Wednesday, May 13th, 2020
Jaguar Jonze – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In
“Unfortunately, I caught COVID-19 during my first tour in the U.S.”
May 13, 2020
By Mark Redfern (with Lily Guthrie)
We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with Jaguar Jonze (aka Australian singer/songwriter Deena Lynch), who is currently recovering from COVID-19.
We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed, and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people).
We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in.
Jaguar Jonze dropped her debut EP, Diamonds & Liquid Gold, on April 17 via Nettwerk. Lynch is an unpredictable artist who works in many mediums, and she isn’t afraid to confront societal taboos in her work. She draws narrative illustrations under the name Spectator Jonze and shoots photography as Dusky Jonze, but as Jaguar Jonze she shares her warm voice atop gunning guitar and dialogue-driven lyrics.
Lynch had this to say in a recent press release: “It feels surreal to finally be putting out an EP. I feel like this EP is a journal to the first 18 months of Jaguar Jonze so it’s a bit eclectic in nature. It explores heartbreak, mental health and self-discovery and hopefully, invites people into the world I’ve spent so long creating and learning to share with no boundaries.”
Just one day before the release of Diamonds & Liquid Gold, Lynch went to the hospital, as her symptoms for COVID-19 were regressing. Though the ambulance was prepared to pick up Deena Lynch, the paramedics instantly recognized her as Jaguar Jonze, so everyone listened to the new EP on the ride over before it was officially released in Australia.
Read on as Lynch reflects on her COVID-19 experience so far. She also submitted a photo of herself under quarantine.
Aw, it’s every little moment like this from these amazing paramedics to the glowing support from each of you that makes this debut EP release a very special one and easy to keep my spirits up. My fever is gone, I’m on painkillers, all my tests were clear and so I get to go back home to self monitor again this morning. It is a DOUBLE RELEASE DAYYYYY!!!! YAAAAYYYY!! Go listen to ‘Diamonds & Liquid Gold’ on all your favourite streaming platforms and I’ll see you today for a listening party on livestream in your best pyjama get-up because that’s all I’ll be wearing! 5PM AEST / 12AM PST / 8AM GMT 💛💛💛💛 Let me know what you think of it!! And thank you to those who have shared already xx
611 Likes, 52 Comments – Jaguar Jonze (@jaguarjonze) on Instagram: “Aw, it’s every little moment like this from these amazing paramedics to the glowing support from…”
Where are you spending the quarantine and who are you spending it with? If you’re spending it with other people, have you found that the quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension?
I’m spending quarantine in Sydney and I’m now on Day 23. Unfortunately, I caught COVID-19 during my first tour in the U.S., or on my way back to Australia. So, I haven’t stepped outside and seen the sun or used my legs for 23 days. I’m spending it with my partner and it’s definitely brought us closer and also caused a lot of tension. I’m not allowed to go to the shops, so I screenshot all of my groceries off a website and text the photos; it’s the most inefficient process, hahaha.
Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?
Everyone in my family is safe and healthy. I decided to fly to Sydney to protect them, as my mum lives in Brisbane and is vulnerable to the virus. But, once recovered, I’ll still be stuck in Sydney now that domestic flights are shut down. It’s been hard recovering without family, but I’m happy to stay put.
What’s your daily routine been like? Have you spent much time outdoors? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home?
I’m a natural introvert, although people would never guess it. I’m doing alright indoors. I haven’t stepped outside because I don’t want to get anyone sick (and I’m still suffering from fatigue). But I can’t wait until I’m discharged so I CAN GO FOR A WALK. I REALLY WANT TO GO FOR A WALK. Being cooped up inside for nearly a month with no fresh air has impacted my well-being and baseline anxiety levels. I try my best to implement a routine—wake up, make breakfast, do a lot of admin work until early afternoon, and then allow myself to be more creative in the afternoon or evening. Treat myself to a lunch break and a dinner break where I cook and watch stand up comedy or listen to an audiobook, and then I continue working into the late evening. I’m a workaholic and all of my work is related to my creativity in some way, even if it is accounting.
What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term?
It’s had a massive impact. We were in the U.S. for our debut tour with 14 shows, and we were only able to perform three shows before the rest of the tour was canceled. Then we came home to have our tours for the next four months get cancelled, too. Financially, a lot of cash flow that we were depending on is now tied up. I decided to go ahead with my debut EP release (Diamonds & Liquid Gold) because I’ve worked on it for so long and I think in these times, even for myself, we still need music. I was excited for 2020, we had a killer start. But, it’s okay, it’s only slowed down our timeline; my steamroller drive is still very much there. But the biggest impact of COVID-19 has been on my health and how that affects me every day. Dealing with fatigue, exhaustion, and illness for three weeks has been brutal. But I’ve learned a great lesson—to be gentle on myself and to prioritize self-care.
If you also have a day job outside of music, how has that been impacted by COVID-19?
I’m a visual artist outside of music too, both in illustration (Spectator Jonze) and photography (Dusky Jonze). Interestingly, there’s been some fun projects that have popped up for my visual art side of things, but it’s difficult; a lot of my artistry is based on connecting with people, so doing that in our most natural way is limited.
Do you trust the government and our leaders (such as President Trump) to effectively deal with the pandemic? What most concerns you about the response of elected leaders at home and abroad?
On a broader level, COVID-19 has been devastating, but a really important learning curve. We can look at other Asian nations that are much closer to China to see that we need to implement better protocols for when another pandemic rises. I think a lot of the Western world fluffed around when this started happening because we haven’t had a situation like this in modern times. It’s been a societal commitment that is dependent on the government to orchestrate. Communication was unclear, rules were confusing, and the unknowns and uncertainties caused a lot of misdirected fear and anxiety. I feel blessed that I’m recovering in Australia with a great healthcare system. I’m a virtual hospital patient, which means that I can leave beds and ventilators for those in more dire situations while still receiving the level of care I need for how COVID-19 has affected my body. My concern lies with how the U.S. can look after its citizens during this pandemic, especially for those who don’t have the resources to get the healthcare they need. This was the main reason I decided to cut my trip three weeks short and come home.
How do you think the crisis will affect this November’s U.S. presidential election? Will it make it easier or harder to defeat Trump?
I’ll be super curious to see how it affects the election. In Australia, you receive a fine if you don’t vote, while in the U.S. it’s voluntary. Depending on how long the pandemic lasts, it’ll be interesting to see who even feels confident enough to leave their homes to vote. Perhaps we’ll see a heavier leaning on the younger demographic as they are less at-risk. Perhaps not at all. There are studies that show when countries have had to deal with infectious diseases, they tend to vote right because that is the time that they’re looking for protective measures and staying indoors—inclined to more restrictions, more borders, and more control. We will see.
Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful?
To be honest, I’ve been limiting my exposure to news and social media because I’ve had to care for my health. Reading statistics and media articles weighed too heavy on my heart and caused a lot of anxiety as I waded through my own uncertainties. I still keep up to date and find data projections against historical pandemics to be the most interesting. For me, social media platforms have been a great way to stay connected. We’re human in the end, and we need that; I feel blessed that I’m going through COVID-19 recovery and lockdown with access to the Internet.
What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home?
Dismantling the anxiety and fear, and growing the confidence to partake in “normal” social functions again. And that will seep into the uptake in rebuilding our economies again.
Are your parents, grandparents, and others in your life who are at risk, taking social distancing seriously? If not, what lengths have you gone to convince them to stay inside?
Most of my family is in Taiwan and Japan, with my mum being Taiwanese in Australia. Early, early on, she was up to date with the news coming out of Asia and took on the same mentality as Taiwan when they started implemented protocols. Before it had hit the U.S. and Australia, she bought masks for the whole band to travel with. My mum is a gun haha.
What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time?
I think record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities need to consider upping royalty rates, allowing for appropriate advances and providing funds and grants to ensure that art is still being created. It’s already a difficult industry in a healthy economy, but in times like these, our industry can have the most positive influence. The arts bring communities together, help us feel connected, and put out important messages of what needs to be done individually and together (why we need to be social distancing and self-isolating, what daily measures do we need to bring into our routines, like washing our hands more often). Then, there is the cultural importance of documentation. We need to remember and reflect on these times, and the arts are an integral part of that.
What is the best way fans can support you financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowdsourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight?
I started a Patreon last week, and I’m new to it, but I’m really glad I started it. It’s helped me realize the warm community that I have around me, and I’m so grateful. There are a lot of fun things on there that I’m creating, such as coloring books for #stayhome activities. Otherwise, there’s my merch store, and if you keep an eye on it, I’ll be putting up vinyl and CDs for my debut EP release in the coming weeks. There are some self-designed T-shirts up on my store which makes for stylish loungewear—we can still self-isolate in style, right?
Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine?
I’ve signed up to Audible and have enjoyed audiobooks. The one I am listening to at the moment is called The Trauma Cleaner. I’ve been getting into standup comedy from Ali Wong, Dave Chappelle, Tom Segura, and Anthony Jeselnik. I chewed through all four seasons of a TV show called Mr. Robot when I was sick, this is now one of my all-time favorites.
Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?
I’ve been live streaming, but not in concert. Due to the health effects I’ve had with COVID-19, I haven’t been able to sing and feel well enough to perform. While I was bedridden, I’ve been drawing up Jaguar Jonze coloring books while featuring other visual artists’ work, too. Each week we focus on a different song from the upcoming EP and color together live. It’s been a lot of fun to see people’s artistry and interpretations. It’s also heartwarming to see how this activity has brought us all together while we’re at home individually. I love it. You can download your free copy to print and doodle here: linktr.ee/jaguarjonze. We’re doing it together each week, and with the EP release coming up, I’ll also be live-streaming music video premieres and EP listening parties.
Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?
Well, I considered starting a Patreon page in October of last year and just never got around to doing it haha. So, this helped push that. I’ve been drawing a lot more, writing a lot more music, and collaborating with my partner who is an amazing fashion filmmaker on mixed media projects. Even though it’s strange to be working over the Internet with my band, it’s also given us a lot more time to work on new music.
Has the quarantine been a fertile creative time (are you writing or recording new music, for example) or have you found it hard to focus on creative endeavors?
In some ways, it’s hard and limited, but in other ways, it’s been the most fruitful time because it has pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was supposed to have co-writing sessions in LA after my U.S. tour, but with that being cancelled, I’ve still been having writing sessions over Skype. That’s been cool because I’ve never even met these people and we’ve managed to create and bounce off each other.
Beyond the obvious items (such as toilet paper), what things have you made sure to get from the grocery store when stocking up? And, also, do you have any toilet paper?
Since I haven’t been able to go to the grocery store, my partner has been great at looking after me. But, yes, toilet paper has been hard to purchase. We still have a pack left… So, hopefully, we can stock up soon! Hopefully, I can go out to the grocery store myself and stock up, haha!