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Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Thursday 24th March, 2016 11:57AM

Tomorrow will mark a watershed moment for Lontalius (aka Eddie Johnston) when his highly-anticipated debut album I'll Forget 17 finally sees the light of day. The 19-year-old producer and self-described introvert has spent the last couple of years toiling over the record, at home and abroad, all the while gathering fans from far corners of the globe with his unique brand of gut-wrenching pop. And from what we've heard, fans won't be disappointed with the debut. 

Singles drip-fed to the internet over the past few weeks boast a beautiful balance between organic and electronic production, as well as walking the line between profound honesty and retaining mystery. And that's not the only part of his work where the Wellington musician juggles duplicity - aside from his Lontalius project, he also makes music under the name Race Banyon. In anticipation of his album's release we had a chat to Johnston about the two projects, as well as what he has up his sleeve for the future...

UTR: Hey Eddie, to get started I'd like to go back to square one - so what came first Race Banyon or Lontalius?

EJ: Um, I guess Lontalius. I dunno, I mean I've always been using software to make music, and I was making electronic music and Blink from A Low Hum asked me to play a show. I didn't want to have to work out how to play electronic music live, so I just ended up playing the guitar and singing songs.

Under the name Lontalius?

Well, it was under the name Shipwreck actually, but I dropped that after awhile.

Where did the name Lontalius come from?

It's just a random Wikipedia article.

Oh really, something you just stumbled upon?


For people that might not be familiar, how would you describe the difference between the work under your two musical personas?

Lontalius is just like singer-songwritery way of letting my emotions out, I guess. And Race Banyon is electronic dance production.

You've had a pretty busy time with Lontalius, working on your debut new album. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Yeah, well I've been overseas twice in the past few months because I got signed to a U.S. label called Partisan Records, and I was over in the UK finishing what I had started over here.

What's been the biggest challenge working on the album?

Well, I guess a first album is supposed to accumulate everything, all the information, everything that's happened in my life - so it's been hard balancing the fact that I want to play guitar and drums mixed with the fact I listen to a lot of R&B and hip hop and dance music, which is not organic like that.

Because when you talk about organic, one of the first singles that you released was 'Kick In The Head', which is quite different from 'Shines Through Dust' and some of your other earlier songs, because of that organic instrumentation you built in. What drove that, and is it indicative of some of the other songs that will be on the album?

It is indicative, yeah. I mean it kind of has both sides. The fact that I grew up listening to bands like Wilco and whatever, and I love them just as much as I love Drake and all my favourite R&B artists. So you know, I wanted to show both sides.

The songs under the Lontalius banner are so heart-wrenching and emotive, and they seem to be - from the outside - very lyrically honest. Is that something that's important to you when sitting down and writing?

Yeah it definitely is. I've never liked music that was stories about other people, or little fictional things. So I'm definitely conscious of making things honest and the more I write, the more honest I want to be.

Is it hard putting your feelings out there and knowing that people might know who or what you are writing about, so you are kind of exposing yourself in that way?

Yeah, yeah it is. But I think there is a sweet spot in between being vague but still being honest. I don't want to be too specific and I don't want to be calling people names or whatever, but yeah.

You mentioned you've been travelling a lot to record the album - has that been stressful?

No, it hasn't been super stressful. I guess a lot more pressure surrounds you when you're recording an album in the UK rather than here, but I've been lucky - there haven't been any money issues or anything so it's been a lot of fun. We did some Lontalius shows in the US in October and that was really stressful. We played CMJ in New York and then some other small support shows in LA, just to get me and my band out there.

What kind of reception did you get when you were playing in LA?

It was good. I was surprised there were people that knew the songs. I mean, they weren't die-hard fans but they were interested and they knew who I was, and that was really cool. When I'd been doing all these covers and stuff on Soundcloud I get most of my plays from the US, by far. And so it's been really cool going over there and meeting people and getting an idea of who my fans are.

So are you in a position where you can make music your full-time thing now?

Yeah I didn't go to University last year so that I could do this. And it seems to be going well.

Yeah, that's amazing. Because you have mentioned that you started playing guitar at 8 years old and started recording, and using a hand-me-down computer with Ableton. Did you have any formal training as far as music goes?

I had some guitar lessons for the first 2 or 3 years I was playing guitar, which definitely helped - and I learnt a bit about music theory as well. And I learnt a bit at school as well, but I never really liked that side of things. But it's mostly just looking up YouTube tutorials on how to make stuff sounds better, and how to record better.

And in terms of Race Banyon, I guess that project has been somewhat on hold because of your Lontalius recording, but have you got anything in the works?

Yeah, I worked on some stuff with some other producers when I was in LA... but it's more a case of with Lontalius I have a pretty clear idea of what I'm doing, but with Race Banyon I'm not so sure what my signature sound is and I'm not so sure what kind of shows I want to be playing. But I think as Lontalius progresses and I get introduced to more people and get more opportunities in general I think Race Banyon will develop quite naturally alongside that.

What kind of direction are you hoping to take your career in the long-term?

I want to move to LA soon, I want to be doing more production work than songwriting work and LA is the land of opportunity for that kind of stuff.

You can catch Lontalius tonight at Las Vegas Club in Auckland for his 'I'll Forget 17' album release show, head over here for more information and to buy tickets.


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