The fun. Activist

Jack Antonoff of fun. is not only a pop-music powerhouse, but an outstanding advocate for the LGBTQ community

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(Photo by Lindsey Byrnes)

MW: Explain a bit more about what you do with The Ally Coalition. I understand you do some sort of pro-LGBT messaging at concerts.

ANTONOFF: On the very top level there’s just advocacy for LGBT rights. On social media, people fill out these signs, ”I’m an ally because… I support marriage equality.” Sometimes it’s as simple as, ”because I believe love is love.” Sometimes it’s as deep as, ”because I want my father to be happy.” When people share that and it goes out to a hundred of their friends on Facebook, or a thousand, whatever it is — it’s these small things that just really take fear out of the issue. When people’s family members or friends who maybe don’t support it, or don’t know where they stand, they see these things and go, ”Oh, so-and-so supports equal rights.” And even if they don’t necessarily take that as a moment to really get all the information and find out, it’s just a little bit more familiar.

But then on the much deeper level you have the trickle down of what discrimination really means. One thing we’ve realized is, there’s this massive population of LGBTQ homeless teens. Forty percent of homeless kids are LGBTQ, and it’s because they’re being kicked out of their homes after coming out. So we’ve been working with these different centers, like the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit. There are great places all over the country that really cater to this very specifically. We’ll do anything from selling a poster, to a specific show with all the money going to the Ellis Center, to a dollar from every ticket to a fun. concert going to The Ally Coalition, which then gets divvied up and goes to several organizations and shelters like this.

MW: You just wrote a song with an explicitly pro-LGBT message with Sarah Bareilles called ”Brave.” Do you think you’ll write such an anthem with fun. in the future?

ANTONOFF: I do, just because it’s on my mind and it’s very present. And you know my favorite songs and my favorite artists are the ones that reflect on society, in the moment. When Sarah and I wrote ”Brave,” we were having this general conversation about coming out and the state of marriage equality and the state of rights. And it just sparked this thing in her when she started exploring the concept of being brave. I think it takes an unbelievable amount of bravery to come out. I also think it takes an unbelievable amount of bravery to support and to be an ally, depending on where you are and who you’re surrounded by. It’s not easy. It’s getting easier, but even in the context of my life, I realize it’s not always easy to stand on the right side of history. Sometimes you take a lot of guff for it.

MW: In addition to ”Brave,” there’s also Macklemore having a hit with ”Same Love.”

ANTONOFF: Yeah, it’s incredible to see. The fact that they’re starting to play ”Same Love” on the radio — first of all, that’s just awesome. But second of all, I think that really shows great progress. I don’t know if that song would have been on the radio five years ago. I don’t know if people would have heard that song and been like, ”Yeah, this is what I want on the radio.” I think there might have been more resistance. It’s a great statement to how far we’ve come.

MW: Is there a certain fun. song that stands out or means something special to you?

ANTONOFF: ”Carry On” always means a lot to me, just because you’d have to be a robot to not, on a daily basis, feel some sense of inadequacy or helplessness. I love playing that song. I love seeing how it affects people. I love reading online what people say about it. My favorite songs are the ones that are built to connect large groups of people, and that’s what I get from that song. And seeing 2,000 people shriek back ”Carry On” while we’re playing it is an experience that makes me feel as one with humanity that has no equal.

MW: That is something distinctive about your music — fun.’s songs are mostly big, joyous, sing-along anthem-style numbers. So it must be a trip to perform them live.

ANTONOFF: It really is. Watching people sing along is the greatest joy. Even a decade ago, playing really small clubs, the first thing I would always look for is the one or two people singing a lyric — the greatest feeling on Earth. And that feeling, whether it’s one or two people, or 20,000 people, it’s just magical every time.

MW: What can we expect from the concert itself?

ANTONOFF: You can expect a band that’s just been in a complete tornado over the past two years and has somehow landed on their feet, playing bigger than ever, happier than ever, and more in touch with why we’re doing what we’re doing than ever — and that it’s 100 percent reflected in the tour.

Jack Antonoff performs with fun. Saturday, July 20 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, Md. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 to $45. ‘Call 800-551-SEAT or visit merriweathermusic.com’.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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