INTERVIEW: Jaguar Jonze

Jaguar Jonze is an artist who has a very creative vision for how she wants her music to be consumed. From the vulnerable and honest lyricism, to the bright and artistic single artwork and music videos, to her electric live shows, she pieces together this evolution of what her identity as a creative means to her. 

2020 was a very turbulent year for the Brisbane based singer-songwriter full of incredible high’s and impactful lows. From performing at the Eurovision: Australia Decide’s Song Contest to releasing her debut EP ‘Diamonds & Liquid Gold’ the future was looking bright and promising with a year of touring scheduled in. Finding herself in America for SXSW just as the pandemic hit, she was sent home with her schedule completely wide open from tours and shows being cancelled left, right and centre. As she was heading home she caught COVID-19, and quickly became one of the faces of COVID-19 in the Australian music industry. 

Making a full recovery, the rest of 2020 was spent making new music, empowering women and using her platform as a way to offer support and spread the word about assault and sexual mistreatment in the music industry, and she even finally returned to the stage for a headline show at The Tivoli. From this time of self reflection and isolation, her next EP took its form, and ‘ANTIHERO’ its a bold and definitive collection of tracks that feels like a strong step forward from her debut EP. 

I recently chatted to Jaguar Jonze about what she wants people to explicitly take away from her new EP ‘ANTIHERO’, the creative process behind new track ‘TESSELLATIONS’, and explore the visual identity and aesthetic behind these tracks and the music videos, artwork and live show. Check it out BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your new EP ‘ANTIHERO’ is a bold collection of tracks that is full of high octane energy. So what would you like the listener to explicitly take away from a first listen of the body of work? 

JAGUAR JONZE: I want the listener to understand that ‘ANTIHERO’ is a collection of songs that tells a story. One that says that we are neither perfect or imperfect, that we are not all good, or all bad. That we as humans can be messy and complicated. I want people to reflect when they listen to it and hopefully take away some awareness of our actions and how our behaviours, whether good or bad, impact ourselves and others. 

TB: The EP opens with ‘TESSELLATIONS’ which is the only unreleased track on the EP to date. So can you talk me through the creative process of this track? 

JJ: ‘TESSELLATIONS’, as the song implies is very much about repetitive patterns, which some may technically consider order, but it’s a pattern of chaos. It’s a pattern of fighting and hurting each other and wondering if we’re fighting for what’s actually right, or understanding that the behaviour is wrong. It’s about knowing that we can’t erase our pasts but begging for the other side to put down their defences and play on our side. It’s about fighting to, and fighting against breaking that repetitive pattern. 

TB: The music video for ‘CURLED IN’ was stunning to watch. What were your visual references for the video with what you wanted to specifically capture? 

JJ: Thank you so so much! Everything I do, including the ‘CURLED IN’ video are just a process of, less than what I want it to “Look like” and more, “what am I trying to express here?”. That’s what dictates my choices. I reinvent myself every time I have something different to say, and then I nestle each of those messages under an umbrella so the body of work exists in the same world. I wanted to specifically capture the pure cathartic release of the lyrics, how I’m fulfilling my simplest needs, while being unafraid by the power they have in saying them out loud. I wanted to also dive directly towards my identity, paying homage to my background, through this fantastical cyberpunk world where each song shows a different “ANTIHERO” all in this same world. 

TB: What song took the longest to really hone its sound, and maybe went through a few different variations to get it to where it is now?

JJ: ‘ASTRONAUT’ for sure. I wrote this song four years ago as a poem, and it was probably the first time I’d ever written about how my anxiety impacts me. It’s taken a lot of work both on the song. it took 3 arrangements, and took a lot of time before I was happy with the arrangement it deserve. And it also took a lot of work personally to get to a place where I was finally brave enough to share it with the world.

TB: The artwork for the singles all use very warm tones like red and orange’s, except for ‘ASTRONAUT’ which had a blue aesthetic. What was it about these colours that visually represent this body of work for you?

JJ: To be honest, I watched so much anime while I was recovering from COVID-19 and I think this definitely bled into my creative aesthetic in terms of not just colour palette but also the actual videos themselves. I wanted each song on the EP to represent a different antihero character within the same cyberpunk world, and I think for ‘ASTRONAUT’ and ‘TESSELATIONS’ that blue was the colour I creatively, was naturally drawn too. Especially considering that ‘ASTRONAUT’ is a darker song lyrically that talks about my anxiety, so those darker, blue colours did fit more. I also wanted ‘ASTRONAUT’ to have a different colour palette to quite literally cleanse the palette from all the other tracks’ red and orange fierceness and intensity. ‘ASTRONAUT’ for me is the most vulnerable song I’ve released to date, so I wanted that to come through as it sat amongst the other artworks, yet still have it appearing to all be within the same body of work and world. 

TB: Reflecting back on the release of ‘Diamonds & Liquid Gold’ and where you are at now as an artist with ‘ANTIHERO’, what would you say is the biggest thing you learnt about yourself from making that EP that you took in with you when starting to work on this one? 

JJ: Honestly, I’m just in such a different place from the debut EP and I think I just took the same vulnerability I had with the ‘Diamonds & Liquid Gold’ EP and enhanced it. It’ll be the same with the next release, I’m always growing and learning not just as a human being but also as an artist so my music will always reflect that.

TB: In November last year you performed a very special headline show at The Tivoli as a part of their Open Season program. Using a whole lot of technology and incredible lighting and staging you really brought the audience into your visual world. Looking back on that show, what was the biggest challenge while putting it all together?

JJ: Aw, thank you so much! It was such an honour to be asked to headline the Open Season program at the Tivoli. It was a thought process but luckily, I was working with someone amazing who was able to realise my stage lighting dreams. He listened to what I wanted for each song and added his own expertise to it. To think that he came on board last minute as my first lighting engineer double booked himself… and omg it was a relief because I was so worried I was going to end up with NO LIGHTING AT ALL!  

TB: You’ve used your platform as a way to offer support and spread the word about assault and sexual mistreatment in the music industry and beyond. It’s something that a lot of people find daunting to speak up on and share their own experience because of fear. So what would you say to someone who is suffering within their own darkness to speak up? 

JJ: I would say that you should talk to the people you trust first, your safe spaces are always going to be the ones that will be there for you the most. Speaking out is hard, it took me a long time to speak out about my own darkness and it’s not something that everyone can do, or has to do. 

These conversations are important and we absolutely need to talk about it, but as an individual you don’t owe anyone your pain or story until you feel ready, safe and comfortable to do so. But I absolutely encourage anyone that is dealing with any of these struggles to confide in someone they can trust fully, or reach out to a service that can help you. No one should suffer alone but don’t feel bad if you aren’t ready to share that pain with the world. 

TB: Lets play a quick game of rapid fire questions. You ready?

JJ: YES, lets do it!

TB: The emoji that best describes my new EP ‘ANTIHERO’ would be…

JJ: The blue heart emoji.

TB: A strange hobby/obsession I’ve picked up in the last year has been…

JJ: Obsession would be- in my free time, going to bribie island on my motorcycle! 

TB: The colour of my toothbrush at the moment is…

JJ: Black and yellow!

TB: If I could have any superpower it would be to…

JJ: Teleport! So then I’d actually be punctual. 

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

JJ: Controversy tastes delicious! 

‘ANTIHERO’ is out now!