“It’s very me. It’s bombastic and big, unashamed to be emotional” – Jack Antonoff opens about his debut album as Bleachers
31-year old Jack Antonoff is a songwriter with many strings to his bow. He’s one third of pop rockers Fun. and was part responsible for monster hits like ‘Some Nights’ and ‘We Are Young’, a double Grammy winner and a highly sought after songwriter. He helped Taylor Swift write some of the best moments on her new album 1989 and has also worked with the likes of Christina Perri, Tegan & Sara and Sara Bareilles. Well now he’s going it alone with Bleachers, his new solo project.
The Bleachers album Strange Desire is a wondrous collection of bombastic, Springsteen esque heartswelling rock and roll, all with a soft pop rock core that harks back to greats like Weezer and The Replacements. It’s huge, supremely joyful and incredibly catchy.
Strange Desire has been out in the US for a full year now, but only hit UK shelves on Monday (July 6th), we asked Antonoff about the reasons for the delay, why he felt compelled to write the album while on tour with Fun. and why this is the rawest thing he’s ever done…
This must be strange, your album came out over a year ago in the US, but it’s only just come out here…
“Yeah, I like it though, it’s cool, I’m doing it all again, which is fun.”
How come it worked out this way?
“I don’t know, different labels, different territories, we wanted to give it a real push in every country.”
As someone who creates so much and has created some very big hits, is it weird to start again and be introducing these songs to people?
“You move past them quite quickly when you write them, but you always live in them when you play them live, they change, the most you play them, the more they shift, you always channel them through where you’re at now, the lens I play them through now is different than the one I played them through last year.”
The album was mostly written on tour right?
“Hotel rooms, buses, anywhere I could. I used to never be able to write on tour, but that all changed with this album. I’d been touring for 15 years and I could never write, I think this album just forced itself out of me.”
Why did that change?
“I don’t know what happened. I feel constantly compelled to write. I’d be on planes and instead of watching a movie I’d be working on songs, I always make sure I let things come out naturally and never force them, but I didn’t have to with any of these songs.”
Where does the Bleachers sound come from?
“Sonically it’s very specific. It’s a very literal blend of synthetic and organic. Synthesisers and guitars fighting each other, but living together. It’s really inspired by synth records from the mid to late 1980s and the melody of the future of rock and roll. It’s the pull of the past and push of the future. It’s very me. It’s bombastic and big, unashamed to be emotional.”
What about lyrically? What inspired that?
“It’s entirely autobiographical. It’s basically my diary. Songs like ‘I Wanna Get Better’ are literal recounts of events that have happened to me.”
How do lyrics come to you?
“They come in moments. ‘I Wanna Get Better’, I had that phrase stuck in my head for forever and I wanted to capture that sentiment. I tend to get the idea and build around it.”
You’ve got Grimes on the album..
“Love Grimes, I loved working with her, we were messing around in the studio and we ended up with two things. She’s so unique, everything she comes out with is a sound you’ve never heard before, whether it’s a beat or her voice, it’s truly unique.”
Why did you decide to keep going and take the album worldwide?
“I want to share this album with everyone. I didn’t write this album to be played in small cafes in New York, I want big places and to take it as far as possible. I wanted to release it everywhere and do it justice everywhere, not just throw the record out there, invest in it.”
How have you felt the transition from being part of a band to being the mainman?
“It’s very different. Sometimes it’s wonderful, sometimes it’s lonely, but at the moment it’s really working for me. I’ve had the same band with me for about a year though.”
Do you think they’ll be involved more next time?
“Bleachers needs to be wrestling with myself. It’s a very solitary process, I think it’ll need to stay that way.”
When you write a song, do you instantly know who it’s for? Whether it’s Bleachers or another artist?
“Yeah, it’s a gut thing. It’s weird, it can be a lyric or a drum sound, but you know straight away if you’re willing to share a song with someone else. If I’m writing with someone, I just tend to take in a demo, but if I think it’ll be a Bleachers song then I’ll really work on it. I don’t like writing for people really, I like writing with people.”
Are you going to be touring pretty solidly for the rest of the year?
“Yeah and then in between that I’ll start writing another Bleachers album. I want to write in the same way, I wrote when I felt like writing it, I’ll follow the same instincts. This is my life now, it’s everything I am.”
Bleachers’ debut album Strange Desire is out now and available to preview and purchase on the right-hand side of the page.