Jack Antonoff Unveils Bleachers: Fun. Guitarist Talks Secret Project, Working With Yoko Ono
"I wanted there to be music before anything," Antonoff tells Billboard about recording a new project out of the spotlight.
An artist called Bleachers was listed in the middle of the lineups of multiple U.S. festivals like Firefly and Governor's Ball that were released last month. When the lineups came out, however, no one knew exactly what Bleachers was -- the project did not have an official Twitter page, and a Google search produced little more than message board rumors.
On Tuesday (Feb. 18), Bleachers was officially revealed to be a new project helmed by fun.'s Jack Antonoff, who had been unwittingly working on a solo full-length over the past year and a half. A Bleachers album, due out this spring on RCA Records, was previewed on Tuesday with first single "I Wanna Get Better," an idiosyncratic pop blast that mirrors fun.'s fearless grandiosity while placing the buoyant shouts of the Grammy-winning group's guitarist front and center.
"I didn't want to talk about it before, because I hate the idea of things being hyped that don't exist yet," Antonoff told Billboard hours after "I Wanna Get Better" was released on Tuesday. "It's not just 'a single coming out' -- it's now finally being able to openly talk about this thing I've been working on, the fact that this album exists, what it sounds like… I wanted there to be music before anything."
Since Antonoff never planned on making a side project, the 29-year-old says that Bleachers never really "started" at a given moment. Over the past two years, Antonoff has been consistently writing songs for fun., for other artists like Tegan and Sara and Sara Bareilles, and for projects that didn't have a defined home.
While fun. was on an international tour supporting their 2012 breakout album "Some Nights," Antonoff would wake up in the middle of the night in his tour bus with an idea for a song, and eventually, those ideas grew into a cohesive project. The artist recorded some of the vocals for "I Wanna Get Better" in a hotel room in Malaysia, shouting out the chorus in an empty room while his fun. bandmate Nate Ruess was preparing to deliver the group's Top 5 hits to thousands of paying customers.
"I don't really take pictures or write in a journal," says Antonoff, "so the past two years of being on the road and seeing the entire world is documented in the Bleachers album, more than anything else."
Antonoff, who spent years as a member of the band Steel Train before joining fun. in 2008, plays all of the instruments on the Bleachers album, and received production help from John Hill and Vince Clarke. The fun. guitarist previewed some of the new songs at Jungle City Studios in New York last month, and "I Wanna Get Better" makes for a solid litmus test for the vigorously anthemic material to come (Antonoff says that he's still working on some parts of the album).
He also snagged Yoko Ono for a spot on the forthcoming full-length after having an idea for a spoken-word segment on one song and reaching out to the legendary artist. Antonoff didn't expect much, but got an overwhelmingly positive response, and Ono's participation. "Sometimes the most far-out, bizarre things are the most simple," he says.
After Bleachers makes its live debut on Mar. 12 at Palladia's South By Southwest showcase in Austin, Antonoff will perform on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" on Mar. 26. More festival dates along with Firefly, Governor's Ball, Wireless Festival and Bilbao BBK Live Festival are forthcoming, and Los Angeles and New York performances have been plotted for Mar. 19 and Mar. 27, respectively.
Months of secrecy have finally given way to full disclosure on Tuesday for Antonoff, who admits that today has been "more emotional than I anticipated." Click here to read the artist's Tumblr note about Bleachers to his fans, which he also released on Tuesday.