Music

Nite Jewel’s Ramona Gonzalez on Her New Album, the Pitchfork Effect, and the Death of Shoegaze

Music

Nite Jewel’s Ramona Gonzalez on Her New Album, the Pitchfork Effect, and the Death of Shoegaze

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Ramona Gonzalez used to make bedroom music. It wasn’t music made for the bedroom necessarily, but rather, in it. Back then, it was just the L.A.-based musician and her 8-track, recording dreamy, hazy, and headphone-ready songs under the moniker Nite Jewel. One of those songs, “Suburbia,” ended up on her MySpace page, and shortly after in the movie Greenberg. There was an album (Good Evening) and EPs (Am I Real?, Want You Back). But that was then. Recently, her husband, the producer and musician Cole M. Greif-Neill, helped her develop her sound into what it is today: funky, synth-reliant pop. Gonzalez will debut that aesthetic this March, when Secretly Canadian releases her new album, One Second of Love (you can hear the hooky first single here.) We recently chatted to Gonzalez about label backing, the Pitchfork effect, and the death of shoegaze.

BULLETT: You’ve been reviewed and written about on Pitchfork several times. How important is that website’s coverage of you?

NITE JEWEL: Well, Pitchfork is really important to industry people, and since I have not been really in the industry—sort of like on the outskirts—it hasn’t really mattered to me. It started to become more important to the people who are on my team, which in turn makes it more important to me. I mean, I sort of see it as just taking the place of any major tastemaking magazine, you know? I never really read too much mainstream magazines. I definitely used to read The Wire, Skyscraper, the Village Voice, and I trusted those publications to give me the right music. They recommend music and it turns out that the kids who read the site like it so they keep reading it. And that’s good for the people who are reviewed well on their site, or even just covered. I didn’t even need to be reviewed well on the site. You just need to be covered. The fact that we’re covered on there is kind of like a huge gift to us because I feel like our shit is not super trendy or cool in many ways.

Is your husband one half of Nite Jewel? I thought it was just you.

Nite Jewel is me as in the moniker. Cole is like a producer and a musician. He’s been assisting me with my project since its birth. On this particular album that’s coming out now it was much more of a collaborative effort between him and I than the previous records.

Is he going to be on stage with you when you play live?

He has been. We’re sort of playing that by ear at the moment, because he’s really busy. We also have a life, and it’s hard for us both to be away from our life here.

You mentioned before that you’ve been outside of the industry. Is this album as your entry into an industry? 

Yeah, definitely. I mean it is just practically speaking.

Because you’ve got a proper label behind you now.

Yeah, I mean they are the industry. That’s who that is. So they’re putting it out. It was a decision that you have to make at one point, like, Do I want to be a part of this system or do I not? When you decide that, there’s no grey area.

What are some of the significant changes you’ve noticed that come with having a label behind you?

It’s nice. I used to have to do a lot of shit myself and it was kind of painstaking. When the CD format of Good Evening came out, my friend Jason Grier of Human Ear Music was supposed to put that out, but he had been putting it off for like months and months and months without telling me. He had never gotten it started and I didn’t know. And there was this time when all the CDs had to be shipped out to people. My friend Emily who was close friends with us at the time was like, “You know, Ramona, I gotta tell you, Jason never pressed anything.” That was stuff I was just used to, because nobody had any money, you know? And it wasn’t like these deadlines really meant anything to us. It’s just like, that kind of shit doesn’t happen anymore.

Is there a pressure now for the album to succeed because people are invested in it?

I think it’s a pressure for them but that’s not my problem. I’ve put my heart into it and that exists outside of any context of its monetary success.

So now that you’ve recorded in a full studio, how did that affect the sound of your music and the direction that it went?

I mean it’s just so different. I’ve recorded in studios before and I felt like I didn’t have ample control over the product, so I think that’s why I was so inclined to record on 8-Track at the time.

A lot of your older music borrowed heavily from shoegaze, but you seem to have eliminated all of that from your new sound. Is that because of your fancy new equipment, or is it simple evolution?

I think it’s both. I was really into shoegaze coming out of college, as most people are. I submitted my music to that sort of overall haze because it was something that really appealed to me at the time. I’ve sort of grown out of that. Shoegaze is really beautiful and nice, but it really has a place in history and I don’t think it’s necessary to keep recreating that style. I’m very conceptual and philosophically inclined, so I’m really interested in the idea of making music based on what you see for the world at the time, and I don’t think the world needs any more hazy music. The world needs some fucking direct shit and I’m doing it for the world and for kids and I’m also doing it for me because I don’t want to do that anymore either. It’s boring. It’s super nice to just be able to just fucking play on an 8-track and just drone the shit out of it and just mumble along. That’s super fun for a musician to do but you gotta move forward, you know?

How have you evolved as a vocalist?

I’ve gotten way better at singing over time. I’ve always been a singer in the context of scholarly stuff and jazz—which is just an entirely different thing because you’re never recording anything that’s solely performance-based. And so the recording process is just a whole different type of skill that developed over time.

What were you doing before you started making music?

I was studying philosophy at Barnard in New York, and then later in LA at Occidental College. I wanted to be a like writer of some sort, whether that meant being a professor and writing philosophical texts or being a critic of the philosophy of art. But I was really interested in aesthetics and the ontology artwork and things like that.

What are your tour plans for the record?

We’re doing this tour with Chairlift in March for a month, and I believe we’re going to Australia after that and then Europe, and then something.

If you had to make a tour rider, what are some things you would need to have on there?

Coconut water and whiskey. Not together. One after the other to complement the hangover. If I have those bases covered, I’m like, good.

Do you drink the whiskey before or after the show?

Whenever.