Jack Antonoff: ‘People Are Mean to People When They’re Young and Doing Great Work”

Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff takes a break from music with more music—his stadium-friendly electro-pop project. 

by Michael Valencia

THERE ARE DAYS when “Hollyweird” lives up to its name. Today, for example, in broad daylight, a man wearing a King Tut shirt took a lead pipe and smashed the windows of a cop car parked on the Walk of Fame, while Darth Vader watched. Farther down Sunset Boulevard, in the restaurant of the luxe Sunset Tower hotel, Jack Antonoff is enjoying a quinoa vegetable medley and chamomile tea before going out with friends.more

The guitarist of Fun. is in town with his girlfriend, Lena Dunham, and this hotel is their refuge from the Hollywood mess. “lt’s my home away from home—I’ve got a studio set up in the room," he says, before the busboy comes over to tell him about the MPC drum machine he recently purchased. Antonoff knows everyone by name, from the concierge to the waiters. Hotel life is familiar-he spends much of his time on the road with his Grammy-winning band-and it was in transit where he crafted his upbeat, poppy side project, Bleachers.

“It's the exact opposite of everything else," Antonoff says about recording the project, whose lead track is an ebullient glitch-pop song, “I Wanna Get Better." “Typically I lock myself in a studio for three weeks and make an album, and the music is a documentation of that moment This is not that; I recorded it while on tour with in Malaysia, New Zeaiand, Stockholm, Instead of sleeping, get to a studio in Japan and then bring the tracks back to New York, along with the 10 percent of what I did in South Korea that wasn’t bizarre jetlag haze stuff. It was a process with a shit-ton of perspectives."

These added influences included input from Depeche Mode producer Vince Clarke as well as John Hill, who's Worked with Phantogram and Jay Z, Antonoff, of course, has a few production credits of his own, having collaborated with Taylor Swift on “Sweeter Than Fiction" and Sara Bareilles and "Brave" Music is his job, but Bleachers is a chance to get away from the grind. “I made this music to relax from the other music I was doing." he says. “Being in a band is the most challenging, life-changing schedule-fucker-upper; you never see your friends or family and you destroy your body and mind. l've basically been a truck driver for 12 years of my life. I can tell you every roadside restaurant from Jacksonville to Richmond."

As energetic, sing-along pop, from the 1980's teen-movie-esque “Roller Coaster" to the acoustic anthem “Reckless Love," Bleachers is escapism at its finest. After all, being in the public eye and watching one's very famous girlfriend endure intense scrutiny has complicated life for the New Jersey native and Brooklyn resident, and now more than ever, music is an easy escape. “You can't buy an antidote for being hurt," he says about the public discourse surrounding Dunham. "People are mean to people when they're young and doing great work. No one is mean to Judi Dench, you know? When a young person does something great, people are Iike, 'That should have been me.' I've had many different eras in my life, when I was eating Triscuits for dinner on tour and sleeping on people's floors, to now being more comfortable, The day-to-day changes are that the stuff gets nicer but there's nothing better than when people say nice things about your work."

As he finishes his lunch, Antonoff gets a text. His friends are here, and it's time to venture out onto the wild Hollywood Streets. He waves good-bye to the doorman, exits through the ornate lobby, slips into a gray Prius, and heads eastward, away from the Sunset Strip. On the road yet again.

By Drew Tewksbury. Photographed by Felisha Tolentino.