Event Detail Page

Bleachers

Bleachers

with Samia
Doors: 5:30 pm | Show: 7:00 pm
All Ages
Westville Music Bowl
New Haven, CT

BLEACHERS


Few 21st century artists have had the cultural impact of Jack Antonoff. Through his work as a producer for artists like Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift, The 1975 and Lorde, he’s won eight Grammys to date and filled album of the year lists with records like Norman Fucking Rockwell! and Folklore. For years critics have wondered how his work is so successful and what defines it when it doesn’t quite sound like anything else (Antonoff ignores what’s on trend, even when that’s his last project). His methodology, he reveals, is the same for his production work as it is for writing his music with Bleachers: “The great journey and struggle of creating your sound is to drill further and further into it, while the whole time shocking yourself and the people around you.”


The results are always intimate, confessional and unwaveringly tasteful. Formed as a secret in 2013, Antonoff sought to use Bleachers as a continuation of his life-long need to write and perform his songs with a band. The first three Bleachers albums—2014’s Strange Desire, 2017’s Gone Now and 2021’s Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night—were written through the lens of the loss of his younger sister in 2001. “I do think things happen to people, especially if they’re writers, where it just becomes the starting point for their perspective,” he explains. “I don’t mind that, I like that. Because, the songs I wrote through that lens two years after she died, are very different from the songs I wrote five years later, let alone 10 years. The lens changes wildly.”


Fourth album, Bleachers, Bleachers first since signing to iconic indie label Dirty Hit, began as a set-piece on the idea of tribute living. “It’s not regressive. If anything, it’s the opposite,” says Antonoff. “If anything, this concept of tribute living makes you want to fly into the future so hard, because someone else couldn’t.” But his personal and professional life began to hit an apex of hope as he began writing this album in 2022: he met the love of his life and now wife, and Bleachers were playing to bigger crowds, still young enough to find it exciting and old enough to be a band that’s as worn-in and emotionally dedicated as a marriage. “It just felt like all of a sudden this world was opening up on both sides. Often things happen in your personal life, or things happen with the band, but to have them so extremely connected in this big new future felt pretty heavy and exactly what I’ve been banging on about on a lot of the past records,” he says. While this move away from seeing the world explicitly through the loss of his sister is something he on occasion feels guilty about, it is, in fact, the very meaning of tribute living.


From triumphant lead single “Modern Girl”, the album’s methodology is laid out in bright soulful technicolour: this is Antonoff’s distinctly New Jersey take on the bizarre sensory contradictions of modern life, on his position in culture—or at the very least opinions on that (“pop music hoarder”)—and on the things he cares about, namely the band and its individual members. In the mix, each instrument is heard for its idiosyncrasies and the personality of the player behind it; sonically it’s sad, it’s joyful, it’s music for driving on the highway to, for crying to and for dancing to at weddings.


There’s a rich depth to the band’s sound here, one that Antonoff notes is legitimised by their secret presence everywhere: they’re the band on the last six Taylor Swift albums, the last three Lana Del Rey albums and last two St. Vincent albums. “The band has become characters you’re hearing all over the world. That’s not really a story anyone’s ever told, but it’s a cool one when you think about it,” he says, adding that, “It’s a very rare thing for a band to really be a band. And it takes a really long time.” Bleachers is self-titled because for the first time the reference point for the band is the band itself. For Antonoff, this decision was akin to planting a flag of what the band is at its core.


Matching that lived-in feeling across the album, there’s a comfiness and a taking stock with regards to Antonoff’s personal life. On the gentle 80s-inflected love song “Tiny Moves”, Antonoff articulates that feeling of watching someone you adore when every little move they make is “earth-shattering” to you. “I barely remember writing it. I more remember trancing around the room celebrating that it existed,” he says of its creation. “Me Before You” is another “line in the sand” that he couldn’t have written before this record. Of his previous emotional unavailability as explored in this simplistic and touching track, he says, “I listen to my podcasts. I don’t like anyone in my bed. We all know how that goes. Maybe those are just weird systems of armour that we just wear when we’re not ready or we don’t have the outlet.”


Elsewhere, with soft and pleasingly one-tone vocals on indie synth-pop “Jesus Is Dead”, he names what he needs in life. It was inspired by a time he was sick with Covid and enjoying languishing with his partner, watching Phantom Thread. He considered that all that truly mattered to him could be written on a piece of paper: his family, friends, wife, band, audience and the drive to do some good along the way with the non-profit he runs with his family, the Ally Coalition, which supports organisations in championing LGBTQ youth. ““Jesus is dead” is almost like this protective shield, ‘this is where ‘I’m at’. If that’s not enough for someone, then they need not be in this audience or in this conversation.”


Long-time collaborator Del Rey joins him on “Alma Mater”; a sprawling, uncategorizable mood of a song written in some downtime messing around when they were working on her music. They were making each other laugh, singing lines to each other (“‘She’s my alma mater / fuck Balenciaga”) and the result is a pensive but spritely and dynamic surprise. “This song is a weird little magic gem where I’m not really sure why all the pieces are coming together, but they are in this really special way to me,” he notes.


Rousing anthem “Self Respect” is a different prospect altogether, emerging from Antonoff’s exhaustion at feeling he has to be perfect in his personal life. It pins together different events from across time and space: the profundity of his sister’s death, the strange biblical nature of Kobe Bryant’s death, the idiocy of Kendall Jenner in that Pepsi commercial. “Why did Kobe Bryant die? Why did my sister die? Why did Kendall Jenner make that commercial? The way the human brain thinks, not every question is perfectly sewed together. I’m not only thinking about deep things. I’m not only thinking about silly things. It’s all happening at once,” he says. But, as explored in Joan Didion’s infamous essay, self respect evokes confronting feelings in an individual, despite all its mundanity and overuse. “Ironically, most people’s definition of self-respect is an outward one,” he says. “It’s such a widely commented on concept that it becomes almost impossible to have your own idea of it, which is so horrible because the whole point is that it’s this personal thing. But as wellness, self-respect, -love, -care, all these things become popular, the natural thing to happen is for them to become debased.”


As Bleachers dances with all these big collective ideas and small, interior ones, it maintains a proud New Jersey sensibility. Born, raised and now based in the Garden State, Antonoff (who is by necessity a devotee of Bruce Springsteen) says that its sound, “to literally articulate it, is: so sad, so hopeful, so aspirational, so broken all at once.” It’s gang vocals, twinkling glockenspiels, brief sax solos and the soundtrack to driving into the sunset heartbroken but at the centre of your own universe. He chooses to lyrically embed his grief and sarcasm within the broad, embraceable sonics, reporting from his geographical home because his personhood and place are inexplicably entwined for him. Even without being a pre-existing Bleachers fan who understands all the references and in-jokes knitted into the fabric of Bleachers, there’s something reassuringly touchable and concrete about its sentiment: exist in crazy times but remember what counts.


What Antonoff anticipates now, having successfully shocked himself with Bleachers, is the opportunity to play the first shows of this album run, and shape the feeling of this era for both band and fans from within that live experience. “If you go watch Beyoncé, you’re praying at the altar of Beyoncé. That’s not who I am,” Antonoff concludes. “I always gravitated more towards artists like Paul Simon or Bruce Springsteen; just people who looked like me and felt like me, but had this weird thing they could do that could bring people together. Some people like to be witnessed. I don’t like to be witnessed. I like to be a part of something.”


Links: Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify