Jonti…what can you say about him from a brief telephone conversation after having just listened to his tracks on SoundCloud?
There is so much insight you can gain from a simple gesture. From a vocal inflection to blaring sirens in the background, to the cathartic amalgamation of beats and aural synths in ones music composition. To quote Jonti himself: “You could explore it much more in depth with all the layers and details.” He may very well just be the human embodiment of the layers of an onion, and with each layer peeled reveals a different aroma and sensation.
Before getting lost in analogies just consider this a preface and the conclusion to this exclusive interview.
HEAVE: You were born in South Africa, but you grew up in Australia?
Jonti: I moved to Australia when I was 13, and before that I [lived] in South Africa, in Johannesburg. I’ve visited a few times, especially now that I’ve just immigrated, because I have a lot of family and friends there. But I haven’t been back in a little while and, believe me; I’m trying to go back.
HEAVE: Do you feel like you accent is more South African or more Aust-RAH-lian, or more like a mixture?
Jonti: I think it’s probably more American, although sometimes the South African comes out, especially when I’m speaking with family — they’re really, really South African. It comes out really colloquial and words will be much shorter…it’s hard to explain.
In Australia, when I’m talking to Australian friends, it’ll be much more nasally. I try to put on an accent; I sound all British or something. I really loved South Africa; it took awhile to adjust to Australia, but I just grew into it and I realized that I moved there for a reason. I loved South Africa, but it was a little bit crazier than Australia. I love both equally.
Jonti: When I finished the album Twirligig that I’ve now put out on the record label, I wanted to get a master — something that I could listen to in my bedroom — so I emailed them a lead and master and they said they’d help me out. They loved the album and they passed it on to A, B and Peanut Butter Wolf, and they’re like, “Hey, listen, if you do something you like…” and I said, “I like this and I’d like to put it out.”
HEAVE: Do you remember the whimsical article on the KCRW blog about you, Gary Wilson, Peanut Butter Wolf, Madlib and others from your label gathered around a dinner table? If you had a nuclear family of five or so people, or any living organisms, to gather around your table, who would they be?
Jonti: I don’t want to give the wrong answer, because if I leave anyone out, that could be dangerous. Let’s come back to that one later.
HEAVE: You’re a big fan of Norman McLaren…
Jonti: The animator, yeah. When I was doing the album Twirligig I named it after [one of his films] and I was really inspired by all his animations. All the songs ended up being inspired by individual animated pieces of his. I try to recreate his vibe in my own way. The animations are kind of experimental and forward thinking and really innovative — I’m not saying that my stuff is — but his animations are really fun and humorous, and there are no rules. I thought that was a really cool approach, and I really wanted to make music with that same ethos.
HEAVE: What track on the album would you say is most like a Norman McLaren film?
Jonti: There’s one on there called “Frightened Mice (Dots),” and it’s the only one that actually kind of got through. He used this instrument to lay the soundtrack–where he’d draw dots on the film, and uses a Moviola to read the dots that he drew on to make music. It’s kind of really cool; it’s kind of like a synthesizer.
HEAVE: When people compare you to Madlib or High Llamas, do you find that complementary?
Jonti: It’s like a reference point, and that’s fairly fine. When I’m talking about a band to somebody and I say, “Hey, this kind of reminds me of this…” and that’s why I like it, or don’t like it —
HEAVE: What are you doing right now?
Jonti: Right now? I’m just preparing — because I leave on tour on Tuesday — I’m just packing…I’m supposed to be packing.
HEAVE: What are some essentials that you bring on the road when you tour?
Jonti: Let’s see…just stuff I need, like equipment. I just bought this iPad — and that’s like amazing, I can’t believe I lived so long without one. It’s just massive. Massive fun. And then also just like old things and bracelets and stuff for my girlfriend.
HEAVE: That’s sweet, and it’s also very kind of you not to force her to come on tour with you.
Jonti: She’s in Australia, so we’ve been doing long-distance for quite a while now. And also, I’m going on the bus with Gotye and his people, so there’s only room for one person.
HEAVE: What’s your favorite city in the United States?
JontiL Oh! Hehe…I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I’ve been in Los Angeles fairly long, and I really kind of feel all the magic of LA. You know, I really, really love it here and could even move here. I feel like I know it quite a bit now, like I know a lot of people here, and all the amazing views, and all the amazing art and culture. Everyday is like something
HEAVE: Have you been to Chicago?
Jonti: I have not been to Chicago, but I have heard that that’s most people’s favorite. My last roommate’s friend, he goes there nearly every week — every time he’d come back he’d tell how amazing it is.
HEAVE: It’s the best city in the world, I think.
Jonti: Yeah, I cannot wait. I definitely have high, high hopes. I’m excited to be playing at Charter One Pavilion.
HEAVE: If you had to say one word for the rest of your life, what do you think that would be?
Jonti: Umm…probably schnitzel. It’s really fun to say.
HEAVE: Most memorable venue or gig you’ve ever played?
Jonti: I once played at an office party for a bank just solo on acoustic guitar; that was pretty fun!
HEAVE: The last dream you had that you can remember scene by scene?
Jonti: I always have the naked at school dream. I wish I knew why.
Jonti: Besides music I like art, crafts, skating and running too!
HEAVE: Your music is short, simple yet complex with exquisite detail. In terms of personality, would you say your music matches that description?
Jonti: I wanted to make music that was simple and fun but if you wanted to, you could explore it much more in depth with all the layers and details.
HEAVE: The first thing you think when you wake up?
Jonti: I am so happy it was just a dream and I’m not really naked in school right now!
HEAVE: What do you love most about touring?
Jonti: I love meeting new faces, seeing new places, new architecture, new food, new music and experiences.
HEAVE: How about least?
Jonti: Probably keeping up with the flights, buses and transport especially with all the luggage I have. But it is a small price to pay.
HEAVE: Who would play the role of Jonti in your biopic?
Jonti: Woody Allen, hah. I get teased most for looking like him these days.
HEAVE: Your favorite food?
Jonti: I love sushi and green tea ice cream. I just went to Japan for the first time. So maybe I’m still holding on to the good food I had there.
HEAVE: Schnitzel…is the word you would say for the rest of your life right? Why?
Jonti: Ha, I just thought it was fun to say. I also like saying “lub” I don’t know why.
HEAVE: Do you like to dance?
Jonti: My girlfriend’s a dance teacher and a great dancer and she is been teaching me a few things in exchange for bass lessons. So I’m getting a little better
HEAVE: What records did you study “as if they were books?”
Jonti: All the Beach Boys ones, Paul Simon’s Graceland, The Stones Throw catalog and whatever random ones I was into [at the time.]
HEAVE: Go-to Karaoke song…
Jonti: Kelis featuring Andre 3000 – “Millionaire”
HEAVE: What can fans expect to hear from Jonti in the upcoming months; any news?
Jonti: Well a new show, a new single that I am very excited about; a new EP and then the Tokorats album I’ve been promising for a while now.
See Jonti perform live at 8pm on Friday, August 24 at Charter One Pavilion with Gotye and Miss Higgins. Buy Tickets and have a listen to Jonti’s album Twirligig. You can also download Jonti’s single “Hornet’s Nest” from Twirligig here.