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Interviews, Music

Interview: Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff on John Hughes, Taylor Swift, and getting better

By: Daniel Gerichter (@ZenDonut) –

Jack Antonoff of Bleachers.

Jack Antonoff of Bleachers.

F rom the onset of an interaction with Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff, you wouldn’t suspect the man’s a rock star. The Bleachers frontman and Fun guitarist is humble, soft-spoken and (as the conversation continued) as passionate about his influences as his fans. With 2014’s Strange Desire, Antonoff brought the indie sensibilities of his first band Steel Train and Fun’s pop-classic machine into one effort. Bleachers are a reflection of Antonoff’s own personality; energetic but reserved – influenced by the greats, but a key influencer of the greats.

You’ve been touring Strange Desire for over a year now. How has that album/tour changed your approach creatively?

An album to me is a short documentation of the music you made privately. The moment it’s released, the whole thing foley-shifts because people hear it and their reaction changes everything, including your own perception of it. It’s kind of like; you put on an outfit in your apartment, look at yourself in front of a mirror, go “yeah alright” and then go out in public. The reaction you get is going to change what you thought 10 minutes ago, and probably the approach you take next time.

You’ve said that John Hughes films were a huge influence on the sound on this album. What is it that keeps his movies enduring through the generations?

I think it’s the concept of growing up and trying to hold onto what made you special, despite the world constantly trying to crush that. That never gets old.

You kept any news about Bleachers fairly hush-hush until you were 100% ready. What was your reasoning for doing that?

I didn’t want to talk about something that didn’t exist. One thing I don’t like about modern times is the endless news cycle and how anything, even something unfinished, becomes this big news item. I didn’t want to put a bunch of demos out there, or talk about something I hadn’t completed yet. I wanted people to get excited about the finished product.

You’ve patiently explained that Fun isn’t broken up to (I assume) hundreds of journalists. Why do you think the media automatically assumes ‘solo project = breakup?’

Because traditionally it does. I don’t fault people for assuming the band’s done – it’s not – but I get it. I’ve always worked on multiple projects at once, so this isn’t anything new to me, but with so many other bands, solo projects usually mean a quiet breakup.

“I Wanna Get Better” was described as something of a summer anthem when it was first released. What do you think defines a ‘song of the summer’?

I think the song of the summer is the one you can’t wait to put on in the car with your friends. I don’t remember whether it was actually released during the summer, but Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” is one that always brings me back to the summer. So is “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. That song must have been played at every single wedding that year.

2 years ago, you actually played “Someone to Love” with Queen at iHeartRadio. What was the first thought that popped in your head when you walked on stage with them?

I think I just went blank, actually. At the time, the most complex thought I could muster was “oh this is really cool” but I was really working on making sure I didn’t fuck up. A few days later I was alone and then I got to thinking about the experience. It’s probably easier to compartmentalize moments like that.

Steel Train’s last show was about 5 years ago. What are the most valuable lesson being in that band taught you?

They taught me how to be in a band. Straight up. I learned how to write a song, I learned how to properly pack up gear, I learned how to not lose my fucking mind while on tour, how to eat properly while on tour. Everything about being in a band and functioning well while in a band – I learned through those guys.

You had a huge hand in Taylor Swift’s 1989. While the whole world constantly talks about her personal life, what would you want the world to know about Taylor Swift as an artist?

She’s one of the greatest. Contrary to other times, when someone’s great we all feel this inert need to tear them down. We love a fall from grace in America, I guess. Taylor is someone to celebrate. It’s so rare that a massive artist is a great artist and that’s what she is. She loves being a musician first and foremost and that comes out in the music she creates,which is the reason why she’s hit these absurd heights. When it’s great, mainstream music is really great and I don’t think anyone is doing it as well as she is now.

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