Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Double meaning

Wellington teen Eddie Johnston tells Chris Schulz how he juggles his musical identities.
Lontalius, aka Eddie Johnston, is playing at Las Vegas Club in Auckland tonight at 7pm.
Lontalius, aka Eddie Johnston, is playing at Las Vegas Club in Auckland tonight at 7pm.

Eddie Johnston is, to put it bluntly, a two-faced trickster.

Under the moniker Race Banyon, he makes uber-cool R&B, recently working in Los Angeles with famous faces Ty Dolla $ign and DJ Dahi on the single What Are We Doing.

But using the name Lontalius, he sings sweet acoustic and semi-electronic ballads about the perils of growing up, with his debut album I'll Forget 17, due out tomorrow.

The Wellington teen admits his dual identities can be confounding.

And that's how he wants it to be.

"People get them confused, but I like that," says Johnston, attempting to explain while fidgeting over an iced coffee at a Grey Lynn cafe. "Some people call me Race Banyon as if it's my name. I don't correct them ... it's kind of fun."

Now 19, the Wellington teen says he's been working under both names since the age of 13, so it's normal for him.

"The main difference is I sit down at a desk and I'll play guitar and sing something (for Lontalius); with Race Banyon I can make something on a plane or a bus or in bed (on my computer)."

Though the music under each project might seem worlds apart, Johnston says they're connected in the same way Thom Yorke's work across Radiohead, Atoms For Peace and his own solo output is.

"My inspirations are different but they share the same kind of qualities: that atmospheric, feelings-focused kind of thing," he says.

There's definitely a melancholy feel to I'll Forget 17, a collection of downbeat jams and observations that feel very much connected to a time and place. Just don't call Johnston sad, an attribute often used to describe his Lontalius output. "I'm not a sad guy. If you want to be emotional it generally comes out as sadness [but] I don't want people listening to my music to feel sad. I want them to feel warm, like there's an open fire."

Though he's been earning a living performing mashed-up hip-hop DJ sets as Race Banyon for several years, and recently had a trip to LA to record two songs funded by Red Bull, Johnston says Lontalius is his main focus now.

He's already working on a second album, and hopes to have it finished by the end of the year.

"Lontalius, the artist, is enough for me. I find it really stressful thinking about what 'the Race Banyon sound' is going to be.

"I can't imagine making a Race Banyon album. It's too much. But I love working with other people and I love R&B and rap music. It's still in its early days."

With all that going on, it's easy to forget that Johnston is only 19 and still lives with his parents in Island Bay.

Most of his friends are at university, and sometimes he wonders if he should be doing the same thing.

"Sometimes if I'm not doing well at something, I'm like, 'I'm 19, it doesn't matter'," he says.

"Other times it feels like it's my whole life."

Lowdown

Who: Lontalius, aka Eddie Johnston

What: Debut album I'll Forget 17, out today

Also: What Are We Doing, his Race Banyon single with Ty Dolla $ign, out now

- TimeOut

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