Jack Antonoff is known to make an entrance.
The former Fun. guitarist and vocalist celebrated new music from Gone Now, the sophomore album from his band Bleachers, by scattering enormous pinatas created in his likeness around New York City, each hiding a USB drive containing songs from the group’s second album. So it was fitting for the singer to kick off the album’s iHeartRadio release party Thursday night (June 1) with a heart-pumping rendition of his debut smash hit “I Wanna Get Better.”
“Sorry, I can’t breathe after that song,” Antonoff said, laughing, as he struggled to address host Jonathan Clarke in iHeartRadio’s Tribeca theater. “We’ve never opened with that song before.”
It’s been a while. When Antonoff debuted Bleachers with Strange Desire in 2014, when the new persona was largely viewed as a side project. But with Gone Now, out today (June 2) via RCA Records, Antonoff is offering fans a follow-up that not only solidifies his commitment to the project, but gets deeply personal. While the new album retains the same sunny sound, theatrical vocals and earnest lyricism characteristic of Antonoff’s work, it deals with darker subject matter — death and loss, including both Antonoff’s own imaginary death and very real loss of his younger sister years ago.
In an effort to bring fans into the thought process that led to Gone Now, Antonoff is even bringing a trailer containing almost the entire contents of his childhood bedroom in New Jersey on tour — a move he joked was “financially crippling,” but worth the hassle. “I thought, the album means so much to me, so what space means a lot to me? The room that I grew up in,” Antonoff explained to iHeartRadio listeners.
Between playing hits off the new album like “Don’t Take The Money” and “Everybody Lost Somebody,” Antonoff recalled the frustration of sitting in that room as a teenager, just miles away from the concerts taking place in New York City.
“Any given night growing up, Nine Inch Nails was playing in the city, or Green Day, or Nirvana,” he explained. “New York City music gets very shoegaze-y, and like, ‘I don’t care’ — it’s very jaded, because you’re in the middle of it. And then all these places right outside big cities, like New Jersey, it’s almost like hope. It’s like, ‘we’ve got to get the hell out of here.’ And I grew up on that.”
Still, the singer revealed that he intentionally wrote Gone Now in the studio, away from memories associated with home. “You know when you’re around all your crap, and everything reminds you of something?” he said, laughing. “You go to the studio, you can escape yourself.”
In fact, Antonoff is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand studio artists around. Over the years, the artist has worked with the likes of Taylor Swift, Grimes, Carly Rae Jepsen and Lorde, with whom he co-wrote “Green Light.” In return, Lorde co-wrote and provided vocals for Antonoff’s “Don’t Take The Money” — the video for which was directed by Girls creator Lena Dunham, who is also Antonoff’s girlfriend.
Antonoff’s secret? “I like to take nice ideas and try to make them absurd,” the artist explained, pointing to the trailer-held bedroom and his pinata reveal for “Don’t Take The Money” as examples.
“I remember talking like, ‘oh, the album comes from me, it comes from inside of me,’ and then it sounded so poetic, in a way,” Antonoff explained. “And then I think someone, somewhere in the conversation with me and my manager was like, ‘let’s do a pinata.'”
With ideas like these, Antonoff said he also intends to create personal “moments” for fans — not always an easy task for artists in the digital age. But he did his best after the iHeartRadio broadcast of the release party was complete, switching up the set-list to play throwbacks like 2014’s “Rollercoaster” and an acoustic version of “Like a River Runs” alongside recent hits like “I Miss Those Days.”
“Everything goes so wide so quickly nowadays, and I like that, but I also want to have a couple experiences that are just for the people that were there,” Antonoff explained to the crowd. “The song is for everyone, but I like those moments, too.”
ALBUM RELEASE PARTY SETLIST
I Wanna Get Better
Don’t Take The Money
Everybody Lost Somebody
Hate That You Know Me
Like a River Runs (Acoustic)
Miss Those Days