Former Fruit Bats Front Man, Eric D. Johnson, Sits Down With Us To Talk New Project, EDJ

What exactly went into the decision to move on from Fruit Bats?


You know I think it was kind of a decision just based on history. I done it for about 14 years and it was actually going really well by the end there, so I think it was sort of an attempt to go out on top, as they say. It was also that I had just done it for so long. I think some of those songs were from the past and I just wanted to sing some new songs.


Was Fruit Bats a solo project also, or was there more of a band behind that?


It was always ostensibly a solo project. It was initially intended as a band and kind of became a solo project for the first nine years of it. By the last five years it had been more a less a pretty solid band. But I had always written everything so it was kind of more a solo project by accident and this [EDJ] is much more planned.


When you were making the decision to end Fruit Bats was it with the knowledge that you were going to move on directly to another solo project?


It was super weird. I thought the future was really wide open. I did the last shows in November of last year and was like, “I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything again.” I guess I knew I would do something, but had no songs or anything. But then in like six weeks I was writing a record just kind of unbeknownst to myself. I just started to write in January and was in the studio by February and it was done by April. So it all happened super-fast and kind of took me by surprise a little bit. There was no plan but it just happened anyway.  


Was the songwriter process much different than writing Fruit Bat’s records?


Yeah and I think that is how I realized how much of a new thing it was. The songwriting process with EDJ was more of an immediate thing rather than with Fruit Bats where we took a long time between records. This was something where I just wrote what I was feeling on the spot. I had never written anything that fast, not even close. It all came out in just a few weeks and it had always taken me a couple years.


Was that a conscious thing or just happened by accident almost?


I think I was just feeling it. It was in the moment and just a little rush for me.


EDJ is a solo record but you did bring in collaborators; James Mercer, members of Califone and Vetiver. What went into that decision?


With Fruit Bat stuff I had always brought people into guest and just surround myself with people that I like hanging out with, so that was no different. I just like to have my friends around so that was all pretty natural. I also had a great band of guys from New York; Sam Cohen, Josh Kaufman and Brian Kantor making up the core of the band. It was an opportunity to work with old friends and new friends.


How do you plan on touring with EDJ?


The touring is going to be with looping pedals and samplers and stuff like that, so it will be completely solo but also completely full sounding like the record. It’s a brand new thing for me, doing these full band songs but without a full band, which has been a crazy learning curve.


Would you say that is more exciting or nerve wracking?


Oh, it’s terrifying, super scary. But I have done a few shows now so I am getting less nervous. It’s totally exciting though just because it is something new.


This record seems to have a wide range of themes throughout, was that intentional?


It is a wider range and also kind of a narrower range in a lot of way because I am going less universal and a little bit more personal. Of course, when you write personally it is for everybody too and for everyone to make their own interpretations. It was just a new set of themes.


What attracted you to your work in film scores?


It seems like everybody wants to do that when you reach a certain point in the indie rock career, it is sort of a dream job. I was really lucky to fall into it. I had a friend who is a director and who got lucky enough to get funding for a relatively biggish movie. He ended up hiring me as the composer and it went off from there. I have now done nine movies since then which was like five years ago. I always had interest in film, even before I joined bands I always wanted to write and direct movies. It felt like a natural full circle thing, almost like a childhood dream.


Do you think you drew from this experience, especially in some of the wordless tracks on the record?


Definitely, yeah. There are those three tracks on there that are straight up where I was one hundred percent going for that. Just in general I think working on movie scores really informed even the stuff that is not instrumental on the record. I have been working on a lot of movies scores and in that situation it is very collaborative. In a lot of ways you're just a mouthpiece for someone else. So going back to write a record you get this incredible rush of freedom. It made me approach everything differently just from working on those movies.


Do you see EDJ as a long term project?

Yeah, this will probably be what I do for a while, at least as far as a recording artist goes. I’d love to collaborate at some point and do a band with somebody someday. But right now I see this as my thing for the foreseeable future. That being said I don’t think it will become this massively big thing, just something to add to the pile of stuff I am doing.