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Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff Reveals Secrets Behind Solo Debut

See photos from the studio as the Fun. guitarist polishes up a fresh album

Jack Antonoff, Bleachers, In studio

Lindsey Byrnes

Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff is stepping into the spotlight with Bleachers, the solo project he began working on during his other band's meteoric rise to fame. A few world tours later, with a brand-new breakout single ("I Wanna Get Better") under his belt, Antonoff headed to Woodshed Recording in Malibu, where he and producer John Hill (Santigold, Shakira) put the finishing touches on Bleachers' debut album, due later this spring. And he invited Rolling Stone into the studio to document the process.

Here's our behind-the-scenes look at the making of Bleachers' album, beginning at the front gates of Woodshed, chosen by Hill because it offered few distractions.

"I feel like anytime you record in New York or  Los Angeles, you always end up having to go to dinner or something, and it just sort of fucks up the recording," Antonoff explained. "So John was like, 'Well, why don’t we go somewhere a little bit out of the way?' It was a fucking pain in the ass to get there every day, but once you were there, we were very secluded. The only thing to do was finish the album and think about what we were gonna have for lunch." By James Montgomery

 

Jack Antonoff, Bleachers, In studio

Lindsey Byrnes

The Headphones Masterpiece

Antonoff's guitar is front and center on the Bleachers album … but also off to the the left and right, too. "There are a lot of things that are really satisfying on headphones, like hearing a sound sweep across your ears or just something going on way to the left or in the front or back," he said. "It's like a Pleasantville vibe. You listen to something forever on your laptop while you're just hanging out, and then one day you’re in your car and you put it on, and it’s just like the world is in color." 

Jack Antonoff, Bleachers, In studio

Lindsey Byrnes

(Im)Perfect Sound Forever

Antonoff and producer John Hill work on a song. "We're total opposites. I feel like I would walk in a room and be the loudest, most obnoxious person. And John would walk in a room and it would take you 10 minutes to notice he was in the room because he’s so un-intrusive," Antonoff explains. "But artistically he's trying to break all the rules. In this picture, we're grabbing random samples and noises and pitching them and distorting them. It was a pretty common thing with the album. It was just kind of like, let the most interesting sound win."

Jack Antonoff, Bleachers, In studio

Lindsey Byrnes

Primal Screaming

Antonoff belts it out behind the glass. "Being in the studio with John, it got to the point where I was like, 'Oh, it would be cool if we had some distorted screaming that sounds like it was recorded underwater,' and I'd go into the booth and do some weird, primal screaming shit," Antonoff laughed. "It would sound really bad, but we would both be on the same wavelength of like, 'Oh, if we put that in a crazy distortion and have it exist in the bottom of the track, it's gonna be really cool.'"

 

Jack Antonoff, Bleachers, In studio

Lindsey Byrnes

‘The Never-Ending Process’

Though he's back in New York now, Antonoff said if it were up to him, he'd still be working in Malibu."It started to feel like the never-ending process, because we just kept working and things were so good. We kept having new ideas, and I was writing new songs. And we were going back and updating the songs that we wrote eight months ago," he said. "It wasn’t until the label was like, 'You fucking have to finish this album,' that we were like, 'Oh, we actually have to finish this album!' It became very practical."

Jack Antonoff, Bleachers, In studio

Lindsey Byrnes

Keep it Like a Secret

After spending more than a year writing material for Bleachers, Antonoff doesn't know what to do now that the debut album is finished. "I’m trying not to think about it yet. I'm worried I’ll have a breakdown, because it's something that I've been thinking about and working on for so long, and now it's just done," he sighed. "But I guess it's still kind of a secret, because the album's not out yet, and I don't have to emotionally deal with it. I guess I'll put all my energy into the live show now."

Jack Antonoff, Bleachers, In studio

Lindsey Byrnes

Getting Down to Brass Tracks

When it came time to record vocals for the album, Antonoff and Hill took a rather unique approach: They tried everything. "A lot of times I'd do a lead-vocal take, and then we'd layer it and on the left side we'd pan a take of me 10-feet away from the mic, or me singing in the bathroom," Antonoff said. "And on the right side we’d have a really weird, muted take of me singing into that horn. The album has a really wide sound, and having very different vocal sounds happening all at once, it just feels like a live picture." 

Jack Antonoff, Bleachers, In studio

Lindsey Byrnes

The Malibu Diet

Antonoff keeps it simple during a lunch break at Woodshed. "When I'm being creative, I want to be in the same room. I watch the same TV episode or same movie when I get in bed at night. I feel like that stability frees me up to be loose in the studio," he said. "So I was eating this thing called a chicken bowl literally every fucking day. It was pieces of chicken, rice and some kind of greens. I lived in fucking Malibu, everyone's attractive and healthy, so you become your environment. Also, those aren't my cigarettes. I've never smoked a cigarette in my life."

 

Jack Antonoff, Bleachers, In studio

Lindsey Byrnes

The Dog Days Are Over

Antonoff relaxes with Woodshed's mascot, Jackson. "When he'd come around, it would be the most exciting thing in the world. Like, we'd forget what we were working on," he laughed. "It's weird doing music for 12 hours, because then things like a dog become the coolest things in the fucking world, and you'd just stare at him for minutes on end. I think all studios should have the option of a dog. Not necessarily a dog that's always there, but a dog that's around that can come pop in every once in a while."

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