Deena Lynch is a Brisbane, Australia-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist multi-disciplinary artist and the mastermind behind three very different creative projects — the rising music project Jaguar Jonze, the narrative illustration project Spectator Jonze and the photography project Dusky Jonze. “Everything I do stems from the need for dialogue – Jaguar being an internal dialogue with my subconscious, Spectator being an external dialogue with others on mental health and the mind and Dusky being a dialogue with the body,” Lynch explains in press notes.
Ultimately, all of her adjacent projects are powerful ways for Lynch to process and explore her most intimate vulnerabilities and dining the depths of her personality while empowering and encouraging others to do the same. “I can/t do anything without meaning,” Lynch says of her her Spectator Jonze project, which centers on bold and surreal pop-art that attempts to de-stigmatize mental-health issues through interviews and illustrated portraits of her subjects. Her 50th portrait, a year into the project, confronted her own PTSD stemming from an unstable, unsafe childhood. “I realized when I stepped out of hiding, I could actually move forward, feel less isolated. I want other people to unburden themselves from the wasted extra energy spent pretending and hiding,” the rising Aussie artist explains.
Sometimes, she finds her subjects; other times, they find her. “There’s a girl in the States; she’s still one of my favorite drawings,” Lynch recalls. “She reached out to me, having come to terms with her psychosis, depression and anxiety. The level of awareness and openness she had really moved me because I was oblivious to the stigma I still held over the mental illnesses I hadn’t yet been exposed to. We still have this pen pal relationship with each other. We’ve never met in person, but I think she’s one of the biggest supports in my everyday life.”
Her photography project Dusky Jonze focuses on toxic masculinity with provocative photos. “We don’t talk about toxic masculinity enough. So I thought of it’d be funny to shoot male photographers,” Lynch explains. “And they ere open to it. They’d say ‘You know what? This makes me a better photographer.'” As a result, the photo project has become a more fluid effort to undo insecurities and taboos that surround the male and female body within the engendered eye of the photographer — and while the photos are dramatic, there’s a crass and playful sense of humor to them. You may see genitalia obscured with say — a banana. “I wanted it to be crass and crude. I like testing boundaries and making people question why they’re uncomfortable,” she says, laughing.
Much of Lynch’s early success so far has stemmed from instinct and a healthy dash of serendipity: When she turned 19, she fell into music after a close friend died. While walking home one day, she passed a garage sale, where she purchased her first guitar on a whim. Without a single lesson, she was writing songs to help manage her grief.
“He was always in my ear about living life passionately—he could see that I was falling into this societal structure of doing what everyone expects you to,” says Lynch. “He left behind so much; amazing artwork, poetry and film. He was/is inspiring.”
Her rising music project Jaguar Jonze can trace its origins back to a rather serendipitous moment: while playing an Iggy Pop tribute night in her native Brisbane, she witnessed an unhinged performance of an artist emulating Iggy that made her realize that she needed to up her game. “So, I cracked down two tequila shots,” she recalls. And then she became a roaring banshee. ““Everything I ever suppressed came spilling out. My shame and inhibitions broke down. I wasn’t afraid.” After that performance, everyone started calling her Jaguar Jonze.
With her first three original singles –“Beijing Baby,” “You Got Left Behind” and her latest single “Rabbit Hole,” Lynch has quickly became a buzzworthy sensation in her native Australia: CoolAccidents named her an “Artist to Watch” after catching Lynch perform at BIGSOUND 2019. Since then she was named a Triple J Unearthed Feature Artist, which led to a collaborative cover of Nirvana‘s “Heart-Shaped Box” with labelmates Hermitude on the station’s ongoing Like a Version cover series. And she recently appeared on Eurovision Australia Decides 2020, where she performed such a frantic and energetic version of “Rabbit Hole” that she wound up dislocating her shoulder — in front of a national television audience of about 2 million people.
Lynch will be releasing her Jaguar Jonze debut EP through Nettwerk Music Group later this year — and building upon a rapidly growing profile, Lynch was about to embark on a Stateside tour that included appearances at New Colossus Festival, SXSW and a handful of West Coast dates. Unfortunately, because of the COVID 19 pandemic, many of the things we love and do on a regular basis are on an indefinite hiatus. Naturally, artists are currently anxiously screamingly and trying to figure out next steps — but in the meantime, the world feels like its grinding to a halt.
So I wound up chatting with the delightful and charming Deena Lynch during New Colossus Festival’s third day about a handful of topics including COVID 19, which was on everyone’s minds to the video concept for “Rabbit Hole,” her collaboration with Hermitude and more.