“I used to get upset that people would say this is a great song and he’s only 16.” On the other end of the phone is self-proclaimed brat, Eddie Johnston. It’s 9am in New Zealand and for a teenager he’s putting a brave face on it. “That pissed me off as I want to make great music no matter what my age is. I am a bit too jaded for someone my age anyway, so I get annoyed.” He might get annoyed but right now Eddie is a laconic delight – as softly spoken and precise, in fact, as the deftly melancholic pop songs he regularly scatters on Soundcloud under the name Lontalius. Right now he doesn’t seem to mind about being labelled as a youngster, or indeed about anything at all. I decide to park it, though; best not mention his amount of years on earth anymore.
So instead, Eddie tells me about Wellington and its wide-open spaces. “I have been here my whole life; it’s the cultural and liberal city in New Zealand and a nice place to call home. You do feel quite isolated from the rest of world so being able to go overseas recently has been really exciting. It’s like the height of summer here, though, so it really is beautiful.” I tell him it’s deep midwinter in the UK but the frozen landscape and early nightfall make the perfect backdrop to listen to ‘I’ll Forget 17’, the debut album from Lontalius out late March on Partisan Records. He laughs, almost in slow motion, and I imagine he’s just got out of bed.
Eddie has produced a heartbreak hotel of an album that draws on a dazzling array of influences. Achingly now RnB in one corner and mournful indie soundscapes in the next, with plenty of space in-between. It’s obviously a piece of work put together by someone in touch with popular culture, a young man from a generation without genre bias – inspired by Drake and shoegaze – and one who spends a lot of time on the internet no doubt. He laughs again. “Yeah, I guess so.” As a matter of fact, I don’t know of another new artist out there who has harnessed the Internet’s power as expertly as Lontalius has. “Thanks, I think… I remember I went to this music conference thing and they were telling the audience Lorde has this fantastic Internet presence. I was like, of course she does, she’s 17, you know. We’re all the same.”