Autumn de Wilde

Artist To Watch: Bleachers Are Resurrecting Rock

Jack Antonoff looks back in time to move music forward.

It's only been a few short months since Bleachers' debut single "I Wanna Get Better" came out, and yet it feels like it's been around forever, like a favorite T-shirt you've worn to perfection and couldn't bear to part with.

That could be because the song's triumphant tone and riotous, teenage-wasteland hook feels like a throwback from an '80s suburb where you did some of your best -- and worst -- coming of age.

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Bleachers' second single, "Shadow," continues to mine from that most nostalgic of all musical decades (sorry, '60s) with its big echoing drums, multi-tracked vocals and wiry guitar lines.

"I wanted Bleachers to have a nostalgic element, so some of the emotions almost do feel a little John Hughes-y," Antonoff has said of debut album Strange Desire, out on July 15. "But I didn't want it to be a retro album. It had to be fully pushed into the future while grounded in that moment that means so much to me."

To aid him in that delicate balancing act, he enlisted John Hill, a producer known for his work with such '80s stalwarts as Depeche Mode and Erasure.

"I mean, Vince [Clarke of Depeche Mode and Erasure] literally made some of the albums that inspired me to do Bleachers in the first place. It was really full circle to have one of the people who inspire you to create with you," he said.

Despite some seriously introspective themes on the album, Antonoff has a sense of humor about the entire process (as you might expect, considering he's dating "Girls" creator and "I Wanna Get Better" director Lena Dunham). In case you missed it, he announced the release of Strange Desire in a Craigslist ad.


Bleachers' first studio LP takes its name from the lyric: "Feeling like I never was young/ I followed a dream and a strange desire."

"That line speaks to my entire life over the past 14 years of writing and being on tour," Antonoff confessed. "I do feel like I'm constantly mourning a childhood I never had ... Mostly because I dealt with a lot of loss in the most formative years of my life. That ties into a lot of the lyrics on the album."

Strangely, it was only by traveling around the world while on tour with fun. that he found the time to take stock of his roots back home. At the 2014 mtvU Woodie Awards, he told MTV News that he wrote and recorded the album during some "weird moments" in Malaysia, Sweden, New Zealand and Japan. All the while, he tried to keep the overall story of the album firmly planted in the 1980s.

"I feel connected to that time in pop music when, like, huge stuff was cool stuff, and there wasn't this great divide between mainstream and interesting," he said.

If anyone's capable of closing that divide and resurrecting rock, it's Bleachers.

+ Download Bleachers' "I Wanna Get Better (RAC Remix)"