Interview: Lontalius on his new album 'All I Have'.

Interview: Lontalius on his new album 'All I Have'.

On his sophomore album, 'All I Have', Lontalius has shared a collection of eight heartfelt songs - written over the past two years throughout living in Los Angeles and moving back home to Wellington, with production from the likes of Roy Blair and Om'Mas Keith.

Delving into ideas around self-worth, relationships, financial stability, and more, the album says a lot in just eight songs, showcasing Lontalius' growth artistically since his debut record, 'I'll Forget 17'.

We spoke with Lontalius about the release of the album, playing live shows, and more...

...[songwriting] is like a diary for me. I personally find it more difficult to be more poetic and more metaphorical, because I don’t really think that way.

[This interview is available as part of our NZ On Air physical print zine which is free! Click here for more info.]

COUP DE MAIN: How was the Wellington show last night?
LONTALIUS: It was cool. It was quite a bar crowd though, which can be weird for quieter songs.
CDM: Was it your first time playing some of the album stuff?
LONTALIUS: Yeah, it went well. It was my first time in a while doing a solo show as well. I’ve done solo shows overseas, but never really here, and playing the hometown is always weird.

CDM: How has it been bringing these new songs to life live?
LONTALIUS: When I do the solo shows I have to change the songs a bit, because some of them are quite full-on band/rock songs. That was the intention - I was thinking of a band, but I have to play solo shows too, so I arranged them a bit differently, so they still have the same emotion, but not be like I’m playing along to an mp3.

CDM: The intro to ‘Old Mentalities’ is so beautiful! It’s like the perfect album opener. It’s almost choral sounding. Do you remember how you wrote that? Was it intended as the opener?
LONTALIUS: Those opening vocals were from my friend Warren Wolfe who’s from New York - I’ve never met him but we’re internet friends. I like his voice and I asked him-- that song originally had two parts, it was always average I think, but I loved that end bit. Initially it was actually the last song on the album, but then I changed everything up. Someone suggested it to be the opener, and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a really good idea.’
CDM: It contrasts really nicely with the second track too.
LONTALIUS: I also like that in ‘Old Mentalities’ I say, “I’ll always be thankful that I’ve lost some old mentalities,” then the first line of ‘Make My Dreams Come True’ is “I’ve been stuck in old ways.”

CDM: It’s quite an emotional subject matter to sing about in the first song; you’re very open in it. Having been a songwriter for a while now, do you find you’re used to tapping into those hard emotions to write about?
LONTALIUS: Definitely. I think it’s definitely gotten easier. That’s the first thing to come out of my mouth, because it’s like a diary for me. I personally find it more difficult to be more poetic and more metaphorical, because I don’t really think that way.

CDM: The strings in that song are so emotional too. What was it about that song that made you want to have those sounds on it?
LONTALIUS: Those are fake strings! At some point I think I asked someone if they could play cello, but it was too difficult. But I love the cello, there was a cello player on my first album and it adds so much warmth to songs.

CDM: What do you think 17-year-old Eddie would think of your album ‘All I Have’?
LONTALIUS: I think he’d be very impressed, especially with the more upbeat songs. I think those are ones that I always wanted to write, but just couldn’t, for whatever reason - because I didn’t have the confidence, or just the skills. So even now hearing those songs, I feel really proud of them.

CDM: At 17, did you envisage this being the music you would be making at this age?
LONTALIUS: No, I don’t think so. I kind of started this album when I was 19, and that was when we did the original sessions with Om'Mas Keith and it was very much in a more ambient, Frank Ocean-y world. After time, I realised that wasn’t really what I wanted to do, because a lot of other people were doing it and it didn’t feel as natural to me. So I had to push myself to bring a bit more energy, and bring a bit more of an up-tempo vibe to the album.

CDM: I feel like ‘Make My Dreams Come True’ live must be super fun! Have you played it live yet?
LONTALIUS: Yeah, we played it at Laneway and it’s super fun.
CDM: Do you have a favourite song to perform live at the moment?
LONTALIUS: At the moment, I honestly keep playing my Chelsea Jade cover that I did at the Silver Scrolls last year - just because it’s so fun to sing that song; it’s an incredible song. When we did Laneway and played ‘Swim’ and ‘Make My Dreams Come True’ as a full band, it felt like, “This is my rockstar life that I dreamed of.”
CDM: Are you going to go back to doing full-band shows in the future?
LONTALIUS: Yeah. I would love that to be the main thing, but I think there’s something special about solo shows as well. In a perfect world, there’s a way I do both, but I haven’t quite worked it out. A solo show offers more intimacy and a completely different thing.

CDM: “Said love can lead you awry / But it made me feel all right” you sing in ‘Swim’. Do you think your understanding of love has changed over time?
LONTALIUS: I think so. I think with ‘I’ll Forget 17’, the whole point was, ‘I don’t know what the fuck is going on,’ and it was lots of feelings. This one is definitely more looking back and understanding that, ‘Oh, this is why I feel that way,’ and ‘Swim’ is a song about knowing that all these good things can be in your path, but you might not be able to take advantage of them really, because it’s not the right time, which I think is a difficult thing for a 17-year-old to understand.

CDM: ‘Nothing Makes Me Feel Stronger’ is such a heartfelt song. I really like the line, “If I knew then what I feel now / then this goodbye wouldn’t seem so hard to say.” Why do you think that leaving a relationship, or closing a door on it, can be so hard to do?
LONTALIUS: Oohhh, heavy question. I think that’s especially something that’s very difficult to do as a young person - because it’s very hard to deal with the fact that you may be letting someone down, or upsetting them. I think my personal way of dealing with that was not dealing with it, which is not mature or smart at all.
CDM: It’s also a default thing to not deal with things.
LONTALIUS: And be like, “I’m not going to think about it.”

CDM: What was it about ‘All I Have’ that made you want to name the album after it?
LONTALIUS: That was a thing that kept coming up when I was writing lyrics. It was in two songs before I named it the album. It just kept making sense to me. Sometimes it felt like music was all I had, sometimes it felt like love was all I had, it just stayed in my brain. I think the album cover and the title stayed the same throughout many different songs.
CDM: When did the album cover come to life?
LONTALIUS: I think at the very start of the project. I had followed Igor [Pjörrt] the photographer on Tumblr. I loved his work and it just felt like no one else was making stuff like that. I hadn’t really seen album covers like that, and it was just perfect. I had it on the private Soundcloud link for years, and then finally got permission to use it which is awesome.

CDM: In ‘Summer’ you sing, “That if you’ve loved someone / it can feel colder.” What was running through your mind writing those lines?
LONTALIUS: I’ve never liked summer. <laughs> I think I do now, but as someone who’s introverted and shy, and didn’t like going outside, summer is the worst time ever, because everyone is so happy and having the best time. Everyone is loving each other and having a great time, and I’m like, ‘I don’t like this. I want to go home.’ So that’s kind of what that song is about, but that’s another thing that’s changed as I’ve gotten older - I understand summer; it’s fun! Talking to people is fun.

CDM: In ‘Optimistic’ you sing, “I’m ambitious and I'm optimistic / But I'm not pretty and I'm not realistic.” Do you still feel like that’s an accurate statement about your personality?
CDM: Do you think that it’s important to be a balance of all of those things? Being realistic is hard, but also safe?
LONTALIUS: I guess so. I wouldn’t say that it’s true all the time, but it’s definitely just a feeling that I have often. Maybe especially as artists who are trying to find themselves and find their sound, it always just feels like other people are doing it better. I feel like, ‘I have all these ideas, and I want to play stadiums, but they’re going to play stadiums first, because they’re better than me and they’re prettier than me.’

CDM: Having that line run throughout the song is so powerful. Why did you want it to repeat over and over as an ongoing part of the song?
LONTALIUS: That song started as a pretty ambient, six-minute long thing, where that was literally the only lyrics. It always felt really powerful, and it was beautiful, but I wanted it to be a bit more of a song. So I wrote the song around it - just ignoring that line.

CDM: You also sing, “Cause now that I have money I am more afraid.” Why does it make you afraid?
LONTALIUS: The thing I love about that line is that at the time I had money, and now I have no money. I was in LA, I had money, and I was like, ‘Now what the fuck do I do? I have to prove myself; become a star or whatever.’
CDM: A lot of musicians in interviews say that they actually make their best music when they aren’t wealthy - e.g. Brockhampton prior to signing.
LONTALIUS: There’s something about the ambition; the future is always going to be better because the 'now' is so shit. It really pushes you to do really well. But then when you get a bit of comfort... I was living by myself, it was perfect, but the same drive to do work was different.

CDM: The line in ‘Carelessly’ that stuck with me was, “I am only as good as my ideas.” Is that something you feel that all creatives struggle with?
LONTALIUS: Yeah, and there’s a bunch of those on the album that definitely are ‘Me living in LA’ lines. Sometimes it felt like, 'If I can’t write a good song, why am I here? I should be at university studying history or something.'
CDM: Do you think that as a creative, it’s important to separate yourself from your art?
LONTALIUS: Definitely. That was definitely a low moment when I wrote that song, I really did feel like that. I try not to feel like that now. That’s why I love making these personal songs - that was the whole point of ‘I’ll Forget 17’, that I didn’t forget 17 because I wrote a fucking album about it. <laughs>

CDM: Was the album mostly written in LA, or a mix of LA and back home in Wellington?
LONTALIUS: It was mostly LA, and then I finished it all here, which I think really benefitted it. I was able to step back and look at it more critically. There’s so many songs that could’ve been on it if I worked a bit more. Sometimes I get nervous that it’s too short, but something that I’ve said a few times is that you can grab it with one hand, and it really feels like that. That feels really honestly powerful, after working on it for so long.


Lontalius' album 'All I Have' is out now - click here to purchase, and watch the 'Swim' music video below...