‘Criticism doesn’t keep me up at night’: superproducer Jack Antonoff on his haters – and Taylor Swift’s greatness

 

From Lana Del Rey to the 1975, he has defined today’s pop – and some say homogenised it. As his band Bleachers return, he discusses grief, graft and why sincerity matters more than ever

Jack Antonoff is fewer than 24 hours into his flying visit to London from New York to talk about his new album as Bleachers, but trying to hold his attention as we eat in the celeb hotspot and luxury hotel Chiltern Firehouse is like trying to handle a dodgem. He becomes preoccupied by an abandoned baseball cap, my beer and the transmission risk of the packed dining room. “Do people still get Covid?” he asks. “Shall we go outside?” (It is freezing.) He frets about “ambient noise” affecting my recorder, looking at the couple next to us and the empty table a little further away. “Do you want to tell them to go over there? I couldn’t, but you could,” he says, laughing.

He is certainly jetlagged, but otherwise it’s hard to identify the source of his twitchiness. It could be down to the playful neuroticism that Antonoff wears on his sleeve in his music with the Springsteen-inspired, self‑mythologising Bleachers; maybe it’s self‑consciousness about his celebrity status as a pop superproducer who works with Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Lorde, St Vincent, the 1975 and more.

At one point, we find ourselves playing a therapy-style word-association game, which is also how Antonoff approaches his songwriting. “Mother,” I say. “Want!” Antonoff says, instantly. We are both horrified. “Paging Dr Freud!” says Antonoff.

 

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