The Fearless Nite JewelWritten by Nicole Trilivas
Photos by Brian Stevens
Nite Jewel is LA’s Ramona Gonzalez. Her moniker comes from a song by obscure synth group Nimbus Obi. Since her critically acclaimed 2008 debut, the LP Good Evening, Gonzalez has been classified as minimalist bedroom pop, bright disco, ’90s R & B, indie funk, and ’80s synth. These blends don’t often flavor together, but Nite Jewel pulls it off—mysteriously and bravely.
Nite Jewel’s polished sophomore release, One Second of Love, is a tighter and glossier evolution from the lo-fi sound of Good Evening, captured on an eight-track cassette recorder.
With some UK tour dates looming just around the corner, Nite Jewel spoke to me about what to expect from her live shows, her artistic and recording process, and her fearless ability to blend highbrow and lowbrow.
Nicole: What was your inspiration or the muse behind your latest release, One Second of Love? Is there any one event, person, place, time, or theme that induced the birth of Nite Jewel’s sophomore album?
Ramona: Originally One Second Of Love was meant to be a hi-fi, instrumental electronic album. [My husband and bandmate] Cole and I bought a reel of tape and went to a friend’s studio in northern California and recorded a bunch of improvisations on synth, guitar, and bass. Over the course of several months we returned [to the studio] three to four times and started to chip away at the material, which eventually gave way to a host of vocal-driven songs. It was sort of like an Another Green World process.
Nicole: You notably recorded Good Evening on an eight-track cassette recorder—an old school technique that gave the LP an authentic, lo-fi, fuzzy, and unique feel. Did you use any similar techniques in recording One Second of Love?
Ramona: No, we recorded on two-inch tape and Pro Tools for One Second Of Love.
Nicole: Tell me about your artistic process. What comes first, the music or the lyrics? Do you sit down with the purpose to compose, or do you wait for inspiration to strike? Do you work with your band or on your own at first?
Ramona: I work on my own or with Cole. Each song manifests itself differently; sometimes I will take a certain approach in order to bring about results, but usually an idea just pops into my head.
It’s that ability to not take your high or lowbrow qualities too close to heart and always be able to bend and switch them and knock them up against each other. That means you’re never too sacred with anything.
Nicole: One of my dreams in life is to have a song named after me. Tell me about the song “Clive.” Is it named after someone? It’s incredibly beautiful, dreamy, and soft—though the lyrics are somewhat indiscernible.
Ramona: “Clive” was inspired by a man who suffered from severe short-term memory loss.
Nicole: The title track, “One Second of Love,” makes me want to dance! I read that your mother was a dancer and that you were obligated to dance in her classes. When’s the last time you danced the night away, and which band/what kind of music were you listening to?
Ramona: I did a bunch of dancing at my record release party, both onstage and offstage (with DāM-FunK DJing).
Nicole: What was the first piece of music you ever purchased?
Ramona: I can never remember exactly, but I am pretty sure it was a cassette by Warren G.
Nicole: What was the most recent piece of music you purchased?
Ramona: I purchased an LP by the Vels recently.
Nicole: Your songs can vary greatly in terms of style and pace (a testament to your diverse talent). What can your fans expect from a Nite Jewel live show? Are your shows high-energy, or are they chill and mellow? Are you a mover and shaker or do you stay on the keyboard?
Ramona: It’s a blend of both energies, though we don’t lean too heavily on the ballads. The band is tight and rhythmic, and I dance around a lot.
Nicole: Your band includes your husband, Cole MGN (former guitarist of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti) who assisted you with the Good Evening LP. How did you two first connect, and when did you go from collaborators in art to partners in life?
Ramona: We started as artistic collaborators back when we both lived in New York in 2004-2005. We formed a band together and did a bit of recording. It was sort of love at first sight, but we didn’t establish a formal relationship until about a year or so after we met.
Nicole: In an interview you once called Anna Domino “elegant but still playful,” which I thought was an apt description of Nite Jewel. You don’t seem to take yourself too seriously. Do you agree? Why is this “playfulness” important in your music?
Ramona: A lot of art that I enjoy is multilayered and ironic. It can be humorous and sad all at once and in this way “playing” with the listener and making him/her think. I think that kind of artist knows not to take things at face value and likes to challenge the idea that music has to be under restriction. In the case of Anna Domino, she is able to take a slithery, silly synth line and recontextualize it in the form of a highbrow sound. It’s that ability to not take your high or lowbrow qualities too close to heart and always be able to bend and switch them and knock them up against each other. That means you’re never too sacred with anything.