Today sees the release of Gloria Duplex, Henry Jamison’s followup to his excellent debut, The Wilds. While The Wilds acted as a captivating collection of short stories set to audio, Jamison’s sophomore effort is more focused, dealing largely with the topic of toxic masculinity. We talked to Jamison about this divisive issue, what he’s learned since recording his debut, and more.


How did tour go? Because I understand that you did quite a few dates between The Wilds and the new album.

It’s almost like asking me how my life is going, because it’s such a huge part of everything now. Most touring went very well and was easy and great. Some of it got hard, especially at the end of the two months that I did April and May. And then, more recently, it’s been pretty easy. I’ve gone to full band, which actually was in May as well. It’s very different at least, you could say, and it’s fun and good.

What have you learned since the release of The Wilds?

I’ve learned that certain things that everyone knew from biopics and stuff about how much life changes when you become a touring musician, that those are true. I’ve learned that however hard it is, I’m going to keep going, which I wasn’t totally sure about, to be honest. Well, for one thing, I wasn’t sure it was how hard it would be. Then, I imagined that if it were officially hard, that I’d take a step back or in a different way and it just seems like right now I need to take every opportunity I can get still. I’m kind of like waiting, maybe, for the moment where I can make more decisions with myself, but I’m happy where I’m at.

Your new album Gloria Duplex is largely based on the topic of toxic masculinity, how did you decide to give that as the focus of the album?

It was more that I basically had half of the album written and it was about that, and I think the only reason I was wrestling with that at all is because it’s a very important topic in my personal life and a very nice intersection of the personal and political. I think sort of everything is personal and political depending on how you’re looking at it, but it all starts with other stuff too. I wouldn’t even call the record especially political.

Is this something that you want to reach people who are affected by toxic masculinity or those who might be complicit in it?

Well, I would say that people who are complicit in it, namely men, are affected by it adversely. I think there’s a myth, and not in a good way, if it’s just the perpetrator is a man and the victim isn’t a man, when in fact, the perpetrator is also a victim, in a way.

How did you first become aware of toxic masculinity?

I witnessed the culture around college. I think it was there before, I just didn’t have any input. I didn’t even know books and what was problematic about it. I had a pretty wholesome sheltered childhood, and I was playing Army men and boys playing around pretending to kill people which is, in a certain essence, totally natural to us. At its root, it is natural, just not in the way that it happens.

Do you think that this is an issue that is going to be continued to be discussed and developed in our understanding or do you think it is going to become like a buzzword and lose its impact?

I don’t know. I keep thinking that we achieved this stop and in a lot of ways, it did, but...the 24-hour news cycle is people just jumping on stuff, and then they jump off it and onto something else. But I think this is too big an issue. I already am not super into the term “toxic masculinity” because it was helpful for a little while, and it is a good term, like, toxicity is a very good metaphor for what it is. As soon as it loses its metaphorical meaning and it just becomes a buzz term, you’re not really sure what you’re talking about anymore.

I’ve noticed a sort of reoccurring motif in your lyrics. You bring up video games a few times in a way that’s very nostalgic, talking about being at the arcade or playing Grand Theft Auto. With video games, with things like the whole “Gamergate” controversy, there’s a lot of talk about video games and the effects they have on masculine minds, is that something you intended or something you were interested in?

In a certain way, I think that was like low-hanging fruit. Like that might be one of the first things you could think of in terms of conditioning, and maybe because it was an easy thing, it was a very good way into singing about it. Because what you need in a song is not like a theory or anything that is worked out intellectually. It needs to be in images like poetry. So, like a video game, it was perfect with Grand Theft Auto in particular, because I did play that game growing up, and a lot of it actually was very beautiful. Because it was like a beautiful scene, but then what you’re doing in it, it’s like prescribed action; you almost can’t do anything but kill people. So, you can just walk around, but even if you bump into someone, someone’s probably gonna punch you. So, it’s this very kind of strange combination of looking at the haze of San Andreas and then also being in a complete warzone.

A lot of this album, like your previous one, is autobiographical in some regards, correct?

Yeah, mostly.

So, are these events ones that just stuck with you since the moment they happened, or are they ones where you look back and you realize how significant they were?

I’d say it’s more like slightly-fictionalized versions of eras of my life. In my song ‘True North,’ there was a moment where I pulled over, and I was driving down the 101 and I looked up on the ocean and the moon was shining down and all that. And then one time in London in Trafalgar Square, I had not any kind of truly worrisome crisis, but just like a feeling of being very high and dry. So, there are definitely moments that are on the record that are particular, and they’re also kind of poeticized and thrown into a bigger narrative that also exists but is not something that I can trace in any literal way.

You are in pretty good company with other folk musicians of incorporating events into lyrics; I think of Mark Kozelek, I think of Phil Elverum. How do you think this sort of trend of specificity helps with songwriting?

I think Mark Kozelek has taken it a little far [laughs]. Even though I really love him;I love him very much. I always think that it is a very kind of quintessentially American thing, because I have a very inaccurate of what Tom Petty and also an inaccurate idea of what Bruce Springsteen is. I thought that what they did was sing story songs over “chugaluga” beats and add guitar chords and stuff. And then it’s always different than that. Mark Kozelek is extremely specific, and I thought those guys were and that it was an American thing, and there’s the other side, the more archetypal. My friends in Darlingside are always talking about Proverbs or the son. And I’m trying to hit this middle point, where it’s very specific, but also there are sort of grander ideas behind those specific things happening.

Your music, like on The Wilds, is so beautifully presented in terms of the performance and the singing. Do you ever worry about people missing your message, getting too caught up in the beauty that they might not realize what you’re really saying?

No, I would be in some kind of state of hypertension if I felt like I was proselytizing in a way like I had to say this and I had to be heard. To me, I want to make music, so there’s still a lot of ego in it. I just basically pat myself on the back that I have a message that’s important for me and for other people maybe, but there are many facets to it. If I were trying to say something very clearly, I might’ve not made the record [laughs].

You collaborated with some pretty significant names for this album, Thomas Barlett, Patrick Dillett, Rob Moose. How did it feel to have them on board and what sort of effect did they have on the finished product?

Well, Pat mixed it, and I think he did a very good job and has a very particular mixing style. I would say Rob is on five songs and he did a very good job, but Thomas is on so many instruments on every track, and his production style is very specific and beautiful and I think he taught me a lot. The only difference that I did not like as much was that we were on a much tighter schedule than I had before. Which, in a certain way, was really good, because what everyone knows about deadlines, it made us work really hard and maybe made things a little raggedy, in a good way. But it also meant that my stress levels were higher, especially going at the end of it, because we had to do it. But it was an awesome thing that happened.

How tight was the schedule?

We made in two weeks.

What do you see as being the big difference between this album and The Wilds?

For starters, more of this record, though not all of it, was written specifically for this record. Whereas The Wilds is more like a collection of songs. The idea of The Wilds is such a broad one that it could be called a concept, but it’s just more like “We’re in various wildernesses, and these songs are about life so they’re kind of tied together by that.” Gloria Duplex is more specific, more sophisticated in a lot of ways in its structure; I guess just in its focus.

What sort of hopes do you have for your next album, if you have any?

I’m writing songs and I have some thoughts about maybe some over-arching ideas, but I don’t know that I will record it until the fall at the earliest. So, I feel like I have a good chunk of time in which I have enough songs now that have thematic throughlines that maybe I can start writing a little more specifically along those lines. But I think that I’ll probably do more, at least two-thirds of it would be a live-tracked band. So far, it’s more audio decisions, but it’s also the deadline thing that really gets me to finish songs and flesh out the ideas and stuff.


Henry Jamison’s new album Gloria Duplex is out now on Akira Records.