- Words Nick Lowe
Combining cinematic visuals with straight-up inherent energy as she effortlessly drifts between genres, Jaguar Jonze is the multi-faceted Australian artist who’s got it all.
The alt-indie songwriter, producer and multimedia artist – also known as Deena Lynch – was born in Japan to a Taiwanese mother and Australian father. This diverse upbringing reflects through her amalgamation of desolate beauty and striking force of sound. Jaguar Jonze’s ethereal-pop debut EP, ‘Diamonds & Liquid Gold’, introduced listeners to her remarkable craft while proving the potential as a manifold visionary.
Jaguar Jonze and its side projects, her narrative illustration project Spectator Jonze and her gender-subverting photography project, Dusky Jonze, are all compelling ways in which Lynch could translate her most vulnerable moments into art. Her music has since earned her partnerships with brands like Christian Louboutin, Reebok, and BMW, as well as a profusion of press that commended her commitment to addressing social issues and breaking stigmas.
She had planned to tour her debut EP starting in New York City, however, the city shut down as soon as she landed due to the pandemic. Noting that it was written “in a pressure-cooker environment of uncertainty and tension”, she revealed that it’s the fastest song she has ever recorded. A week later, she managed to find flights back home where she contracted COVID-19 on a stretch over the Pacific Ocean. Being a visual artist, her quarantine experience presented her with an opportunity to find inspiration for her forthcoming EP. From anime to sci-fi television shows, Lynch used her Jaguar Jonze aptitude to create visuals that acted as a safe haven through an uneasy experience.
Now, Jaguar Jonze is setting the bar high as she prepares for the release of her forthcoming EP with ‘DEADALIVE’, its anthemic first single. A song that is suited to the current times, the introspective lyrics and tangible guitar lines are accompanied by character-driven visuals that give us a glimpse into the complex mind of Jaguar Jonze.
We caught up with the multi-dimensional artist to discuss how lockdown challenged her creative outlook, transforming her vulnerability into strength, and her newfound love for nature.
‘DEADALIVE’ feels very suited to the current times and something that listeners can really resonate with. Can you recall the moment that triggered the single and do you remember the first lyric you wrote for it?
The moment was in our New York apartment with the band, when we were stuck there for COVID-19 lockdowns as they had just flagged it as a pandemic. My bassist, who I also co-produce a lot of the songs with, Aidan Hogg started making this beep boop sound and I wrote “Lock me up so I can go and fight”.
This is just the first glimpse of a much bigger vision, so what inspired the 5-part series of visuals that you’re creating for your upcoming EP? How important are music visuals for you?
Inspiration behind the visuals for my upcoming EP happened while I was under hospital care recovering from COVID-19. It had been a long time since I had consumed TV shows and I fell into this deep hole of anime and sci-fi. It became my escape to fight the turmoil and uncertainty and I wanted to channel that into the songs as well. Anime has this beautiful way of letting us fall in love with imperfect, fallible characters that make mistakes along the way, grow and continue to display resilience all the way through. Mix in a bit of that and my usual Jaguar Jonze flair and I was able to visually create a sanctuary of safety and calmness through what was for me, a shitstorm of isolation, anxiety and illness. Visuals are important for me, as I am also a visual artist and my favourite part of creation as both a musician and visual artist is conjuring up different worlds for us to understand everyday concepts, traumas and stories in a new perspective.
If you could describe the new EP in three words, what would they be?
Cinematic, anthemic, tough.
You mentioned that with each music video, the track will be transformed into an antihero character. Why are personas such a big part of Jaguar Jonze as an artist?
I think we’re all made up of different ‘selves’ to make up the one being. All I’m doing is breaking off each of those different selves in one particular moment of time to understand it, mainly for myself, but to then share it with others. This helps me to process my thoughts and emotions, to understand the learning lesson from that particular moment and what that particular self needs to do to bring more and be better to the one whole being. I thought of each of them as antiheroes because, they’re neither a protagonist or an antagonist because I feel like that’s the truth of us as human beings. We’re not perfect and we’ve all been bad in someone else’s stories. It then becomes about what you do after you’ve made that mistake and have awareness about it.
How would you say this upcoming EP differs from Diamonds & Liquid Gold? Was there something in particular you did differently this time around?
Well, it’s the first time I’ve put out a track without ever being in the same room as my band. The whole EP was recorded while I was under hospital care and in quarantine. Luckily, I had brought all my equipment with us on our tour to the USA because when we finally returned to Australia and I tested positive for COVID-19, all I had was the suitcase I travelled with. It allowed me to continue writing and recording in a different city. There were many Facetime sessions though, so I still feel like I was there and I’m so grateful for my band Aidan Hogg, Joe Fallon and Jacob Mann for being patient with the tediousness of doing it through technology. I feel like it differs from the first EP because, in Diamonds & Liquid Gold, I was exploring my vulnerability. In this EP, I’m strengthening my invulnerability.
What’s your creative process like as a whole? As an artist, I can imagine that some days are a lot harder and less creative than others, so how do you keep yourself mentally focused on the end goal?
My creative process is to always keep it spicy haha. And I mean that by changing it up, which is why I have my different creative projects. I go from music, visual art and photography to keep my brain stimulated and always looking for new ideas. At the same time, this year has taught me rest and self-care too, and that a lot of creativity can come out of giving yourself downtime.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations and who would you love to collaborate with?
My biggest musical inspirations are Portishead (Adrian Utley), The Last Shadow Puppets (Alex Turner), Radiohead (Thom Yorke), Nick Cave, Beck, Angel Olsen, Brittany Howard and St. Vincent are big musical inspirations for me.. and I’m basically listing who I’d love to collaborate with as well. Some other musicians of recent that I would love to collaborate with are FKA Twigs and Rina Sawayama.
What is the first album you remember falling in love with, and why?
Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’ – it just tore my frozen heart wide open and made me feel so human.
Is there anything surprising you’ve learned about yourself during the last few months?
I’ve never been a beach girl, but I’m currently going through my third quarantine which is in an old 60’s beach shack next to a national park and isolated beaches (as you can see in the photos). By far the best of the quarantines I’ve been through, and it has made me realise how much I need nature and exercise to recharge and feel grounded. Being forced to spend time on my own for weeks with nothing but the sea, sand, wind and Australian bush has been the best thing for me to recover from the harshness of 2020.
And finally, I think we can both agree that 2020 didn’t exactly live up to expectations. What are your hopes for 2021 on both a personal and professional level?
2020 didn’t live up to my plans but it absolutely obliterated my expectations. I wouldn’t have traded it for the year I had planned for it. I got to do some amazing things such as design an art car for BMW Australia, work on a collaboration with Christian Louboutin and be the face of Reebok’s ‘Not Your Princess’ campaign. I did NOT expect people to believe in what I do as an artist like that and I hope it continues into 2021 professionally. Personally, I want to be able to continue practising asserting my boundaries and to no longer withstand toxic environments so that I can slowly edge closer to being the best person and artist I can be.