Depending on your age and musical tastes, you know Jack Antonoff as one-third of fun. or from his days with indie rockers Steel Train or adolescent punk band Outline. He’s also Lena Dunham’s boyfriend and the co-owner of Lamby, a rescue dog who’s been featured in both the New Yorker and Buzzfeed. Now Antonoff has something else to add to the list: Bleachers, his solo project. “Strange Desire,” Bleachers’ debut album, is full of exhilarating pop infused with ’80s nostalgia. Antonoff and a backing band play two shows at 9:30 Club next week.
How are you enjoying the solo thing?
Working on something alone is a very special experience because you’re wrestling with all these ideas. It’s an insane process of going through all this crap in your head and trying to make sense of it.
You’ve called Bleachers a darker and more brooding project, compared to fun.
Sonically, it goes into dark places and lyrically, it’s looking back on things that I’ve experienced: loss, anxiety, depression — and constantly looking at them as you change and grow. That’s the theme of the whole album. There is a big underlying theme of hope, but I feel like it’s a bit of a s— storm before you get there.
As a fellow New Jerseyan, who hated growing up there, it has been interesting to read about your appreciation for the state.
Well, my appreciation comes from hating it, too. What I think is so beautiful about New Jersey is that it’s this place where everyone I knew growing up had this intense desire to get out. That’s a very special energy.
People who grew up in New York City have no sense of this underdog feeling of “We have to get the f— out of here.” As I got older, I realized that it was a hell of a lot better than growing up somewhere that you think is the coolest place in the world. I’ve always had this feeling, and it comes from growing up in New Jersey, that there’s so much I gotta do and there’s so much I gotta see and there’s so much I gotta prove.
You’ve really thought about this.
I lived at home until I was 28. I had a lot of time to intellectualize this.
Isn’t living with your parents at odds with wanting to get out?
A little bit. But I didn’t feel like I needed to get away from my family or anything like that. I felt very disconnected from a lot of things about my generation in general. Everyone was so uptight about going to college and moving out and getting their life going. It felt premature to me.
Where were you sitting in the bleachers in high school? Underneath with the cool kids?
No, I wish. I was in the middle, back. I was so mediocre — I wasn’t cool enough for it to be an important experience.
How are things now that you’ve moved in with Lena?
It’s nice. I never really moved out, so the experience I’m having now is a monumentally big one in someone’s life. It’s funny that it’s happening at 30. I mean it’s funny on paper, it feels normal to me. I did things like drive a van around the country for 10 years and learned how to live on the road but I never learned how to put food in the fridge. It’s interesting. If you don’t put the food in the fridge, there’s no food to eat because your mother isn’t there.
What was it like working with Lena, who directed the music video for ‘It Gets Better’?
Making videos are weird. I don’t make them, so I don’t always know if it’s going well. It’s not like when I’m in the studio and I understand what is happening. So it was nice to work with someone I’m close to. When you get a chance to work with someone you love its very special.
There is this great moment when one of the characters in a fake therapy session says “I don’t know how to power clash!”
Mike Doyle, who played that role, just made it up in the moment. That was the fun part of making the video. We just sat down and had these fake therapy sessions. There are hours of unused footage of people saying the most bizarre, hilarious stuff.
What are you up to now?
I’m on tour, but I’m always working. One thing I’ve noticed is that I never really understand when the good ideas come so I like to at least be in the place where they can come.
Any idea why your dog has become so famous?
He’s a very special animal and I think that same connection that I’ve built with my dog a lot of other people have, too. He has these weird human eyes.
9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW;
Tue., 7 p.m., $20, Wed., 7 p.m., sold out.
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