I’m quitting my job in approximately 30 minutes.

Currently, I’m the VP of Content at Def Jam, but I’m putting in my two weeks notice to pursue my show, Throwing Fits, full time. I’m definitely going to take a pay cut, but my co-host, Lawrence, and I think that there’s real potential here—we just don’t know what that is. It’s taken us a while, but we are both finally dedicating ourselves to exploring what that unlocked potential looks like, and what the ceiling is. It’s gone from a fun side project to something with some real momentum.

JamesMarquee

The podcast is ostensibly about men’s style. Basically Lawrence, myself, and a few other dudes who’ve gone from supporting roles to actual characters on the show sit down with a guest and shoot the shit for about three to four hours. The first part of the podcast is a segment that we call “Fuck With/Not Fuck With,” where we take general categories that people care about or that we care about and then parse out what they’re fucking with in that category, and what they’re not fucking with. So while the point of entry is typically men’s fashion, it really branches out because everyone has multiple interests. Very few people only care about one thing. We’ll talk about movies, music, politics, race, sneaker culture, etcetera. Lately it’s been a lot about quarantine activities, like how to stay sane, what people are eating, what they’re doing. Once you’re in, you realize the show isn’t about clothes, but more about what we call the “Millennial Male Zeitgeist.”

I shit out a bunch of random questions on a piece of paper without even thinking, just, given the opportunity, anything I would want to ask this person. Then it’s about creating a flow of conversation so that we don’t end up with any dead ends or dead time or anything. If we have them for four hours, we want them to let their guard down and have a fun time talking to us.

We joke that our listeners are like 14- or 15-year-old virgins that joined our Patreon with their parents’ credit cards, but in reality, we get the most random mix of listeners. It’s amazing. People from different countries, men, women, boys, girls. My girlfriend was just saying that she saw a coworker who she would have never thought would be a listener listening to the pod. So while we joke that it’s just teenage boys who only care about clothes, it’s more diverse than that.

JamesBandana

Race relations has always been a topic that I’ve been interested in. It’s always been a topic that I’ve talked about with friends, but usually behind closed doors. Never really on social media, unless it was a moment, or a blatant callout or whatever. I think that separation, at least with the topic of racism and race relations in America, has come down. We always talk about race. Not usually extensively trying to dismantle or explore systemic racism, but we always knew it was a factor in everyday life, my life, Lawrence’s life, the guest’s life.

I like to use it as a way to make the guests uncomfortable. And I particularly find it funny when you make a white person uncomfortable, when they’re like, “Oh shit, what did I say?” Or, “No, that’s not what I meant!” To me that’s just my shits and giggles. But it’s also using humor as a way to keep it at the fore and not completely behind closed doors.

We’re interviewing Jonah Hill next week. Jonah is a god. I think I can probably count on one hand the male celebrities who care about and have clearly built and and developed, through trial and error, their own style in a way that isn’t forced, or all about conspicuous status symbols signaling wealth or following the prescribed trends. That’s also reflected in the recent career choices he’s made. He was famous from a really young age and he wanted to break away from that, and it just showed in his external appearance. He was very much just trying to be himself through experimentation. Lawrence and I took notice of that a few years ago, and we were always putting it on social media. We had a thing called “Jonah Hill Fit Watch.”

We threw a party called ‘Jonah Hill Day.’ ... The tagline was, ‘A bad excuse for a good party.’

We kind of held him up as our hero because here was this guy who had the wherewithal and the means to do whatever he wanted, both stylistically and artistically. So we threw a party called “Jonah Hill Day.” I don’t know why we came up with that name. The tagline was, “A bad excuse for a good party.” It was like, “Let’s just throw a ‘Jonah Hill Day’ party because if you fuck with Jonah Hill and his style, then you probably also love this music and this aesthetic and these movies and everything, and you’re probably not some over-the-top hypebeast fuck boy.”

It was a great day party. The turnout was amazing. We did it again the next year and Jonah showed up. Not only did he show up, but he got there, like, an hour early. He’s the nicest guy ever. It was so disarming. He refused to accept us gushing over him. He was like, “No, you guys, this is the cool thing. I’m not the cool thing. What you guys have done here, and the energy and just seeing all these happy faces, and people finding friends and enjoying themselves—this is what’s cool.”

For an hour or two, he spoke to literally every single person that came up to him, took every photo. Ever since then, he’s followed the pod’s trajectory on social media. We’re always like, "Yo, Jonah come on the pod," and now, finally, during quarantine, it came together.

JamesGlasses

Lawrence and I met in 2010. I was an intern and he was an entry-level publicist at this company called BPMW, which stood for Brand Pimps Media Whores. It was very tough to explain that to my parents and grandmother at the time. But it was a company run by three women in Chelsea and they did PR, sales, and event production for a bunch of cool menswear brands that occupy the space between streetwear and formal ... not formal, but like “hashtag menswear.” Brands like Mark McNairy, Norse Projects, Penfield, Stussy.

As the two youngest people at the small company, we became friends. We would go to lunch together, and because we were both super broke, we would have to cop Subway Footlongs for $5 and then save half for dinner. We started going to all these fashion events because it was cool to be invited, but also for the free food and drinks. We needed that to survive.

We started going to all these fashion events because it was cool to be invited, but also for the free food and drinks. We needed that to survive.

It was during this time that this whole blogger group of menswear guys all became homies. It sounds dumb to say it, but it was this burgeoning, digital-meets-real-life collection of people. This was back when you’d be like, “Oh yeah, I know you from Tumblr.”

That was our first foray into menswear. I went from there to Complex, where I joined the Style team. Lawrence bounced around a little bit and ended up at Complex right around the same time, where he launched Four Pins. He was Editor-in-Chief of Four Pins for four years. I started at the bottom and eventually became the Editor of Complex Style. We were covering the same thing.

This was when the whole rapper-fashion intersection was experiencing a new wave of enthusiasm. Kanye wearing Givenchy, ASAP Rocky sitting front row at fashion shows—stuff like that. So we were right there for that. Lawrence and I also had a friendship that was based on, let’s call it, roast culture. We’d spend part of the day making fun of each other’s outfits. Not seriously, just verbal sparring. Our bosses saw this, and at the time, Complex was trying to launch a bunch of video properties, so we started a show called Fashion Bros.

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I’d like to think that we held up a mirror to the dysfunctionality and ridiculousness of the fashion world and men’s style, but that you could learn from it, too. We did absurdist sketches around all the latest controversies happening in the fashion world, or we’d dress up as the anthropomorphized Mr. Porter, or the Givenchy Shark with a heavy Italian-American accent. But because we weren’t getting any views with this weird but very fun sketch comedy show, we pivoted to just interviewing rappers.

We realized early on that nobody wants to hear the answer to, “What inspired your latest album?” Maybe the hardcore people do, but our thing became, “Let’s ask them how much weed they smoke in a day.” Because that’s the stuff we want to know. It was a lot of fun, but eventually we walked away from it because we weren’t getting paid to do it. We were like, “Yo, this is a lot of work. This is four hours of writing, four hours of filming. That’s eight hours a day. That’s a full work day and we’re not getting paid more for it.” It was crazy.

I stayed at Complex, but Lawrence went to Grailed. We started the podcast mainly as an excuse to hang out. We also both missed relating personal experiences to a wider audience. We called it Failing Upwards, because we started on the bottom rung and we bumbled and stumbled and fumbled our way slowly up the ladder to relative success. In January, we relaunched as Throwing Fits.

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We realized early on that nobody wants to hear the answer to, ‘What inspired your latest album?’

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I’ve always liked making people laugh. I grew up in New York being the Asian kid amongst a lot of white kids, so it was probably more of a defense mechanism, or a way to fit in, than anything else. But whenever the mic turns on, or if I’m on a stage or something, I’ve just always enjoyed that. Working in entertainment was always an interest, but I just assumed I wasn’t funny enough or smart enough to actively pursue it.

I used to smoke a lot of weed in high school, like every day. I stopped in college because I was dating someone at the time who had a complicated relationship with drugs. And now, as an adult, I don’t actively seek it out. But I’m still very interested in the industry, the way the taxation and legalization of it has helped a lot of places and people. Even just the commuting of sentences.

Weak edibles are definitely my preferred vehicle right now.

I found myself getting more paranoid and anxious when I was high, but then my friend in L.A. gave me these edibles that were only two and a half or five milligrams. The culture out there is more advanced, and everything being standardized is great. To know exactly how much you’re consuming is super helpful. Weak edibles are definitely my preferred vehicle right now.

I wasn’t a believer in CBD until I tried Dusk. [Editor's note: No, we don’t pay people to say stuff like this, but we do love to hear it.] I had trouble sleeping. I’d wake up in the middle of the night or super early and not be able to go back to bed or not be able to go to sleep early. Then I started taking Dusk, and would sleep seven solid hours every night, and wake up no problem. I was like, whoa, this is fire. CBD is definitely a very unregulated, wild, wild west market. But the real shit, at least, seems like it is helpful.

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I think L.A. is very nice to visit, but I would never want to live there. I think it would melt my brain. There’s just, like, Xanax in the air. The priorities there are all fucked. It’s a very superficial city. And the men’s style is pretty trash. But you do have some interesting things happening.

A friend of mine in L.A. has this theory that the cultural pendulum swings between New York and L.A. every 10 years. I can’t deny that some of the best brands, best artists, and best creators have come out of L.A. for the last 10 years or so, mainly because of real estate. But I do think the juice is coming back to New York. Or was about to. You saw all these things bubbling in New York that were actually exciting, but now, with COVID, it’s just like, who knows?

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Maybe it’s pie in the sky dreaming, but I hope when this is over people ask, ‘Well, what went wrong?’

It’s a tragedy. My friend Foster says 80% of restaurants in New York are done for. I tweeted something like, “Yo, if you chose to leave the city in its darkest hour, feel free not to come back.” I got some hate for it, but also a lot of love. There’s just been so much mediocrity in the city, especially in the upper echelons, and it was crowding out what’s always made New York—and any city—great: the artists, the creative people, the immigrants, the people coming here to hustle or make their dream happen in order to survive, not just live this life of Seamless and Ubers.

It’s impossible to take risks here—it’s just too expensive. So now people come taking the relatively safe routes in life. That’s fine, you gotta come here with a plan, but the city is full of those people. It’s boring. It’s homogenous. The city has become this very privatized vehicle. The MTA’s fucking broke. For every skyscraper that goes up, that’s housing that isn’t affordable.

Maybe it’s pie in the sky dreaming, but I hope when this is over people ask, “Well, what went wrong?” We’re not there yet, but you gotta hope.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. James Harris photographed by Meredith Jenks in Brooklyn. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies.