Jack Antonoff

Jack Antonoff: mu­si­cian, song­writer, pro­ducer, ac­tivist and pretty much ev­ery­thing in-be­tween.

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He’s a man who’s crafted a new dic­tio­nary mean­ing of poly­math, se­cur­ing his name as one of in­die-pop’s most in­trigu­ing and pro­found ex­ports whilst as­sist­ing in shap­ing the mu­si­cal land­scape of late-twenty-ten at the touch of his, seem­ingly, mag­i­cal fin­ger­tips. 2012’s break­out with dork-pop trio fun. pre­ceded Antonoff’s co-work­ing with Tay­lor Swift on her in­dis­putable mas­ter­piece 1989 be­fore wind­ing up on the song writ­ing cred­its for the likes of Grimes, Lorde, Sia, Zayn, Lit­tle Mix, Banks, Te­gan and Sara, Fifth Har­mony and Sara Bareilles. Grammy’s fol­lowed suit (both Song and Al­bum of the Year ac­co­lades crop up on his CV) as his John Hughes­soaked, new wave solo out­ing as Bleach­ers dropped 2014’s an­themic Strange De­sire and this year’s re­gal, self-re­flex­ive Gone Now. The lat­ter, re­leased back in June, show­cased the Re­nais­sance man’s tal­ents once more through soar­ing and slick, of­ten po­lit­i­cal and overtly hon­est pop. He’s amid a whis­tle-stop Lon­don visit (“You’re fully a pris­oner to a pow­er­less process,” he stresses when the sug­ges­tion of down­time is voiced) as we col­lec­tively ex­press de­light at the sight of cof­fee for our 8am meet in the cap­i­tal’s Maryle­bone Ho­tel. “It’s a dawn of a full new era for me as a hu­man be­ing,” he pon­ders. “I deeply feel like I’ve turned into an ac­tual adult in the time of mak­ing this record.”

Whilst Strange De­sire felt like be­ing the sole delver into some­one’s most trea­sured jour­nal en­tries, its fol­low up awaited a whole ar­ray of new lis­ten­er­ship and, thus, a new per­spec­tive for Antonoff. “I’m ac­tu­ally talk­ing to peo­ple on this record so the per­spec­tive is less of a di­ary and more of try­ing to re­late to where I fit in in the world,” he ex­plains. “Strange De­sire was strictly from my per­spec­tive whilst, in con­trast, Every­body Lost Some­body on Gone Now was one of the first times I re­ally con­sid­ered that every­one feels loss and de­pres­sion too.”

Men­tal well­be­ing and self­ques­tion­ing ap­pears as a com­mon thread through­out Antonoff’s back cat­a­logue, rop­ing in themes of re­la­tion­ships, so­cial con­struct and pol­i­tics os­ten­si­bly more so than ever on Gone Now.

“We live in this re­ally dis­ap­point­ing aw­ful mo­ment where it’s fully hip to give a shit,” says Antonoff on how pol­i­tics formed his sopho­more ef­fort. “That’s the be­gin­ning of how things move for­ward though, I guess.”

“I just want to be in con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple. I’d rather be an artist that peo­ple ac­tu­ally know than one peo­ple want to be. I’m not talk­ing at peo­ple, I’m talk­ing with peo­ple.”

Given his track record, con­vers­ing with oth­ers is far more than a forte of his. One promi­nent ex­am­ple on Gone Now is the ad­di­tion of vi­ral star-turned-pop hero­ine Carly Rae Jepsen, a re­la­tion­ship that stems as far back as Antonoff’s in­au­gu­ral col­lab­o­ra­tion. “I had to prove my­self when work­ing with oth­ers and she was one of the first peo­ple who let me into the room, so I’m for­ever grate­ful for her,” he ex­plains. “I was work­ing on Hate That You Know Me whilst mak­ing Ella’s [Lorde] Melo­drama so I played her the song and she ac­tu­ally came up with the idea for those back­ing vo­cal parts.”

The sig­nif­i­cance of col­lab­o­ra­tive work to Antonoff’s legacy is in­dis­putable, feed­ing into Gone Now and the fi­nal patch­work-like prod­uct of his abun­dance of mu­si­cal as­so­ci­ates. “It’s an in­ter­est­ing record as, on one hand, there’s this crazy list of artists that are a part of this wild huge project on mine whilst, on the other hand, it was me sit­ting alone in the soli­tary space that is my apart­ment,” he de­clares. “Every­one on the record is a close friend and some­one I wanted to be a part of it.”

“It’s just fear. Most peo­ple are de­signed to hate some­thing that they don’t un­der­stand.”

In­clu­siv­ity ap­pears as another con­stant métier. Most no­tably, for his co-launch­ing the Ally Coali­tion (TAC) with for­mer fun. mem­bers and

“I’m a straight white Jewish guy, no one needs my voice in that area, but I can use my suc­cess to fun­nel a lot of voices to peo­ple who need to lis­ten.”

designer/sis­ter Rachel Antonoff, aimed at rais­ing aware­ness for home­less LGBT+ teens, ad­vo­cat­ing for the fight against dis­crim­i­na­tion. “In Amer­ica, 40% of home­less kids are LGBT+ be­cause they’re be­ing kicked out of their homes. The per­cent­ages of those who are non-white is even higher,” he states. “There’s a very spe­cific de­mo­graphic of kid in Amer­ica who are be­ing failed and they’re LGBT+, of­ten non-white and there are so few re­sources avail­able for them.”

He re­calls high school as “tor­ture” (“ev­ery­thing that wasn’t nor­mal in the 90s was gay”) be­fore re­mind­ing that, in 2016 alone, over 30 US states in­tro­duced anti LGBT+ le­gal­i­sa­tion. Per­sonal and global rea­son­ing com­bined ac­count for TAC, ev­i­dently im­pact­ing his live work with Bleach­ers as a clear pri­or­ity. “It’s not about my voice,” he clar­i­fies. “I’m a straight white Jewish guy, no one needs my voice in that area, but I can use my suc­cess to fun­nel a lot of voices to peo­ple who need to lis­ten. A dol­lar from each ticket from ev­ery show goes to shel­ters so even if you’re a to­tally close-minded prick, you’re pay­ing for these kids to get by if you come and see me.”

With Gone Now ven­tur­ing into po­lit­i­cal ter­ri­to­ries pre­vi­ously un­reached with Bleach­ers, it’s hard not to won­der if some­one in Antonoff’s po­si­tion can pinpoint a source for this dis­crim­i­na­tion in or­der to aid and ad­vo­cate.

“It’s just fear. Most peo­ple are de­signed to hate some­thing that they don’t un­der­stand,” he af­firms. “When I’m talk­ing on-stage, it’s very in­for­ma­tion-based as 99 out of 100 peo­ple will ac­tu­ally want to do some­thing about these is­sues once they un­der­stand as, right now, no one is giv­ing a fuck about LGBT+ home­less shel­ters.”

In an age where the def­i­ni­tion of ally can ap­pear blurred and adapt­able to suit needs at will, wit­ness­ing the man­i­festo of Jack Antonoff as told by the man him­self has felt as re­fresh­ing as it has hon­our­ing, truly de­ter­min­ing him as a one-of-a-kind cre­ative force. “Peo­ple only need to look at the cul­ture, art and mu­sic of the LGBT+ com­mu­nity to see why it’s so in­cred­i­ble,” he em­pha­sises. “You tell some­one that they can’t do some­thing, they’re gonna do it bet­ter than any­one else.” A mo­ment of con­tem­pla­tion amid a few sips of now-cold cof­fee later, he con­cludes: “There’s way more ex­cite­ment in LGBT+ cul­ture than in the white 9-to5 cul­ture be­cause there’s sim­ply a need for it.”

Visit the Ally Coali­tion at theal­ly­coali­tion.org Lis­ten to Gone Now on

He re­it­er­ates the power of voice once more, in­sist­ing; “More than ever, talk­ing to peo­ple has be­come im­por­tant and I’d like to just main­tain be­ing ex­tremely hon­est and for­ward in ev­ery­thing I do.” As one of pop’s most for­ward-think­ing, so­cially-aware and, ar­guably, busiest names, it would be al­most im­pos­si­ble to doubt him.

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