Published May 31, 2017One thing you need to know before you listen to the new Bleachers album, Gone Now, out June 2 on RCA, is that Jack Antonoff is pretending to be dead.
"The idea is that I'm dead," he tells Exclaim! from his Brooklyn home. "Not in a weird, 'I'm dead and it's terrifying' way. I wrote a lot of the album from the perspective of not being here anymore, hence the name: Gone Now."
For his second album under the Bleachers moniker, Antonoff, who is best known as the guitarist and songwriter for Grammy winners Fun., chose to pursue this concept of a world without him both lyrically and visually. Yes, the monochromatic album cover shot of him in an ornate, Michael Jackson-esque jacket is the one he imagines would be on display at his funeral.
"[That jacket] is not easy to get into," he says with a laugh. "My friend Paul made it for me. He helped creatively direct the images. I thought to myself, 'Knowing my life and who I am, if there's a picture of me on the mantle after I'm gone, what would it look like?' And I just had this image of me in my head wearing this regal jewelled version of a military outfit. That's why it's black and white. That's why it looks like that and feels like that. That's why I have a look on my face like, 'I know I'm not here anymore.' I think it makes a lot more sense when you dig into the album."
All of this talk about death might suggest that Gone Now is going to send its listeners to a pit of depression, but it's quite the opposite. Gone Now is cut from the same posi-pop cloth as his 2014 debut, Strange Desire. If anything, Antonoff has constructed a collection of anthems that celebrate life. And like just about every musician from the Garden State, Bruce Springsteen influenced this outlook.
"He's really the sound of where I'm from," says Antonoff. "It's not just because he's from New Jersey. There's a whole perspective of being from New Jersey where you're five minutes from the greatest city ever and you're just staring at it from the outside. When I write from that perspective of a kid from New Jersey, I feel the most honest, like I'm telling the clearest story of what it feels like to be me. It's not designed to alienate anyone, yet it's designed to assume people are smart and can handle real honesty and real integrity in music. I really believe in that. It gives me a lot of courage to do what I do."
Gone Now is less collaborative than its predecessor, which featured Grimes, Yoko Ono, Sara Quin and Vince Clarke, among others. But seeing as he is regularly collaborating with artists such as Carly Rae Jepsen, Taylor Swift and most recently, Lorde, on their work, he seems to enjoy making Bleachers a more selfish project. Still, one thing Antonoff hopes to continue is Terrible Thrills, the series of companion albums that invites female artists to cover his songs. He originally began the concept with his old band, Steel Train, and feels it can continue as long as he chooses to.
"The Terrible Thrills project is very much meant to be the last statement of a record cycle. It's a bit of a bow at the end," he explains. "Right now I'm in the phase of just putting this album out and defining it from my perspective, so it has to start there. I'd like to. It's very connected to how I write and who I am. I like the idea. It feels unique to me at a time when a lot of ideas get regurgitated. I came up with that idea in the Steel Train days and I never let go of it. Luckily no one has really copied it yet, so I'm happy to hold on to it."