Jack Antonoff Page 2

Music critic Gabriela Tuly Claymore writing for the online publication Stereogum noted that Antonoff has 'proven himself to be very good at working with women who have a strong point of view, who will always sound like themselves regardless of who's assisting them. Antonoff has built his career on being a friend; he's the kind of man people feel OK sharing their feelings with'.

Absurd Gesture
And ultimately everything leads back to New Jersey, so much so that his own home studio is a tiny thing modelled on his childhood bedroom (right down to the same wallpaper). 'I just like to have stuff around that reminds me of me,' he admits. 'One thing I didn't like about going to commercial studios is that I'd be in a space where the walls didn't know me. Whereas when you're home, all your stuff keeps you in you.' And whenever he's at work, there will never be more than three people in the room at any time – the artist, himself and his go-to engineer, Laura Sisk.


'I became very obsessed with how making records is all about protecting this innocent vision,' he says. 'So I wanted to get out of studios. I just wanted to be as closed-off as possible. And it's worked so far. I've done a lot of things I've been very proud of in that room.

'It's where I've had the most success. It's not like I think everyone has to work that way, but it's about knowing yourself. You go to any big studio, you're gonna be listening to the music you're making through speakers that literally no consumer could ever afford. You gotta consider that. Don't make food with ingredients that no one would ever taste. Don't make music with frequencies that no one will ever hear.

'That right there immediately decides all the deeper, weird feelings about leaving your house. I like being at home. I like bringing you back to that, because I don't think that in music or songwriting there's any sense of professionalism. I don't think you get better at it.'

His goal, he says, is to achieve some kind of universal individuality: 'It's a desperate act, songwriting and production. You have a feeling that you're terrified no-one has ever felt before, and you make this grand, absurd gesture, put it to melody and production, and then cast it out into the world and just pray that one person says, "Oh, I agree". That's the whole point. That's when we're at our best.'


Panic Attack
'I'm looking for people who feel like they can't find this perfect balance of moving forward and holding on to the past. But that's what pop writing is – find something that no-one can relate to and make it something that everyone can. All of my favourite songs with really great writing and production have something that speaks to everybody individually. Millions and millions of people can all listen to the same song and just feel like it's talking to them directly. That's how I felt when I heard "In My Life" by The Beatles or "Unpretty" by TLC…

'It's like your first panic attack. The first time you get a panic attack, most people think they're literally having a stroke or a heart attack. They think they're dying because they've never felt that way before. Whereas no one remembers the first time their knee hurt, because who cares? So, I think that is the feeling of having interesting collaborative relationships that work. You find another person that understands this thing that you feel is not understandable. That's also the feeling, to be honest, when one person or a billion people like or connect with a song you wrote. You get this moment of clarity that makes the world feel a little more connected.'


St Vincent's Annie Clark has this to say about him: 'To say he changed my outlook on music would be an understatement. He changed my outlook on life! "Go for the jugular. Irony is emotional death".'

Brutally Honest
Antonoff's support and collaboration has pretty much brought out the deepest and best in every artist he's worked with. Not to mention bringing them praise and success. Taylor Swift's 1989 became the biggest selling album in America in 2014 while her song 'Look What You Made Me Do', taken from her 2017 album Reputation, topped the singles charts in no fewer than 19 countries around the world.


When Lana Del Rey's Norman F***ing Rockwell! dropped a few months ago, I was stunned by the reaction of friends on Facebook; two of my ex-NME compadres – hardened, seasoned journos – confessing they'd broken down in tears on first listening.

On his choice to work mostly with women, he says: 'In no way do I feel like a woman. I feel very male. But when I'm writing I don't think about Lou Reed or Bowie. I think about Kate Bush, Björk, Fiona Apple... I've always been extremely drawn to female artists who are being brutally honest. That is so much more attractive to me than a lot of the weird paths certain male songwriters lead you down, that hide and mask emotions.

'I think about Kate Bush and those vocal registers when I'm writing, because I always imagine that vocals should be dancing on top of the track. There's just a lot of melodic DNA that works better for women than men. Also, my experiences with men and music have been in this really macho, intense, high-octane environment.'

Cosmic Joke
Right here, right now, Antonoff's the (wo)man. 'The cosmic joke about writing and recording,' he says, 'is you could do something for eight months and then wake up in the morning, get in the shower and hum a melody that was better than anything you did. That's just it.

'You have to be ready to follow that. You don't know when it's gonna come or how it's gonna come. In a word, you're powerless, and I kinda love that.'