A Little Bit Country

The Milkman’s Union from Indie Rock to String Quartet

Sometimes wishful thinking can lead to great things. Portland-based musician Henry Jamison is the voice of The Milkman’s Union, his solo moniker that now has expanded to a full band.

“In high school I started The Milkman’s Union, and it was basically me wishing I was in a band without having people to play with,” said the indie pop-turned-folk artist. “I had an 8-track recorder and I was my own band.”

Now Jamison has people to play with, but the group’s latest offering is a solo acoustic performance. The band’s latest release holds its beauty in simplicity, with Jamison using what was readily available for the digital-only Telos EP, tracking bare acoustic songs at home.

“We needed to record something, and putting out an actual studio recording right now is a little daunting and time consuming,” said Jamison. “Basically I took what I do on a nightly basis and my drummer recorded it.

Though the EP, Jamison said, consists of “the songs in their barest form,” the songs are fleshed out with a full band setup live, giving an electric take on the folk-inspired music. Jamison isn’t one for solo acoustic gigs, always instead opting for the energy of backing musicians.

“I don’t want to be in the spotlight the way that playing solo requires. I want to have the energy there, the force that the band brings,” said Jamison. “The Milkman’s Union as a project is a band. It’s not about me, really.”

But this time around, Jamison is very much in the spotlight. In a context where guitar lines drive rhythm and harmony, his lyrics become much more of a focal point on Telos .

“On the last album I felt that I was taking a backseat with my singing,” said Jamison. “It was sort of a sonic creation of different musical atmospheres, and I think that since our lead guitarist left I think the vocals have become a much more central piece.

“There are songs of death, struggle and eternity, so I try not to slap any kind of label on it, as if I’m subscribing to this or that doctrine,” he said.

As for where the indie-country sounds of The Milkman’s Union will go next, Jamison has no intent to rest on one genre or arrangement.

“We’re going to start and balance the two impulses. We have the folky thing and we have the stadium pop sound, but I think with our next release it will be a balance of the two, at least that’s the hope,” said Jamison.

“The folk songs will be arranged but not in a super indie rock way. I’m thinking a string quartet.”

The Milkman’s Union / April 21st / Divan Orange (4234 St. Laurent) / 10:00pm / $6 adv $8 door