What happens when you mix music inspired by the Garden State, and 90’s punk rock? You get Bleachers, the latest project from Jack Antonoff. You may recognize Antonoff as the guitarist from the Grammy Award winning band, fun. The first single “I Wanna Get Better” off their upcoming album, Strange Desire, features exciting and catchy lyrics with a huge sound. It is sure to become a summer anthem and has already begun to receive some serious radio play.
When I caught their set at The Governors Ball, I couldn’t believe the crowd they managed to bring in having only two singles. As soon as Jack took the stage and began playing new tracks from the yet to be released album, my disbelief quickly faded. It didn’t matter that they had only two singles, that’s all you needed to hear to know that Bleachers are going to be big. They put on an excellent live performance and I can’t wait to see them again.
I spoke with Jack immediately following his set at Gov Ball and asked him how he developed the project, the differences between fun. and Bleachers, and the inspiration for “I Wanna Get Better. ”
Pop-Break: You started this project secretly when you were on tour with fun. How did the project come about? Did you find yourself writing songs that’s didn’t fit with fun? Or did you want to try something new?
Jack Antonoff: Writing a lot. It wasn’t that things didn’t fit, it was just separate. That’s the best way to describe it. It’s just a different thing. It was kind of interesting how it worked out. I would just work all day and it would be like a drum idea, vocal idea, or just some musical idea and it would just funnel into the fun. folder or the Bleachers folder and they were always separate. Until the Bleachers folder filled up and I realized there was an album there.
PB: You just played the biggest stage of The Governors Ball without even having an album out yet. How does it feel to have an already large following with only having a few singles out?
JA: It feels extremely encouraging. It feels like I am having a lot of faith put in me and that’s a great feeling because it is mutual. I put a lot of faith in people when I make music and to give it back is a wonderful feeling.
PB: “I Wanna Get Better” is more of an anthem then just a normal single. What inspired that song in particular?
JA: Very literally what it is, I mean there are two inspirations to that song. There’s the broad concept to the song that is “I want to get better,” which is something that I think binds all of us as human beings. I think we all wake up in the morning in some way think those words. Everyone wants to get better. The height of consciousness is l wanting to get better not just being better. Being better is so relevant, but wanting to get better is the best we can do as people. So that’s the core, which I think is very much about all of us. But in the verses I felt it was important to tell my story. Like why I feel that way. Everyone has a different reason. I think for everyone it ends up with those words, I want to get better. For me it’s things I have been through. When I was younger, I dealt with a lot of loss. A lot of strange and dark things have happened to me, and the way I get through it is by saying I want to get better. I think it’s something that connects all of us.
PB: fun. is a pretty energetic and loud band to begin with, but after seeing your set I couldn’t help but notice you have two drummers. Did you always picture Bleachers having a louder sound then fun?
JA: When I think about stuff live, I think about the record and how it should feel live. With fun. it should be very bombastic, that’s how the records feel and how they are made. With Bleachers, the records is meant to punch you in the face. There is a ton of parts that just one drummer couldn’t do with all of these different counter rhythms. It’s meant to be extremely big. There is a lot of layers on the album, and I didn’t want to sacrifice them live.
PB: Fans at The Governors Ball were able to hear some new tracks off the upcoming album, but for those who couldn’t make it, what can you tell us about the sound of the album?
JA: “I Wanna Get Better” is more lyrically than anything else a good example of where the album comes from as the story. It’s all of the things I’ve been through in my life wrapped up with a more hopeful twist on them. So it sort of goes very deep and dark through the rabbit hole and comes out in a positive way. Stylistically to me it’s New Jersey music. A combination of Springsteen and the punk bands I saw growing up. Then also the actual vibe of being constantly outside of the party and living five or ten miles outside of the greatest city in the world and what that means to grow up with that feeling. So I just think it’s New Jersey music, which to me is a genre, but there is a shit ton of production. You can hear the kitchen sink being thrown on the music. Nothing was held back and it’s a lot to decode.
PB: You have been the guitarist for fun. for years. What has been it been like to make the switch to lead singer as well as the guitarist for Bleachers?
JA: Well what I do for Bleachers is what I did with my last band, Steel Train, which I was in for ten years. It’s very familiar because I have been doing this for such a long time. It’s just different spaces. Different head-spaces. Different bands are like different cultures and the stage can feel like its own universe. Stepping on stage with fun. is its own universe and this is what I am doing. Step on the stage with Bleachers and it is its own universe and that is what I am doing. It is just so separate even though it’s oddly similar.
PB: If two artists had a baby, and that baby was named Bleachers. Who would your musical parents be?
JA: I would say Springsteen and NOFX.
PB: (laughs) That’s an awesome combo.
JA: I like that question. That’s really cool.
PB: Now your debut album drops July 15th. What are the rest of your plans for the year?
JA: Just a lot of touring. We got a lot of really cool ideas about releasing new music and ways of releasing new music, the album, and just tons of touring. I had my head in the album for a year and a half now. I want to share it, especially the songs live.
Al Mannarino is a Senior Writer and a frequent contributor to the Singles Party column for Pop-Break as well as the host of the News Over Brews Podcast. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History and is currently a Promotions Assistant for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino