Intrigued by what appeared to be Nordic Runes as well as other odd symbols on both CDs, I went to the band’s message board, The four symbols shown above are referred to as “glyphs.” The band is cryptic about their exact meaning, but the general consensus is that they represent the band’s name, literally: that the first symbol is comprised of two conjoined 3s, making a 0 in the center; the next represents the second hands of a clock/watch; the three vertical lines are a reversed roman numeral two; and the last represents the planet Mars and its two moons.

The inserts for both CDs contain the phrase “Find the Argus Apocraphex.” Again, the band does not give a clear explanation. Some fans claim it is a specific thing they’ve discovered; others believe it is a metaphor for self-exploration: for questioning and striving to find your own interpretation of the world around you. Honestly, I prefer the latter, if only because I’m not willing to spend hours of my life analyzing interviews and music videos that supposedly hold the clues to finding it. Then again, if I did know, and told you, it would deprive you of looking for it yourself. And truthfully, isn’t the journey usually more illuminating than the destination?

The Mars Army and the Echelon (The Fans and The Street Teams)

I was fascinated by the 30STM forum for several reasons. There are about 35,000 members ranging in age from early teens to middle age, from all parts of the world (literally), and from a variety of social and vocational backgrounds. Aside from topics devoted to the band, you will find extensive discussions (threads) on pop culture, art, literature, politics, science, and even philosophy (as well as chat and game threads). Members have created threads dedicated to a wide array of topics: the Hadron Collider in CERN, Jane Austen, and numerous helpful hints on how to survive a zombie outbreak. The fan base is intriguingly diverse: a quirky, vibrant microcosm of the expanding digital world that is increasingly subsuming us all.

The last music video from ABL was filmed on a glacier in Greenland. “A Beautiful Lie” was filmed 200 miles north of the arctic circle and the long-version addresses global warming and the dissolution of the arctic shelf. It also directs you to, dedicated to raising consciousness about various environmental issues. This website links back to the 30STM message board, where there is a subforum called A Beautiful Lie, dedicated to ecological concerns and various charities.

ABL: "A Beautiful Lie"--long version

After 30STM participated in a Habitat for Humanity (HFH) build in Los Angeles, their street teams (known as Echelon) started their own HFH project through the HopeBuilders campaign last June. In a little over a year a year, they have raised enough funds to build 14 houses and are working on their 15th ( In keeping with the international fan base, proceeds go to whatever region/country HFH determines is most in need. There are active Echelon members all over the world, and not just in English-speaking countries—they’re also in South America, Europe, The Middle East, Russia, Asia, etc.

The Third Album

30STM is completing their third album (tentatively titled This Is War), produced by Flood (who famously helmed such acts as U2, Smashing Pumpkins, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Nick Cave, etc.). According to, after a visit to COTN (Children of the Night: a charity that helps abused kids escape prostitution), the band invited the residents into the recording studio for a visit.

On April 26th, hundreds of fans from various countries went to The Avalon in Los Angeles for "The Summit": an "experimental" recording project for the new album. Participants were not permitted to bring recording devices and were initially sworn to secrecy (although the band did release some photos and videos themselves for the benefit of those who could not be there). 30STM has since arranged for other summits on various continents as well as an online one for fans who could not attend the other ones. On a more mainstream note, a collaboration with Kanye West for their new song “Hurricane” has been confirmed by both parties.

Last summer, 30STM was sued by their record label EMI for breach of contract, a lawsuit the band vehemently claimed was unfounded. Despite the legal problem, the band reached out to fans over the last several months via their message board, Kyte, Twitter, and Myspace to promote their third album (which they financed on their own). On April 27th, they held the first Myspace Live Video Chat and spent an hour answering questions fans submitted online (Myspace kept trying to end the session after 30 minutes but "the guy on vocals" just smiled and insisted on answering "just a few more"). On April 28th, they announced the conflict with their label has been resolved and they will continue to work with EMI. The exact release date has not been given, but they expect to launch a new tour "late summer/early fall."

Several months ago, they launched a “Global Glyphic Assault”: an email that encouraged fans to spread the glyphs worldwide in a “visual assault” (yet reminding them “to obey local laws”). So, no matter what country you live in, don’t be surprised if you see the 30STM glyphs (possibly accompanied by the phrase “Mars Is Coming”). Just remember, it doesn’t indicate some crazy religious group is trying to take over your city, or a pending alien invasion. It’s just the enthusiastic promotion of an eclectic rock band by some unusually dedicated fans.

Comments 53 comments

Cassandra 3 years ago

To everyone in Colorado in order to Celebrate LLF+D we are doing an echelon meetup. Please join us!

jenni 4 years ago

The cult thing is a joke for those of us with a sense of humor id ir a 30stm fan you must understand the humor

Catherine N 4 years ago

I'm a London Echelon, and I thought this would be a horribly critical piece judging by the title - fortunately I was wrong! I've had a couple of 30STM's songs on my iPod for about 4 years but have only recently really become obsessed with them, hope you're enjoying This Is War now too :) Also the stuff they showed us from the upcoming 4th album during the VyRT web chat a couple of weeks ago sounded epic, can't wait! Just wish they'd come back across the pond though :(

vikki 4 years ago

the crosses are all aspects of life. They are not evil. It is a music cult. They believe in a lot of things and music is it. They are beautiful people with all of us in mind all the time.

Echelon 4 years ago

its not a religion but its the truth and best way of understanding the difrence between good and evil

Hanna 4 years ago

I saw a comment asking how to be an Echelon. All of the Echelon are so different. As the article said, we come from a huge, diverse, world-wide background. Despite this, we're a family. So... How to be an Echelon? The one thing all Echelon have in common is that we listen to the band. That's all you can do to be an Echelon because all we are is a family of fans that love 30 Seconds to Mars. You can completely disagree with someone's viewpoint on what the glyphs, the phrases, and everything else mean, but if you listen to them, you're part of our family. And we will welcome you with smiles.

Keep on,

Hanna :)

Car DVD 5 years ago

I am always looking for cool new music. Thanks for sharing this band with a hub.

Angelica 5 years ago

awesome article!

..... i feel kind of dumb asking this but how would you go about being an echelon???

sarah 5 years ago

this band is not like any other bands i know.they put so much meaning and dedication not just to their music but everything they do .echelon 4 life. p.s jareds hot

Andrea  5 years ago

DUDE, THANKS! I MEAN, THE FIRST ARTICLE I'VE READ NOT CALLING THEM SELLOUTS AND RESPECTING THEM. I'm an echelon girl, and i love them very much!! :D Have you heard TIW?

Who0tz 5 years ago

I am an Echelon, and supporting 30stm with all I can from this part of the world. I don't care what ppl call it (cult), but I wouldn't call it a religious one. I am more fascinated by the band and the music and the community itself and I really admire it. It's more like a family to me. Not the Cult-kind of way (at least not the cult I know). ;-)

Echelon 4-life.

Demara 6 years ago

I'm not surprised that there could be a cult following. If so, I'm definitely a part of it. This band is incredibly original... But, their music is great too!

Originality + Great music = 30STM.

Laura 6 years ago

I've Seen These guys live twice and they blew me away both times. Between Jared's amazing Vocals, Shannon's hypnotic drumming and Tomo going mad they make you feel like they're reaching out not only to you as a fan but you as a person and no other band that I've seen live has been able to do that, they're an insanely amazing and funny band that don't get enough recognition so thank you for such an open minded review.

Ashley 6 years ago

Im just confused. Im sorry i just want to know if it's a cult or not ?

Ashley 6 years ago

I really love 30 seconds to mars and this article is great ! Its my favourite band of all time but Ive been seeing things lately that indicate that the band is a cult? I will always love there music even so but is it true ?

Joyce 6 years ago

Honestly this band is the most amazing band to ever hit the earth

they inspire so many people in so many different ways and the fact that jared and shannon are brothers gives us some consistency that they will be together for a loooooooooooooong time

i love 30 seconds to mars they have changed me into a better person and every single song is just amazing and perfect

i love them !

Connor MaRs 6 years ago

Im from ireland and a lot of us consider mars to be a religon including myself. They are more than a band they are a way of thinking and a way of seeing the world we live in. The phrase on the album means find the begining.

Sophie Echelon 6 years ago

Im from New Zealand and the band has a lot of fans and Echelon here (im one of those Echelon XD) i've loved this band for 7 years and they just keep getting better. Also the band are coming here for a concert for the first time ever which has made a lot of the country happy!

But yes the band is AMAZING and i think this band will always have a place in my heart, not just because of the powerful music they make, but because also how they contribute to the world by helping out charities like Habitat For Humanity and also by making the world more aware about global warming and how they can prevent it.

Sophie Echelon 6 years ago

No matter what, 30 seconds to mars will always have the most amazing audience ever. The Echelon is the best fan base any band could ever have. We're like one big family but we wouldn't have it any other way :)

In greystones (a place in Dublin near me) some Echelon went around and graffitied the whole place in the glyphs and triads and everywhere it says "The War Is Coming". My friends knew what it was because of me but they said people who didn't know were looking at it terrified as if they thought WW3 was going to break out XD But yeah, 30 Seconds To Mars have one of the loyalest fan bases ever, and u wouldn't change it for the world.

nike jordan shoes 6 years ago

First off all i got to say is wow!!!! Join us to start sharing your reviews, news about fashion styles in

cool! Fashionalbe and nice looking, throught the videos, it's very funny indeed!

annahopexfrommars profile image

annahopexfrommars 6 years ago

this is a beautiful article. really. you helped show everyone what we are really about. we are some of the most dedicated fans to ever hit earth, because this band doesn't seek out fame. they seek to really reach people, and hit our souls. and because of the conflicts with EMI, the global assault really is reaching epic proportions! we just love to show our guys that we have their backs.

THIS IS WAR is an amazing album. I've known about them since the S/T was released, and i felt the same as you. This is War has an AWESOME balance of the S/T album and the ABL album. i highly recommend it!

thank you again-


Mary 6 years ago

I love 30 seconds to Mars, I am entirely devoted to their cause and support them all the way. Thank you for this article, I appreciate it because it doesn't show bias and it doesn't disrespect the band or the fans at all.

? ? ø ??? ·o. ? The War has already started :)

Meme 6 years ago

They all say that the war is coming, but the war against WHO??

VANNA 7 years ago

Just awesome!!!!! the war is coming!!!!

Princes_of_the_univers 7 years ago

The best Article i read ever!! My compliments ^^

car dvd 7 years ago

30STM,wow ,it's cool!

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ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Have you read the newsletter? You made it to top 5! Alright! Congratulations! :D

machaeljames  7 years ago

You know, my dear friend, i have paid attention on this page for a very long time, and i have found a lot of interesting things here too. You are so cool! words fell me to show my respect to you! So i want to learn more about you and want to get more from your page, please do us a favor, put more on your page. We are looking forward to seeing the update!

Best regards and have a nice day!

Kelsey Tallis profile image

Kelsey Tallis 7 years ago from USA-Ohio Author

Lily_17: Thank you, and you're welcome! *smiles back*

jayb23: Congratulations to you as well!

Lily_17 7 years ago

Great job Keli, and thanks for the HFH mention! *smiles*

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jayb23 7 years ago from India

Congratulations on topping the hubnuggets. BTW, my hub " The other side of sub prime loans" came a distance second. Congrats once again for a great effort. Cheers

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quit smoking info 7 years ago

lol great article ,i am excited to for the third album tooo^^

Kelsey Tallis profile image

Kelsey Tallis 7 years ago from USA-Ohio Author

Camping Dan: Thank you for the comment and I'd be curious to know what you think of some of their other music if you weren't familiar with them before.

Colebabie: I actually have not seen them in concert so I'm glad they plan on launching a US tour in the coming months. And thank you, I'm glad you like the article :-).

Colebabie profile image

Colebabie 7 years ago from Sunny Florida

I saw them in concert and they were amazing :) I love your Hub and I love Jared Leto!

Camping Dan profile image

Camping Dan 7 years ago

I am always looking for cool new music. Thanks for sharing this band with a hub.

Kelsey Tallis profile image

Kelsey Tallis 7 years ago from USA-Ohio Author

Thank you Becky! I'm glad you enjoyed it! I know what you mean, articles about bands are so often just like newspaper articles, rather short and lacking in detail or history. Who says they can't be longer and more informative? I plan on writing more detailed articles about different bands in the future... :-).

Becky 7 years ago

Keli - how refreshing to read an article about a band I like and have it be a complete article. This was a good read.

Kelsey Tallis profile image

Kelsey Tallis 7 years ago from USA-Ohio Author

EM, thank you so much! And the same to you! :-)

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Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA

Congratulations on the Hubnuggets nomination, and welcome to Hubpages!

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Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA

Kelsey, approve, then reply ;)

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Kelsey Tallis 7 years ago from USA-Ohio Author

Ripplemaker, I did! I saw it in the forum the other day, and I already voted (but not for myself--if I was running for president or something, maybe I would, but this isn't quite on that level, lol!) Thank you for the congratulations! :-)

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Have you heard? Your hubs is chosen and it is a HUBNUGGET nominee: Check this link:

Do join in the hubnugget fun! Congratulations.

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Kelsey Tallis 7 years ago from USA-Ohio Author

G|M, the lyrics are multi-layered (like the sound) and the lack of specificity allows you to find yourself within them--they reveal you to yourself rather than dictate who you should be. That is what I love most about the music... :-).

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GeneriqueMedia 7 years ago from Earth

Thanks, I'll have to check these guys out.

I, too, hide things in my music. They usually cross-reference one thing or another, and my other works.


Kelsey Tallis profile image

Kelsey Tallis 7 years ago from USA-Ohio Author

Dammit grrli! The whole point of this was to help convince these silly humans we're not actually trying to do that! Pfft...O_O

grrli 7 years ago

applause! (who says we're not trying to take over the world? LOL)

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Kelsey Tallis 7 years ago from USA-Ohio Author

Thanks guys!

Jacky 7 years ago

Very well written article Keli!

I enjoyed reading this.

Jen 7 years ago

Niceeee. Love the last lines. And the bit about the boards and the fanbase. xo

Sue 7 years ago

Thanks for this - I have shared it too

Kelsey Tallis profile image

Kelsey Tallis 7 years ago from USA-Ohio Author

Thanks Gadina : ) (and lol at Jess!)

Gadina 7 years ago

This an awesome article! Good job Keli!

I def. will spread this. : )

Jess 7 years ago


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