Jaguar Jonze Recovers From COVID, Releases Mind-Blowing New Single/Video ‘TESSELLATIONS’

“Another fucking Jonze project” is how Deena Lynch describes her endeavors in photography. Under the moniker Dusky Jonze, her mostly B&W imagery fascinatingly combines the erotic and the surreal. As suggested, Dusky is not a standalone effort – there’s also Spectator Jonze, the artist’s illustration arm, Jonze Society, a streetwear brand, and of course Jaguar Jonze, Lynch’s current musical identity. We’ll leave her public speaking gig (and possible nuclear scientist hobby) for another story. 

Jaguar is a relatively new incarnation, rising from the ashes of an earlier musical career Lynch had under her actual given name. But JJ has definitively made a mark since her debut single in 2018 (‘You Got Left Behind’); and despite all the obstacles that 2020 brought, which included her being sidelined with a quite serious case of COVID-19, she is back making music that is as intense as anything else we’ve heard this year.

Indeed her new EP ANTIHERO drops today (via Nettwerk), and we’re completely hooked on the visuals in the video for new single ‘TESSELLATIONS,’ a neon violet drenched slow burn shot in wide screen. Needing to know more, we connected with the modern Renaissance artist at her home in Brisbane.

I’m listening to your – and Hermitude’s – cover of Nirvana’s ‘Heart-Shaped Box’ and realizing it’s the anniversary of Kurt’s death today (April 5)…wow, 27 years ago. So he’s been dead for the same amount of time he was alive. When did you discover them and how big an influence were they?

I tell this story at my shows: shamefully, I wasn’t acquainted with Nirvana at all. I come from a multicultural background and grew up with a Taiwanese mother; it took awhile to discover the music that influenced so much culture. Having the opportunity to cover Nirvana with Hermitude is what led me to explore deeper. Even though I’m quite slow to discover the classics, it’s fun as an adult; it’s like they’re fresh new talent, and it takes me on a different kind of journey.

They say we grow old listening to the music that was around when we were young. Do you identify with ’90s alt-rock? I can hear some Portishead and PJ Harvey in your work – who else is an influence? 

Oh, that is such a compliment. Thank you. Portishead is one of my favorite bands, and I love PJ Harvey. I resonate with the soundscapes they both build. Other influences are Nick Cave, Last Shadow Puppets, Jeff Buckley, and Massive Attack. Oooh, I guess I do have one foot in the ’90s. 

Your imagery and visuals are amazing and obviously well-considered. How complex are those video shoots, and do you imagine reinventing yourself every few years?

I wasn’t always a creative. I discovered music and art later on in my life and swapped them in for my prior interests of math and science; which means I’m not a technical artist at all. Everything I do isn’t so much a “look” per se, but more about “what am I trying to express?” And that’s what dictates my choices. So I reinvent myself every time I have something different to say, which is always – but I nestle each of those messages under an umbrella so that the body of work exists in the same world. With the EP, I wanted each song to represent a different antihero character within the same cyberpunk world. I put a lot into my visuals because it is just as important to me as the music to communicate my emotions and immerse the receiver. Naturally, these video shoots are pretty complex and require a lot of hard work, especially while I am an emerging artist with extremely tight budgets.

I see you’ve been involved in raising awareness of #MeToo and women’s rights. And now anti-Asian bias is on the rise in the US due to ignorance around C19. Have you seen anything similar in Australia?

It took me a year to post about the racism I endured when I was recovering from COVID-19, because I felt like the society around me wasn’t ready to receive it. With the pandemic being global, we were all dealing with something so incomprehensible that there was no emotional capacity for anything else, which is why we see a surge in racism since the virus. It’s a human habit to project or deny or blame to lessen the emotions we might feel inside. So, people used racism to soothe themselves. Now that we’ve accepted the pandemic more as part of our reality, and the activism and hard work of so many others together have happened – with Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate – I felt like I was in a safer place to say my story. Australia is still so behind compared to the US in having these discussions. I would say that the reason I found my courage to speak out is due to seeing my American friends openly push to have these critical discussions, and that I’ve been able to partake and absorb from them. I hope by speaking out on my side of the world, I’m able to spark a little fire to join many other little fires to flame a necessary change.

So sorry to read about your extreme struggles with C19, rare for someone so young, no? What did you take away from that experience?

I don’t think it’s rare for someone young; there is a perception that it’s an older person’s disease. I was under hospital care with a person from Italy of the same age, and we shared the exact same symptoms for the same amount of time. It was comforting for the both of us to have been in the same room at week four of our recovery, realizing we weren’t the only young ones struggling with the virus. And since then, I’ve met many others that have also had their own struggles. I learned that I couldn’t take my health for granted, even in my 20s, and although it took more than six months to properly feel more like myself – I still struggle with long-term effects – I am now a better version of myself. I prioritize self-care, I prioritize rest, I prioritize diet and exercise, and most importantly, I prioritize loving myself first.

Regarding the new EP, I assume the plans are to try to play live sooner than later. I think Australia is opening up on that – what do you have scheduled and what might the rest of the year look like for you?

I’m working on a short film that I planned with my music videos around ANTIHERO, and am just finishing off the sound design for that. Then I’m headed out on an Australian tour supporting San Cisco in May/June of this year, and going deep into writing and recording. Hopefully, I can go overseas and finish our first US tour that got cut short in 2020; but I guess we will wait and see.

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