How Taylor Swift And Hayley Williams Helped Fun.’s Guitarist Go Solo

Jack Antonoff reveals the origins of Bleachers, and what his new band means for Fun.

For nearly a year now, Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff has had a secret: He’s been making an album.

On Tuesday, he finally let the world have a listen, unveiling “I Wanna Get Better,” a rousing, rushing slice of electro-pop from a project he’s calling Bleachers. There’s a tour set to kick off next month (including a performance at the mtvU Woodie Awards ) and a full album due in the spring … but today, Antonoff is still trying to figure out how to talk about the music that’s meant so much to him — and mostly only him — for so long now.

Turns out, it’s a lot more difficult than you’d imagine.

“I spent the past year working on the music but not talking about it, and eventually it became this psychotic alter-ego situation, where it was second nature to have this part of me that no one knew about,” he told MTV News. “Except for a small group of people, most of which happened to be members of my immediate family, no one was aware that this music, or this album even existed … even though it existed so deeply to me.”

Antonoff’s inner circle included producer John Hill (M.I.A., Jay Z, Shakira) and founding Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke, both of whom worked on the album, not to mention famous friends Taylor Swift and Hayley Williams, who gave him feedback on Bleachers’ music, and may have had a hand in selecting “Get Better” as the first single.

“I sent Taylor and Hayley the song a couple weeks ago, and was like ‘What do you think of the mix?’” Antonoff said. “I want to hear it through other people’s ears. Something as broad as song structure or picking a single, or as small as ‘Does this master have too much low end?’ I want honest opinions from my friends and people I respect.”

While he wouldn’t say if either Swift or Williams appear on the upcoming Bleachers album (“There are some secret guests,” he laughed) Antonoff did reveal that he’d recently recorded with none other than Yoko Ono, who lends her voice to “a spoken-word type thing” that made the final cut. All told, there are 11 songs on the album, all of which were written and recorded while he was on the road with Fun., then polished-up in a NYC studio with Hill at his side.

“I’ve never done something like this before; it’s been a very specific non reality, like, ‘I can’t write on tour,’ but I think that plays into how this album was made; I was compelled to do it, so I just did it,” he said. “Like, ‘I Wanna Get Better,’ I did the vocals in my hotel room in Malaysia, with a laptop and a mic, and then the next day I was in South Korea, and I started mixing, and then I flew home from South Korea and John and I met in New York and we went though it there. And that’s the vibe of all of it; do a guitar part here, a vocal part there, build this thing all over the world.

“If you told me two years ago I’d be doing a world tour, then making an album in the midst of it, I would have told you it wouldn’t be possible; all I know is I was very compelled to make this and it happened,” he continued. “As Fun. got bigger I stopped thinking a lot about the future, not in my life, but artistically; and I started realizing it’s just about music, it’s just about the songs. I don’t mean that in a cheesy way, I mean that in a very honest way; I felt compelled to work, so I worked.”

And to that end, Antonoff knows that his current band will inevitably lead to speculation about the status of his other band — it’s probably part of the reason he held off on announcing the project for so long — so he wants to make it very clear: Fun. is fine … in fact, not only were Nate Ruess and Andrew Dost aware that he was making his own music, theyhelped him do it.

“I’ve been going back and forth with Nate and Andrew on the mix for ‘I Wanna Get Better’ to figure out which version is the best,” he explained. “There’s this weird pressure to do one thing, and that’s it, and the three of us have never been that way. We’ve always done all these things that we want to do, and I think that’s what makes Fun. special. We met as three people doing other things, and we decided to come together and make something bigger than ourselves.”