The Untold Truth Of Bleachers

When Bleachers came on the scene in 2014, their mix of `80s-era pop revivalism and big stadium production made them an instant success. Based on the strength of the sing-along, optimistic quality of their first single "I Wanna Get Better," and their charismatic lead singer Jack Antonoff, the band's debut album, "Strange Desire," would go on to break the Billboard top 20 (per iHeart).

From the very beginning, though, Bleachers were clouded in some degree of mystery, kept secret as Antonoff worked on different projects, according to Rolling Stone. Referencing the band's '80s influences, Antonoff told MTV the debut was influenced by artists like Depeche Mode, Erasure, and Yaz, and much of it was written while he was on the road — an unusual way for the musician to work. "All of a sudden, about a year ago, I felt very compelled to write," he said.

Despite the group's relatively thin catalog — only two more albums have been released since 2014 — Bleachers have one of the most interesting stories in modern pop music. In fact, learning the untold truth of Bleachers will only help you appreciate the music even more.

Bleachers get by with a little help from their friends

The fact of the matter is, Bleachers isn't really a band at all — it's more like a one-man show centered around guitarist and singer Jack Antonoff. The group is otherwise rounded out by a rotating cast of musicians in the studio and while touring. Although the band is primarily Antonoff's vision, collaboration is certainly an important part of the process. Those backing vocals on the song "I'm Ready to Move On/Wild Heart Reprise" from the debut, for example? That's none other than Yoko Ono. Elsewhere, electronic musician Grimes supplied her own contribution to the tune "Take Me Away."

On working with Ono, Antonoff told Billboard he didn't expect much when he initially reached out to the legendary artist, but she agreed, "Sometimes the most far-out, bizarre things are the most simple," he said. These important collaborations also extend beyond the mic: Vince Clarke from the timeless new wave band Depeche Mode co-produced the debut record, helping to give the music that authentic`80s feel.

There are two versions of the debut album

When asked if you've heard Bleachers' debut album, the correct response is neither yes nor no, but rather, which one? That's because, in 2015, Antonoff released a second version of the record, this time called "Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2." The vocals were supplied by some of the music industry's most important female artists, such as Charli XCX — who also toured with Bleachers — as well as Carly Rae Jepsen, Elle King, and many others.

About the decision to put out two versions of this band's debut release, Antonoff called it a "re-imagining" and told Billboard, "I hear my songs being sung by females before I change them and make them into my voice. The whole heart of this idea is for people to hear the album the way I hear it in my head, reinterpreted by the artists who sort of inspired it to be written in the first place."

Jack Antonoff is producer du jour for today's biggest pop stars

If some of the sound and production style on the Bleachers debut — or any of their subsequent releases, for that matter — sounds familiar, that's because Jack Antonoff also makes a living behind the faders, producing some of pop's biggest hit records from the past two decades. The list of artists Antonoff has loaned his producing skills to include Lorde, Lana Del Rey, and even the unstoppable Taylor Swift. On working with so many of today's leading female artists, Antonoff told the The Guardian, "It's like a relationship. It's wild. You're gonna fight, and you're gonna be scared and sad and thrilled and all those things."

"I don't think it's very different to making a leap of faith with someone. The women I work with are powerhouses," Antonoff continued. "I'm not in there telling them what to do. I'm on a ride with them." On the topic of working with bedroom pop crossover artist Clairo, Antonoff said in a 2021 interview with NME that she's "one of our great artists," later adding that Taylor Swift changed "the music industry first-hand."

Jack Antonoff is also in another well-known band

If it's not clear by now, Jack Antonoff, the primary mastermind behind the music project known as Bleachers, is one busy dude. If you've worn out the three studio LPs from the group — including the most recent release, 2021's "Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night" — and a handful of streaming EPs, take heart! There's lots more Antonoff to listen to. A Jersey boy, Antonoff began his musical career playing music in a punk band called Outline (via His most well-known project, though, outside Bleachers and his production credits, is probably Fun.

The band is best known for the song "We Are Young," the song sees Antonoff again working with another one of today's best female artists, Janelle Monáe. The song would go on to reach the top of the Billboard charts. Still, the band would release only two full-length albums before announcing on their Facebook page in 2015 that they're taking a break so each member could pursue other projects.

Bleachers know The Boss

The music world was excited when, in 2021, Bleachers announced they would be releasing their third full-length album, "Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night," which would go on to break the top 50 on the album charts, according to Billboard. The album was announced with the release of the song "Chinatown," which features another musical icon from New Jersey from a different generation: Bruce Springsteen, also known as The Boss. 

As Jack Antonoff recounted to NPR, he wrote the song all on his own before playing it for Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa, who is also a well-known musician. After listening back to Springsteen's vocal contribution to the track, Antonoff said, "It sounded like Bleachers, but I could hear his influence on me from before I knew him. The whole song is about ushering your love back home to find a future."

"The device in it," Antonoff continues, "which is also the device of the whole album, is going from New York City over the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey. And 'Chinatown' tells that story specifically. The album tells that story in a much bigger, deeper sense of what it means to go home to find a future. But there was something just remarkable about having him be part of that ushering-over-the-bridge process."