It’s safe to say that Jack Antonoff is more than a casual ally to the LGBTQ community. Not only did he executive produced the soundtrack for this year’s groundbreaking gay teen rom-com Love, Simon, but the Bleachers frontman co-founded The Ally Coalition (TAC) with his sister Rachel — a nonprofit dedicated to raising funds and awareness in support of equality.
“When we first started [TAC], we were trying to find our footing. And then a couple of years ago we were visiting some of these shelters and we really honed in on like, ‘ok this is where we really feel like we can make a difference’,” Antonoff tells Billboard. “A big part of that organization is just realizing that you can make things easy for people if you do a lot of good.”
Ahead of this Wednesday’s (Dec. 5) fifth annual TAC Talent Show, which will feature performances from Lana Del Rey, Hayley Kiyoko and more, Billboard caught up with Antonoff to talk about his dedicating to the LGBTQ community as well as his work on the Love, Simon soundtrack — a project that he says is “super special to me.”
Billboard: Where does your passion for the LGBTQ community come from?
Antonoff: My grandfather was a rabbi — a really progressive one. He was really involved in the civil rights movement and marched with Dr. King and had all of these amazing stories about allyship and being present for communities other than your own. I think there’s an amazing tradition to that — just being raised like that, that mattered.
There’s a million problems in the world, and you just want to do what you can. There’s no really specific answer, other than I just think it’s important to do things outside of your own community.
On that topic, Troye Sivan was featured on the Love, Simon soundtrack. Was finding LGBTQ talent an important consideration while curating this project?
Yes, 100 percent. I feel that movie is for everybody. So it was vital for me that the soundtrack was the same thing. That movie speaks to so many people for so many different reasons. At its core, it’s about thinking that your love will be unaccepted, or thinking that your love will be impossible or frowned upon — all those themes. So I wanted to make sure that the soundtrack would have different voices from different communities.
Your band, The Bleachers, contributed four songs to the soundtrack, including “Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song).” Who is Alfie?
Alfie is my godson. The reason why I named the song “Alfie’s Song” is because the song is sort of speaking to a younger person about what it means to fall in love for the first time. The first time you fall in love, you just feel like it’s forever, and then it’s not. It’s a harsh experience and it guts you. It was basically written for my godson because I wanted to explain to him while he’s young that falling in love breaks you apart.
And you co-wrote that with Harry Styles, correct?
Yeah. Harry Styles and Ilsey Juber. We were in a room together and it just kind of happened. Often it is that way. It kind of doesn’t matter what you want to do or what you’re trying to do; something good is gonna happen.
Was the song written with Love, Simon in mind?
Yeah, there’s certain pieces and different moments. We were thinking about not just music or specific scenes, but one song that could in some way embody the film and movie — which to me is about, all things aside, that movie to me is essentially about being young and falling in love.
All the secrecy with Simon being closeted and everything else going on in the movie, it’s all just a story about what you go through when you’re falling in love. It’s obviously all through Simon’s lens, but I want to stay focused on that theme.
I feel so lucky that film, and “Alfie’s Song,” and all of it — I feel like people understood what it was. And then Greg Berlanti, and the team that made that movie, and everyone who acted in it — I don’t know. It’s kind of rare that you just feel like it’s alright. And that project is super special to me.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, you recently said that we’re living in a time where artists cannot afford to not be politicized — but at the same time, that bastardizes the concept. Could you expand on that?
It’s a funny time because there’s so many things that are going on that need to be addressed. And it’s so wonderful that we’re all addressing them. But then there’s also this funny thing that happens when it becomes very corporate and you start seeing these things being sold back to us. And it’s just a weird, bittersweet thing.
I think that anyone who is an artist or write songs or whatever — the second that something is really personal and something that you’re passionate about, the second that becomes something people can make money off of, a strange thing happens. I feel like we’re in this interesting and delicate space where we’re trying to keep the focus on what’s going on and not get caught up in the consumer piece of it, or the popular piece of it. There’s a lot of issues going on in the world that we have to talk about. Then there’s this side of that (where we) want to take these issues and monetize them and do all these fancy things with them. There’s so much crap to sift through, and I think that all of these vague things that I’m talking about could make you want to turn off and watch TV.
For all of us right now, it’s really important to be focused and stay educated on what’s going on and to never for a second accept anything because it’s constant. Constant and frequent doesn’t mean it’s ok. There have been many times in history where things that were frequently happening were extremely not ok.
I think now it’s so important to focus and feel things, whether it’s a wonderful thing or horrible thing — to actually feel things and to actually take them in. To actually let them affect us as human beings. That’s a big challenge in 2018.