You know musician Jack Antonoff as lead guitarist and one third of pop rock band Fun. (and co-writer of such massive hits as "We Are Young" and "Some Nights"). Or perhaps you know that he's the boyfriend of HBO darling, creator and star of Girls, Lena Dunham.
He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the song "Sweeter Than Fiction," which he co-wrote with Taylor Swift for the film One Chance. Oh, and did we mention that he co-wrote Sara Bareilles' inspiring anthem, "Brave," which resulted in a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance?
Jack is deliberate in what he chooses to spend his time and talent on, which is evident in his impressive musical resumé, so it's no wonder that his current solo project is drawing a lot of buzz. Bleachers is Jack Antonoff's newest project, which he launched by releasing the anthemic and arresting indie pop jam, "I Wanna Get Better." The single led to Bleachers being chosen as the latest iHeartRadio Artist On The Verge, and precedes a full-blown studio album, which will be released later this Spring.
"The message is heavy, it’s not dummed down," Jack tells iHeartRadio about the single.
"I didn't write this song thinking to myself, 'Well this is what I wanna say, but this is what people can handle.' I just wrote the song and recorded the song. And I didn't say to myself, 'Well I want to have all this distortion in my vocal, but on mainstream radio that’s not really what people are doing right now.' I did it anyway and thought, 'Well, if the radio plays it, then I can be really proud of it, 'cause then I can feel like I'm a part of something that is pushing things into a different place."
Jack Antonoff stopped by the iHeartRadio Studios recently to talk to us about his new project, Bleachers, and to talk about everything BUT the music.
Check out OffBEAT with Bleachers below.
How did you get here?
I got here in a panic because I woke up late, and there was a chain of emails the night before that made the time I was supposed to leave unclear. So I got here in a dizzy.
What is the view like from the bleachers?
I don’t fully know yet. So far it’s pretty lonely, because I've been at it really alone for a long time. It’s been a secret, not because I thought it would be cool to keep it a secret, but because I didn't want to talk about it and not have context. What am I gonna do, Tweet, 'I'm making an album' and have people be like, 'What?'
I just wanted music to exist, so that was the idea behind it, but then it turned into a year and a half of making an album and feeling very alone because I wasn't talking about it. It's very rare that you have something that's big in your life that you don't share with people, so at the moment, it was very lonely. Now it’s extremely encouraging.
Which is more frightening: the world or yourself?
I think myself. I don't know – You see throughout history really wild situations in the world, and people depending on themselves make it through or don’t make it through. I think you have your own version of beer goggles towards the world, depending on what kind of mental state you're in. I've been in really sh***y situations that I was fine with 'cause I was really in a good place. So I'm way more terrified of myself.
Can you identify the moment that made you realize your whole life had changed?
What an interesting question. I guess probably my first tour, which was when I was like 16. I went on tour -- I was in high school then -- and I was already sort of planning on not going to college and going on tour a lot. We left for tour and at this point in my life I hadn't been anywhere but New York, New Jersey and Florida. That sounds so pathetic. I remember driving south and getting into Virginia and North Carolina and South Carolina and being in all these places for the first time -- and I guess it sounds very cliché and cheesy -- but I remember thinking, 'This is what I'll do,' and feeling like things had changed forever.
Did you pass the acid test?
No, not at all. I had a horrible experience. That changed my life too. I was 19 and my friends were into The Grateful Dead and things like that, and I think that’s something that happens when you’re quite young – there’s a quick shift with the idea of getting f***ed up that changes... it’s very cute when you’re 17 or 18, then it slowly becomes very pathetic at some point. I used to smoke pot and then I did acid, and it really was a horrible experience for me.
I think hallucinogens spin certain wheels that my head are already spinning, so it’s like they spin twice as fast, where for someone else they’re like, 'Oh, cool that’s spinning now,' and for me it was the worst thing ever. I came home the next day and went to my mom and said, 'I took acid and I haven’t come down yet and I think I destroyed my life,' and she was like, 'Don’t worry about it, this happened to me in 1975.' And then I called my family doctor and told him that and he was like, 'You're f***ing crazy.' It was a whole bizarre experience. I don’t really even drink right now at this point in my life. I find it far out enough just existing.
Are you better?
I wanna get better, which is better than being better. I think that's the most that I can aspire to is wanting to be better. I think that's he pinnacle.
Does your art expose, protect or heal you?
I would definitely say all three. I don't think you can have one without the other of those three. If you tried to eliminate one, you would somewhat be faking it. Fully put, those are the three perfect words.
If John Hughes made a movie of your life, what would the plot be?
What I like about his films is not always big stuff necessarily happens. So it would probably be me in New Jersey going out for a bagel and spending the day trying to make plans, and then going to the city and hanging out with some friends and then the night sort of transpires into something more interesting and disastrous. Sounds kind of mundane but I bet he would do a great job.
What is the biggest sh** right now?
I think that there’s a divide... there's space in mainstream for things to jump in. You see it happening... like the Gotye single happened or like Lumineers or like Of Monsters and Men. These bands, they don't even sound like each other, they just sound different. And what’s interesting about those things... they end up being the biggest things. Because I think people want different, want interesting, and they don't get credit for that.
I'm not really answering your question. I think if you look back at the 70s, 80s, early 90s, there was this whole time when the biggest stuff was also the best stuff. I grew up in the 90s and I remember you’d walk down the street and see someone your age, and you knew that you were friends because you knew that you both listened to the same music, which is not the case. Nowadays if you see someone your age, you don't know if they're into this, that or whatever -- if you listen to mainstream radio or if they're into weird [stuff]. When I was young, I would go to the mall and everyone liked The Smashing. Pumpkins, Green Day and Pearl Jam, and it wasn't a weird, shameful thing, 'cause it was the best stuff.
Do you consciously set out to be different?
No, it's sort of the opposite. Sometimes I set out to make things that I think are different to be more accessible so they can exist in a way where lots of people can hear them and it can be what I think is good for a lot of people.
What do you think of Adam?
I think he’s one of the best characters on TV.
What would you like to learn this year?
I'd like to re-learn certain things. I think it's always nice to keep starting over, and this is a project that I'm starting from new. It would be nice to re-learn a lot of the things I've learned in the past, 'cause there are a lot of great lessons. I don’t know what I want to learn, I think when I learn something I'll be surprised.
Check out the Lena Dunham-directed video for "I Wanna Get Better" below.
Photos by Shelby Case for iHeartRadio