Jazmine Mary talks grief, tragedy and performance personas in the wake of their haunting latest release.
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When you step into a Jazmine Mary gig, be prepared to be met by either a clown, a popstar, a pilgrim farmer or a nightgown-clad ghost howling brazenly onstage. It’s a whimsical experience that you won’t want to miss out on if you’re a fan of Nadia Reid, Weyes Blood or Tiny Ruins. 

The Aussie-born singer and musician, who’s been Aotearoa-based for the better part of 10 years and lives in the bushes of far-out-west Auckland, is currently touring the country with their latest album, Dog


Dog is a noir folk dream, with haunting layered vocals, pensive lyrics and themes of grief and hope interwoven throughout. And though not the most obvious inspiration for the album, Jazmine Mary cites Simon and Garfunkel, The Chicks and even ABBA as the subconscious influences of their childhood. 

A few days after the first Dog outing, VICE chatted to Jazmine Mary about all things tour, tragedy and performance personas. 

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VICE: So your album release tour has started. How's it going?

Jazmine Mary: Good. We just did the first show at the Hollywood in Avondale. And I feel a big sense of relief at the fact that one is done. It was really good. I'm tired. But I'm good. 

What are the best parts of being on tour? 

I love the travelling. I love people's generosity. I like doing the same thing over and over again and changing it somehow. 

I've got a new band, and I'm really excited to be in a car with him for a ridiculous amount of time, because it'll be a first for us. And we've been practising the songs and learning them and it'll be nice to actually, now, just be going and playing and doing the thing. 

So you’re touring as part of your album release for Dog. How would you describe the album?  

I have no idea. I think I'm waiting for it to be in the world for a little bit longer for everyone else to feed that back to me.


This is probably gonna seem like a really bizarre question, but does the album name have anything to do with The Power Of The Dog?

No, no. 

I just wondered because that film is all about grief and queerness and cowboys... 

…And mine’s grief and cowboys and queerness. Yeah, no, but that’s awesome. 

What are the inspirations for the album?

I think nostalgia is a massive thing that I draw on. I'm just trying to understand the past and the present and move into the future. That's always really what it is. 

Being in New Zealand influenced the type of music I make. There's a lot of permission here to write music that can lean toward darkness and there's a real comfort, I think, in Aotearoa with making poetry and art and music that leans into that but not in a dangerous way. 

Also, love and grief. Like, I think any music or art really just comes back to love and grief. Y’know, if that's a party song that's love, if it's heartbreak, that's grief. It's all that, and I think the last two years I've had a lot of endings and a lot of loss and a lot of grief.

So [the album has] been a way of navigating that in quite a hopeful way.

So was Dog particularly influenced by a darker period of time?

Yeah, I lost my best friend.

The first four songs on that record, they’re the first four songs I'd written since that happened. I was dealing with feeling resentment and anger to the greater world and putting thousands of feelings into one thing, y’know?


I’m so sorry to hear that. 

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I was looking back on when you started releasing music, you were releasing it under the name Him. What brought on changing that to Jazmine Mary. 

I feel like that project was very experimental and a bit more noise-leaning. I made that group publicly, like I was performing and learning how to do that. And then I had a very, very clear vision of a record I wanted to make, and it was The Licking of a Tangerine. And I think I was like, I'm ready to do that as ‘me’ now. 

It's kind of the same idea as moving away from your hometown, so that you're able to change. But it's really, really hard to change where you grew up. It was sort of like that. 

I felt like it would be hard to become new within the confines of that name. And so I wanted a new one that was a step closer to myself.

Cool. So do you feel like, in what you're doing now, it's not really a persona, just you being yourself? 

Yeah, I mean, I feel like when I'm playing music I'm the most myself I ever am.

I feel like I'm probably more of a persona now. I think about what I'm going to say so carefully, and I try not to, but when I'm sharing music on a stage, or just in general, that's the closest to myself and to spirit that I can be, I think. 

I also think, even if it was a persona, there's always truth in performance, right? Like, even if you have multiple characters or personalities, that comes from you. That's a part of you.


What is it that you love most about performing? 

It doesn't always happen, but there's a very special thing that can happen where I kind of disappear in a really, really present way that just feels fucking good. 

I saw you at Welcome To Nowhere festival and it was my favourite performance. We just walked past and you were playing and it was like you were almost in a trance. I was a church kid and it felt like church in a way. 

Welcome to the cult. 

Happy to be here! But yeah, it caught me off guard, and I suddenly felt quite emotional.

Yeah, that's so lovely. And it's not always the case. Like, that's the hope. That someone feels those things and people will join you there. So when that happens, it's really, really special.

And lastly, what is the story, if there is a story, behind the “LAVENDER” neck tattoo? 

So the friend that I told you about who passed away before I made the record… “Rodeo”, the song on Dog, is directly a song for them and about navigating death and the understanding of life and death. And I got the lavender tattoo on the one year death anniversary as a sort of healing. 

The throat is like a way we communicate and sing from and speak from and I wanted to do something. I felt like a name or a date was more about the death and that's such a small part of it, and I wanted to get something that was more like an honouring and a healing for myself moving forward.

Dog is available to stream on Spotify. The Dog album release tour ends July 28th. 

Rachel Barker is a writer / producer at VICE NZ in Aotearoa. You can find her on IG and Letterboxd @rachellydiab and see her film criticism on Youtube