Interview: Jaguar Jonze

Habitual | 18 October 2018

Jaguar Jonze crafts songs of melancholic beauty woven with gun slinging guitar lines and a strikingly rich, yet intimate voice. Jonze has spent the last two years between bunkering in a basement of Brisbane and a studio in the concrete jungle of Jakarta to harness a body of work that is nostalgic yet distinctive. From here comes Jonze’s debut single ‘You Got Left Behind’ — a driving, upbeat song suspended delicately above a breathtakingly haunting undercurrent.

Habitual speaks to lead singer Deena Lynch who visited Singapore for the 2018 edition of Music Matters.

I’d like to find out more about yourself, where you come from and how you got into music.

I live in Brisbane. My dad’s Australian, my mum’s Taiwanese and I was born in Japan. I didn’t do music growing up so when I decided to start, I had to really throw myself in there and learn everything.

When did you start?

Six years ago — that’s when I bought my first guitar and started writing songs. I had to treat myself like a child then, like a zero-year-old, when it came to music; and I had so much to learn so I had to gig a lot.

But this must have been something you really wanted to do, right?

Totally. Like at the start I didn’t really know — I fell into music because my best friend passed away, and for some odd reason, I walked past a garage sale in Melbourne (when I was there studying Engineering at Melbourne University) and I decided to buy a guitar and then I started writing songs to deal with my grief of losing my best friend. Then I decided to record it as a dedication to him, and yeah that was it. All my friends were like: “You should do at least one gig.” And I kept telling myself no and that I wasn’t a performer. But I eventually did one gig and I fell in love with it. From there, I just threw myself into music.

So I read that you love motorcycles — does that have anything to do with why you were studying Engineering?

Ah yeah, I am a bit of a nerd. I like learning a lot so the motorcycle is something that’s like really simple but really like beautiful. So I love learning all that stuff and it’s crazy how such a simple technology can do so much.

Can you put a motorcycle together?

Yeah I have with my shit dirt bike. Not fully from scratch, but it was like the shell was there and it wasn’t running at all — it became a bit of a Sunday afternoon project. It’s good to learn because when you’re a girl, you get pretty much ripped off by mechanics so now I know what I need when I go to the mechanics so they can’t rip me off.

What kind of music influences do you have?

Jeff Buckley, Warpaint, War on Drugs, Angel Olsen, The National, The Smiths, but I also love like Whitney Houston and Celine Deon.

How would you describe Jaguar Jonze’s sound?

I didn’t realise it at the time, but people are saying we’re a bit spaghetti Western.

What is spaghetti Western?

You know like those old cowboy movies and there’s like a desert and the tune that plays — yeah that’s spaghetti Western.

You kinda sound a bit like Bon Iver.

Yeah that’s cool. I didn’t think I was but people are starting to say that so I’m going with it. But I would say that everything’s kinda like grooving beats and driving and then there’s an undercurrent of darkness and sadness.

What are your songs about?

It’s always about my life and my experiences and my relationships with people and what I’ve learned and what I’ve yet to learn and what I’ve discovered… my songs are my outlet of expressions and my emotions.

‘You’ve Got Left Behind’ — what is that about?

It’s about being stuck in a cycle of toxicity with your friends who you’ve been trying to help for years and years, but they just keep wanting to stay in the same place and it ends up hurting me… it gets to point where I have to decide about my own well-being so I have to just let it go and it’s painful to watch but I have to just wait for them to decide when they will do it for themselves.

Kinda like I’m there for you but my life isn’t on hold for you…

Yeah, that’s exactly what the song is about.

What’s the music scene like in Australia? Is there much organic support from local communities?

It’s pretty difficult because the Australian music market is basically run based on one radio station, Triple J, so you either make or break with that radio station. Most of the Australian audience looks to Triple J for confirmation of music and Triple J has a pretty strict brief on what they go for, so if you kinda left of centre it can be pretty hard; but if you do get the support of them, then your career takes off.

And how has it been like for Jaguar Jonze?

We’ve done really well with the single — we weren’t expecting it at all. The presenters at Triple J have been loving it and giving it support and that’s as grateful as I can be.

What else besides music and motorcycles do you like doing?

I like drawing as well. I got serious about drawing about a year ago and I’ve been loving it and obsessed with it. (Check out Spectator Jonze)

Damn girl, your drawings are amazing. Where do you get your referencing from for the people you draw?

So I interview every person before I draw them. And it’s all to do with mental health.

Check out more of Jaguar Jonze here, Spectator Jonze here, and ‘You’ve Got Left Behind’, below:

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