Deena Lynch is a Brisbane, Australia-born and-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, multi-disciplinary artist and the creative 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 says.
All of her adjacent projects are powerful ways for Lynch to process and explore her most intimate vulnerabilities, mining the depths of her psyche and personality — while empowering and encouraging others to do the same. “I can’t do anything without meaning,” Lynch says of 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. The photos are dramatic but there’s a playfully crass sense of humor. You may see male genitalia obscured with something phallic-like, like 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.
Interestingly, much of Lynch’s early success has stemmed from instinct and a healthy dash of good ol’ serendipity: When the rising Aussie artist turned 19, she fell into music after a close friend died. As the story goes, while she was walking home one day, she passed a garage sale, where she purchased her first guitar on a whim. Without a single lesson, she began writing songs as a way to help her 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.”
Lynch’s musical project Jaguar Jonze can trace its origins back to a 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, which of course, has stuck.
With her first three original singles –“Beijing Baby,” “You Got Left Behind” and “Rabbit Hole,” Lynch quickly became a buzzworthy sensation in her native Australia: CoolAccidents named her an “Artist to Watch” after catching Lynch perform at 2019’s BIGSOUND. She was also 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.
Lynch had plans for a massive 2020: She appeared 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. Last year, I chatted with Lynch, who played some of her first Stateside sets at that year’s New Colossus Festival, right as the world ground to a halt and everything turned to complete shit. And although things were uncertain for everyone, she released her debut EP, which featured the aforementioned singles “Rabbit Hole,” “Beijing Baby,” and “You Got Left Behind.”
Lynch’s sophomore EP ANTIHERO thematically sees Lynch’s Jaguar Jonze taking on the role of righteous and badass avenger, taking on everyone and anyone, who deserves it to task. And while that gives the material the feeling of a long overdue reply to everyone who has ever taken you for granted or pissed on your parade, the EP further establishes Lynch’s unique aesthetic both sonically and visually. Sonically, her work often possesses a gorgeous, cinematic quality but urgent and unafraid to proverbially cut down to the bone, getting at the most vulnerable thoughts and feelings.
“Curled In,” ANTIHERO EP’s latest single was cowritten with her bassist Aidan Hogg. Centered around slashing and twangy Ennio Morricone-inspired spaghetti Western-like guitars. skittering and tribal-like drumming, Lynch’s sultry and forceful vocals and an anthemic hook, “Curled In” is a cathartic single that finds its narrator realizing her own power — and in turn, how she could realize her own needs in her own way.
Directed by Ribas Hosn and Deena Lynch, the recently released video features art direction by Lynch. The gorgeous cinematic and sensual visual finds Lynch further establishing a fantastical cyberpunk world that dives deeply into her identity as an Asian-Australian woman while nodding at Kurosawa, Ghost in the Shell and others.