“I like to just be able to type and not have to worry about my face,” Jack Antonoff admits. Fresh off doing a Reddit AMA, he comes to BLUNT in one of the many calls that he’s been doing as part of the press for his recent Bleachers album, Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night. It’s both bizarre and comforting to hear the prestigious musician and producer succumb to the videocall insecurities of the ordinary man. And yet, it shouldn’t be – Antonoff’s superpower has always been in creating music that makes us all feel connected not only to him but to each other.
Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night follows suit, holding up a tarnished mirror to the imperfect experience of being human and ever failing to get to the side where the grass is greener. As he grapples with understanding why he can never fully attain the things that he wants, Antonoff offers up a sobering reflection on our universal tendency to fumble just before we get to the finish line.
“It’s a breakthrough,” he states. “It’s about reaching a point in your life where you see the other side of something and you see all of the joy and hope that could be there and you can’t fucking do it. You can’t fucking walk through that door and something’s not right. And then you can either get very angry or you can get laser-focused on how to change that. And I got into that place where I was like, ‘Okay, what systems do I have in place that make it impossible for me to just grab this thing that is so clearly something I want?’ That could be in relationships or in work, it could be anything.”
For Antonoff, the frustration that he expresses on the record has been sitting with him since his coming of age in New Jersey. Growing up desperately wanting to escape to the bigger and better life waiting for him outside the state that he lived in, Antonoff exorcises the desire for something more that tormented him in his younger years both in his storytelling and the album’s sound (see: Bruce Springsteen’s feature on ‘Chinatown’). It begs the question of why he would want to return to commemorate a place that he once so intently wanted to leave on this album, a prompt he responds to without hesitation.
“That feeling of wanting to get out of a place or wanting more is essentially, it’s hope, you know?” he supplies. “It’s not believing that you have everything. How boring to think you have everything and there’s nothing more, that sounds like the end of growth, the end of everything. So, I’ve just become more and more enamoured with that feeling of, ‘What the fuck else is out there?’ I still have it, I always want it. And New Jersey is a place that makes me access it immediately when I’m there…You get to a point where you may have travelled the world – you may have done this, you may have done that – but that’s not a thing you ever want to let go of. And so I don’t.”
Antonoff went one step further in acknowledging his origins for Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night leading up to its official release, undertaking a series of recorded conversations with Ezra Koenig, Gerard Way, The Lucas Brothers, and George R.R. Martin. He sounds most at home getting nostalgic with My Chemical Romance frontman Way on the Jersey punk scene, although every conversation refracts light on a different aspect of Antonoff’s identity.
“I knew I was getting close to finishing the album,” he comments on the series. “I just wanted to do something that shed a lot of light on where I come from and why I make music the way I do, like that landscape and those feelings and those early years. They massively shaped how I see music, how I see making music, all of it. I had to make that clear to people before they heard the album.”
Speaking on whether or not he perceives those earlier days of making music as the glory days, Antonoff remains his down to Earth self, refusing to give into the temptation of re-living or revering the years that have already gone by. On the Jersey scene specifically, he adds: “It was mine when it was mine and now it’s not mine anymore,” continuing: “Now something else is mine and it’s my culture, through Bleachers and the albums that I make.
“At the end of the day, what we’re talking about is community. I’ve always been in love with it and attracted to it. And I think a lot of people who make music are searching for it, which is part of what compels you to be an artist, because you have this yearning for this community that you might not have had. And so you go and find it with a bunch of freaks from a whole bunch of different towns who do what you do.”
It’s a beautiful sentiment that resonates undeniably, and it further corroborates Antonoff’s integrity in being solely positioned towards his art and the community that relates to it. Though press cycles and gossip articles trail him wherever he goes, Antonoff cares only about his creations and the people that inspire them, allowing him to pay forward the favour that music did for him to an entirely new audience in a manner magical beyond mortal articulation.
“It’s this non-tangible, deeper conversation that we’re in,” he attempts to explain. “We’re just sort of all responding to something that we can’t really put words around, but we recognise ourselves in it. Why I love this band and my audience so much is because we’re sort of vibrating on a level that’s way beyond the music, way beyond the show. The music and the show and all of those things, they’re just sort of like our earthly ways of describing this thing. But it’s way bigger.”