Nite Jewel is such a well-tailored moniker for LA based synth fetishist Ramona Gonzalez and her dark gem hued disco pop. Not that it’s all in a name, Gonzalez, who counts multi-media artist and a degree in Philosophy among her many accomplishments, is a musician who really exudes cohesion and consistency–characteristics that reflect a real self-cultivated point of view.
Since spearheading the project a few years ago as a solo act, Nite Jewel morphed into a trio, ratcheting up the production with some studio time for their forthcoming record. The Secretly Canadian signed project recently shared the “She’s Always Watching You” 7″ via Yours Truly’s new label Love Letters Ink which physically drops in December. Meanwhile, Nite Jewel is hitting up Glasslands in the post-CMJ zone on Novemeber 2nd, so I exchanged a few questions with Ramona about the genesis of her electronic obsession, the influence of philosophy, and that awesome voice of hers.
When you first got into ‘electronic’ instruments and playing around on a synth, how long after that did you begin to write and record your own work? Did you get into beats and synths with the idea of becoming a recording artist or did you just want to play around at first?
I had been recording for years before that, in particular while in college in NYC, so the idea of becoming a recording artist was already instilled in my mind. Not to mention the fantasy of being a singer that I had had since I was a kid. So when I got my first synth, the idea was to get something that could formally help me write.
I had trouble writing simply on electric pianos or pianos because to me the idea of being a Cat power-type, singer/songwriter artist was dull to execute (I don’t find it dull to listen to, however). I was too obsessed with music with bigger productions than that. So I guess the answer is that the synths became an avenue to realize my music in a way that I had not achieved on previous recordings.
“It Goes Through Your Head” sounded like a real turning point for Nite Jewel, especially how your vocals are showcased. In earlier recordings you couldn’t hear it that clearly, are you attained singer? You sound like a serious diva on those singles.
I’m somewhat trained yes, I mean, I started taking voice lessons at age 5 from a woman who used to sing with Bobby McFerrin. When I say I’m “somewhat” trained, I mean I am trained in a very particular style that spawned out of jazz into something more contemporary that incorporates world music, jazz, and pop. But I am not trained in the sense that I took classical voice lessons, singing the highest note possible in stilted italian prose. I couldn’t stand that shit. So stale.
I love divas. I used to sing along to Janet Jackson’s and Mariah Carey’s records non stop as a kid. I still do, actually.
You studied philosophy in college and you’re a pretty recent graduate. Do you feel like the material you studied in school had more influence on your music when you were still in school or have those ideas and inspirations followed you outside of university walls?
Yes I do. When I wrote some of the songs for “Am I Real?” I was seriously in thick of it. Some of the “Good Evening” tracks too, have a little tinge of that feeling. It never goes away though. That’s the thing about philosophy, once you crack that part of your mind open, you can never go back to being blissfully ignorant. I think the new album certainly carries on in that vein for certain tracks. But with me, I always like to strike a balance between deep philosophizing and carrying on about love.
I read that your next record was recorded with the full band in a proper studio, is that true of ” She’s Always Watching You” 7″ that’s coming out in December or am I speaking of an entirely different recording? What was the biggest relief for you recording in a studio?
“She’s Always” was recorded in the same studio as the rest of the songs that will be on our next record, for the most part. The songs were recorded in a lot of different stages in a few different places, including our home studio. It’s polished budget pop. I love recording in a studio with an engineer and producer and a bunch of musicians. I love just being able to write and sing and play keyboard and leave the rest to everyone else. It’s a dream.
Has anyone ever dedicated the song “To Ramona” to you? If not you should make up a story about that.
Bob Dylan. I think that song was meant for me, actually.
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