Monday, March 02, 2009

Nite Jewel

I'm not sure where I read about Nite Jewel for the first time, but ever since I first heard the track "Chimera" off of their stellar self released debut Good Evening, I was quite captivated with their sound-- something approaching a combination of the most minimal moments found in the Italians Do it Better catalogue and the spacey surrealism of Ariel Pink, all with an eye towards new romantic dream pop, disco, and 80's r&b and synth/dance pop (not to mention some noticeable early Euro electro influences).

Nite Jewel will be playing our free Gorilla vs Bear/We Shot J.R. Day Show on Friday, March 20th at Quack's Bakery, and the following interview is part of a continuing series you'll see on here for the next few weeks in which we talk with some of the more interesting bands coming through Texas for SXSW. Read it:

I've often read of Nite Jewel as the one person project of Ramona Gonzalez, but I've seen two people in some photos and you just referred to Nite Jewel as "us." Who's in the band and how are the band duties divided up (songwriting, playing live, etc.)?

The people in the pictures are me, Ramona, and my buddy Emily Jane. Nite Jewel began as solo recording project of mine. I recruited Emily for the live shows back in November. The other players are Cole M.G.N. as recording collaborator, DJ Whitemare as vinyl inspiration, and others. Songwriting is my task but everyone pitches in here and there.

So you're from LA, a city that has sort of emerged as an "indie hotspot" (for lack of a better term) over the past couple years, and a lot of it has centered around The Smell. Of course, more so that just about any other American city I can think of (other than maybe Dallas, coincidentally), people seem to have very extreme and often negative views about Los Angeles-- its plastic culture, its suburban sprawl, its crime, etc (I do also know people who absolutely love the city as well) What is your view on the city in general, and do you think that LA will continue to be fruitful ground for interesting music? It might sound crazy to ask such a question these days, but lets not forget that LA has had some pretty big dry spells in underground culture.

My experience is that I moved to L.A. because of its bad reputation. I had lived in New York, San Francisco, places that people love. I didn’t love those places when living in them full time. The people I knew were too hell bent on the myths or the history of the city to focus on their own endeavors. Not to mention the cost of living. Figured if no one wants to live in L.A., I’ll at least find somewhere cheap to rent. At that time I felt that L.A. was producing some of the most inspiring, fragmented, nostalgic, future-thinking, lonely experimental pop I had ever heard come out of my generation. So long as artists can continue to afford to live here this may perhaps continue to be the case. Emily is from L.A. originally so I am sure she has a completely different take on the situation.

So essentially, Nite Jewel creates dance or at least dance-leaning music that seems to take a lot of inspiration from synth pop, early german electro (kraftwerk, cluster, etc.) 80's funk and R&b, disco, and maybe even hip hop. A lot of the most popular music from these genres (other than perhaps the german stuff) is often recorded in a very glossy and highly produced manner, while you take the opposite approach, with lots of reverb and softness. Was this a stylistic choice that had some conceptual significance to you, or did you just like the way it sounded, or was it born out of necessity?

I think we are used to thinking that these genres you mentioned are recorded in a “glossy manner”, but actually that is a recent development. There is infinitely “lo-fi” hip hop, synth pop, R&B, etc. Moreover, many groups who worked within these genres in the past may have recorded in a studio, but with a strictly analog set up. For me, the stylistic choice is always going to be a matter of utility. I can’t go out and buy pro tools.

Not to get all gear dork on you, but can you tell us about some of the different tools and instruments you use to make your music?

I use a Tascam 238 cassette 8 track. I have several used synths and drum machines. At one point I had an incredible keyboard called an Elka OMB 5. Harry Merry inspired my purchase of that keyboard because “OMB” stood for “One Man Band”. I sold that keyboard to my friend Jack and now apparently Dangermouse owns it.

What led to your interest in making music in the first place, and what, from a standpoint of musical and artistic influences, led you to create the kind of music that Nite Jewel produces?

I am not sure why at age five I made the conscious decision to start studying music. The road to creation is even blurrier. Who knows when I started writing songs? I can remember times in my bedroom late at night recording songs a hand held tape recorder. I was like seven or eight. My memory of it seems like it was a pretty organic development. So I guess that’s what it continues to be…organic.

Not to get all school dork on you, but I read that Ramona is currently a philosophy student. What are some of your interests or focuses within philosophy, and does any of that side of your life have a tangible impact on your art and/or music?

Hopefully the goal in philosophy is to consider the discipline as a study through which you view your entire life.

Can you tell us a little about your work as a visual artist? Maybe describe a few recent pieces or tell us what kind of concepts you're interested in or mediums you like to work in? Maybe include a website if you'd like.

Emily says no comment.

So I've read that the Nite Jewel debut full length is scheduled to be re-released the week of SXSW. Can you tell us a little about making that record? Are you working on new material right now?

I recorded the songs on that record in my house from Jan 2008 to August 2008. My band of two years had just broken up in a fairly drastic fashion and my drummer/best friend left L.A. I guess I was somewhat upset, which led me to pursue my own stuff in an isolated way. I’m always working on new stuff. Otherwise what would I do for fun?

So I'll always wondered this-- from the perspective of a musician such as yourself, what is your motivation to play a festival like SXSW? I understand that exposure is obviously a big factor, but I often wonder what, specifically, bands hope to gain from playing SXSW showcases? Or do you just think its fun?

A bunch of people asked me to go.



Anonymous weird said...

doesn't night game have a song called "chimera"?

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nite jewel > night game cult

3:53 PM  
Anonymous nite court said...

you shouldve let all inhibitions go and just gone ALL DORK UP ON HER FACE.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous shane said...

night game cult > nite jewel

5:23 PM  
Anonymous plop said...


5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is someone actually trying to claim that nite jewel ripped off night game fart? ha

5:54 PM  
Anonymous yep.. said...

NGC > nite jewel

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

they seem like assholes

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nite jewel sucks dick...I saw them with Deerhunter and it was complete crap.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous interviewer said...

not to get all.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous interviewer said...

not to get all.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't trust anything with girls and "electronics" out of L.A. end of story.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Night Game is one of the only sincere things to come out of this area in the last decade.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree NGC is the real deal. Great art rock

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think thats true actually

5:07 PM  

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