“The album sounds like what it is, a man going crazy in a room…” - hmv.com talks to Bleachers
At this point in his career, Jack Antonoff is still best known for writing other people’s songs, but that could and should change with Gone Now, the new album from his band Bleachers.
Antonoff’s songwriting credits are intimidating, he’s co-written Taylor Swift’s monster hits ‘Out Of The Woods’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’, Sara Bareilles’ ‘Brave’ as well as Lorde’s new smash ‘Green Light’. He’s also one-third of Fun., they of ‘We Are Young’ and ‘Some Nights’ fame, but the songs he saves for himself are something special too.
Gone Now is a warm-hearted, uber-catchy collection of pop rock, think vintage R.E.M, The Replacements and Smashing Pumpkins, all built to give you a little flutter.
Antonoff has made use of his high-profile with backing singers, calling in Carly Rae Jepsen, Lorde and Julia Michaels for backing vocals, as well as rising singer-songwriter Sam Dew.
As the album arrives on shelves, we sat down with Antonoff to find out all about making it…
How did making Gone Now compare to making your debut album?
“It was very different. When I made my first album nobody knew it was happening so I’d be on tour and I’d just go back and write, it was more like writing a diary, a diary I then shared. This time people knew so going into it I knew I was already in a conversation, I wanted to take that conversation to a different place. The first album was very personal, very specific to me, this is more expansive, more about shared experiences, everybody carries weight and pain, it’s a connective tissue that connects us all.”
How did you want it to move on sonically from your debut album?
“The sound of my first record was quite specific, very nailed on templates, this is much more about my voice, I wanted to be more direct with people. There are plenty of bells and whistles, I like things to be a perfect mess, but it’s dreamier, it reminds me more of growing up in New Jersey and looking out my bedroom window at New York and the big sounds of that big city.”
Were you able to work faster this time?
“No, these songs take a very long time to come together. The thing that no one ever tells you about songwriting is the deep solitude and just waiting for it to happen, you end up missing weddings and funerals, it’s this huge give and take, you lose a lot just waiting in that room. I think the album sounds like what it is, a man going crazy in a room trying to make sense of all these sounds and big ideas about mortality and moving on. Documenting a time period takes as long as it takes.”
Who do you play your songs to first?
“A very small group of people. My girlfriend, my family, my sister, some friends, it’s so odd, once you hand over a song you hear it through someone else’s ears for the first time and you can never take that back. You have to be ready to see the flaws in it, you can’t just explain what you did, you just have to hope they react emotionally to it, it suddenly makes you powerless. There are songs you give to people that mean so much to you and they don’t react, it’s terrifying.”
Does the album have a lyrical thread to it? Or is it quite diverse in what you’re writing about?
“It’s very much a journey. Themes come back and there’s a lot of repetition. It’s really about loss and trying to find a connective tissue to the whole. I feel like we’re all heaving this big sack around with us and we’re trying not to drop it. This album really functions as one thing, it’s a singular thought.”
Was Gone Now always going to be the title?
“That came later on. There’s a song called ‘Foreign Girls’, it’s this weird song I wrote about how I wondered if it would be easier to be with someone who didn’t speak your language, it’s a line from that. The feeling with the cover art is it’s like I’m dead, I’m writing from the perspective that I’m not here anymore and looking back at a moment in time.”
You’re still pretty in demand as a songwriter, is it hard to know which songs to save for yourself?
“I don’t write for other people, I only write with other people, Bleachers is always me alone in a room, wrestling with ideas, writing with other people is more like adding things together. When I’m with someone else I’m not thinking about me and my story, I’m trying to help them capture theirs.”
What would you say the main thing you’ve learned from writing with other people?
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve learned how to stand above a song and take a bird’s eye view, how to say something that really matters in a song that lots of people are going to hear. It’s shown me how to put a microscope on everything and so much about editing.”
Are you excited to take the record out live?
“I’m really excited about it. I used to think of taking it out live as re-living those songs, but now I think of it as a celebration of the record, celebrating it in a room where everybody cares about the work, and if something is intense then we’ll sing it together. It really is like a form of therapy for me now.”
Last year you released Terrible Thrills, where you got the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX and Sia to cover all the tracks on your debut album, would you like to do that again?
“I would. A big part of how I write is imagining these women in my head and I think it’s a unique idea and something specific to me. But I haven’t started yet and I’ll see if it strikes me later in the cycle. Last time it felt like putting a bow on Strange Desire and I’d like to do that again.”
Do you have any women in mind?
“Not yet. But I’ve only been listening to Kate Bush lately, so there’s that.”
Finally, are you just focused on Bleachers right now? Or are there any other projects in the offing?
“I believe you need to work on the thing that inspires you the most, I think that’s the fairest way to be, I don’t like thinking too far ahead and right now Bleachers is the only story I want to tell.”