Record of the Week: Bleachers’ ‘Bleachers’

In the past five years Jack Antonoff has produced for everyone: Taylor Swift, The 1975, Lana Del Rey, Paramore. He even co-produced one of the Kendrick diss tracks. “I feel very changed by everyone in my life,” he tells me.

So who is Antonoff when he is making his own music? When listening to the newest Bleachers record, it sounds like a bit of all of them…all of his collaborators. There is the atmospheric rising of what could be a 1975 track on the fifth song, “Alma Mater.” And the pop sensibility of Swift and Lorde. For Antonoff, though, it was important that this work remain true to himself, which is why the album, the band’s fourth, is self-titled. “I really wanted it to feel, above all, really just like me.”

Bleachers are currently on tour and will be at The Ryman on May 29, presented by WNXP. You can listen to all WNXP Record of the Week interviews, including this one, on our podcast channel.

Interview with Jack Antonoff

Justin Barney: Why is this a self-titled, even though it’s not your first, Bleachers album?

Jack Antonoff:  I don’t know why I saw it that way. That’s often the story of writing music. You’re not clear on these things that you’re thinking and feeling and that’s what compels you.  I realized that I had been obsessed with writing about the past and the future. What has happened, what could happen. Just this constant back and forth. Then something happened when I started making this album and I just felt like my feet landed right on the ground. And that was the center of this album.

I got very interested in, like, what does a band sound like in 2024?

I could throw everyone in a room and have them play live, but that’s been done before. I could produce the hell out of it, but that’s been done before. I could go nuts on bizarre instrumentation, but even that’s been done before. And I ended up just kind of drilling deeper into all of it. I had been playing live a ton and then in many ways kind of sampled it like took the best bits produced around it. I just wanted to find this space between how I feel when I’m producing records and how I feel when I’m on stage.

I really want it to feel, above all, really, just like me.

JB: When you are working with someone, do you feel like you take on a bit of what they’re known for?

JA: I feel very changed by everyone in my life.  And my life is pretty small, you know, I don’t I don’t have a very big community. It’s my friends, my family, and the people I collaborate with. It’s kind of remarkable the amount that I pick up from different people. The biggest thread is, you know, sometimes it’s as simple as like, whoa, what the hell is that drum machine? But it’s usually along the bigger lines of the way people see the world.

Life is so boring if you’re not bouncing yourself off of your friends.

JB: I’m going to do a speed round. Normally I don’t do this, but I talked to Matty Healy and he was like, “Jack is the funniest person that I know.” And I feel like someone who’s funny would be game with a speed round.

JA: Hell yeah, let’s go.

JB: So who is the funniest person you have ever worked with?

JA: Lana Del Rey is the funniest person I’ve ever met.

JB: Really? What is her sense of humor?

JA: It’s from another planet. It’s singular, and I couldn’t begin to describe it. She is the funniest person that’s ever lived.

JB: What is a production technique that you think that you overuse?

JA: Overuse? I love slap, I love it at all different speeds. I love when things slap. They just feel fucking alive to me.

JB: What was the best wedding present that you got from a musician or a celebrity?

JA: We demanded no wedding presents, so we didn’t get shit.

JB: What artist was the easiest to work with?

JA: Easiest? No artist is easy, man. Come on.

JB: When is fun. going to release new music?

JA: That’s not going to happen.

JB: Who did you work with who you thought would say no, but said yes?

JA: Nick Cave.

Getting to do stuff with Nick or obviously getting to do stuff with Bruce or people that have influenced you to work in the first place is a level of full circle that is, you know, truly meta. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, E Street Band, these are bands that have gotten somehow better and better and better as time goes on. Those two bands, I would say emotionally, beyond anything actually sound-wise, obviously Bleachers, we have a lot E Street in us. We don’t have a ton of Bad Seeds in us, necessarily, but emotionally those are my biggest inspirations.

JB: What is your favorite city to play in and why is it Milwaukee?

JA That place just is feral, man.

I think it’s like something about the cuisine. Something about the way people like to get a little drunk. Whatever it is about Milwaukee. Since I was a kid going there, they just have this Welcome-to-the-Midwest-we’re-going-to-fuck-you-up energy. They have this sort of like, “Oh, you thought Chicago was going to be crazy? Well, you know, check out Milwaukee tomorrow.” Maybe I’m maybe I’m creating shit where there isn’t. Maybe I’m stirring, but I don’t think I am. I get the sense that the audience in Milwaukee is like, “Well, we’re going to beat that.”

JB: Hell yeah. I was at your Summerfest show a couple of years ago and it was insane.

JA: They won’t let me, but I’d play Summerfest every year if they’d have me.

JB :Alright, last question. What is the last song that you couldn’t stop listening to?

JB There’s a Chappell Roan song called “Casual” which I just think it’s so fucking good. It’s like that kind of heroine, Mazzy Star-but pop thing is so, so my speed.