Jonti Shaun Danilewitz has lived an interesting life. In his 25 years, the young musician was born in South Africa, relocated to Australia, and as of last October, moved Stateside to Los Angeles. Through this time and moments of change, Danilewitz picked up a 4 track and began sketching luscious electronic pop songs that he would later release under the simple moniker, “Jonti.”
Though the South African native continues to doodle and appreciate “the simpler moments of life,” it’s now on a grander scale. He’s released two albums, Twirligig and Sine & Moon to acclaim and landed a spot on tour with Gotye (have you heard of him?). Despite all the commotion, the producer was nice enough to talk to me about his preference for 4 track, how Sine & Moon went from a podcast mixtape to a full-length album, and his relationship with Gotye.
You are originally from South Africa, have lived in Australia, and now live in L.A. What made you move to the States?
When I signed to Stones Throw Records I decided to move to LA to be closer to them in addition to all the other stuff I liked, like Low End Theory, Brainfeeder, Anticon, etc. I've always been attracted to the kind of weirder creative side of LA. I also like a lot of the glamourous Hollywood history side too. So cool!
Do you feel this was the right move?
It's been great, there’s so many people I consider family now and places that inspire everyday. Australia is home too and I'm not in LA permanently.
You describe your music as “simple,” but I think it’s far from that. You create textured layers in your music that are quite complex. Why do you believe it is simple?
I think that statement will make more sense in the future, but it is simple music to me. I think despite the intricacies of the arrangement it's all about the appreciation of the simpler moments in life.
What made you decide to create electronic music rather than a more standard guitar, bass, drum arrangement?
I remember seeing an ad for the 4 track I would later buy saying 'Sgt Peppers was recorded on a 4 track,' and it was so awesome. I loved thinking that it was like a piece of paper that you could draw any world on. Same with the MPC and seeing people orchestrate whole arrangements with a box. I also loved feeling like you were in the wilderness with all these electronic software and you never knew what was going to happen.
Your latest album, Sine & Moon, was not intended to be a full-length but rather a podcast mixtape for Stones Throw. How did it escalate to its final form?
Peanut Butter Wolf wanted to do a podcast to help promote my album, and I thought it would be cool to do one of earlier recordings. People seemed to respond to those songs, even much more so than the ones on Twirligig. I was asked a bit to release those and I decided to do so as a free download.
You have self-produced both of your albums. Would you ever consider working with an outside producer?
Yeah, for sure. I still feel like I’m learning to make songs. I have the hooks, but I've always been reckless with structure and sonic, and I think other people help with those. Even last week it feels like I made my first song and it was done in Pro Tools with Peanut Butter Wolf and Cole from The Samp's engineering it.
Who would you like to work with?
Mark Ronson for sure. We once did a song and he was a master so hopefully we can do another in the future too.
In this album your influences and sounds vary so much, from Spanish-styled ukulele picking to hip-hop to chill electro-instrumentals and Beach Boys style pop, where did you pull inspiration from for this project?
Those songs span a long time so it kind of goes all over the spectrum in terms of influences.
You are gearing up for a big tour with Gotye in August/September. Is this the largest tour you’ve been on?
For sure. I am definitely being thrown in the deep end. Radio City, Greek Theatre…you kidding me. It’s gonna be an amazing experience!
How does it feel to be playing large venues like this?
Beyond a dream. I’m so excited and really nervous too. Definitely feeling the pressure, but for the best.
You and Gotye are both from Australia.Do you already know each other?
Yeah, I've been a fan for a long long time and nearly seven years ago I went to one of his Basics gigs and I gave him a CD that said 'Jay Daniels' and my email. And months later he sent an email that said he really liked the CD and [he] kinda became a mentor figure. I remember I went to Melbourne to hang out and we went record shopping and I was like a super Stones Throw fanboy smart ass, like 'if you not gonna by that Quas album I am!' [laughs],and he got his dollar bin gems as he does.
How did you get a spot on the tour?
When Wally was in LA this year I took a chance and asked if I could play a free set before the opener. He was really kind and tried to make it happen and instead I just got to hang out with him and the crew that night. He said we’d do some shows together. Little did I know it was the whole American and Europe tour. To be honest I’m still new in the states and it was an uphill struggle finding shows so for him to take me along on his amazing journey is an opportunity I will forever be grateful for. Means the world!
^ = w/ Gotye
~ = w/ Chairlift
& = w/ Missy Higgins
! = w/ GIVERS
@ = w/ Kimbra