Ramona Gonzalez journeys through the music scene as the enchanting pop artist, Nite Jewel. She has been releasing music since 2008 as a solo act, though she has been an essential member of many fantastic collaborations as well, such as Nite Jewelia (with Julia Holter) and Nite Funk (with Dâm-Funk). Now she’s back with a new record titled Real High, which draws from tunes she crafted as early as six years ago–and there are still more songs from that era that have yet to be released!
Read all about her new record and what’s in store for Nite Jewel after her tour in our exclusive interview below. And be sure to download the Thrillcall app in order to enter for a chance to win tickets to her tour! See the list of tour dates below.
Thrillcall: Nite Jewel and Ramona Gonzalez are two separate characters, in a sense. Are the two personas discrete?
Ramona Gonzalez: Nite Jewel and myself share some characteristics in common but the project is also a vessel for me to express certain things that I wouldn’t necessarily say in my personal life. Like Nite Jewel and I have a tendency to be funny and sardonic and a little bit of a fierce bitch, but then on the other hand, what I don’t show personally is this other side, the vulnerable one. Nite Jewel, especially on this latest record, is sensual and feminine. Not normally how people would describe me in my daily life. I could see doing lots of other projects. There are so many sides to me that have yet to be revealed creatively.
TC: Real High is your fourth LP, but it has been gestating since 2012. Your last record, Liquid Cool, was in a similar predicament before its release last year. Could this mean that there are even more Nite Jewel demos to be dusted off for a future release?
RG: I actually have another album in a folder on my desktop that says “New Album LOL” because it is full of demos from around 2011-2012 that are in a completely different style than either Real High or Liquid Cool. I write a lot constantly. A lot of songs come to me in like an hour. So because of that I have a lot of backlog of music. Sometimes, in the case of Real High, I write an album over the course of a really long time (6 years!) and sometimes in the case of Liquid Cool or Good Evening, it comes to me in like a matter of months. It just really depends on the point of the album. Real High is a very emotional and personal record, so I had to take great care with it.
TC: Genres in general are difficult to assign to your music and you have been outspoken against the term ‘pop’ and other too-vague terms that the industry uses. Without using any genre terminology, how would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it?
RG: I don’t describe my work. The reason is this; whenever an artist makes something, it is like they are bringing something into existence. Frankenstein, however you want to think about it. They put the pieces together, sometimes successfully or unsuccessfully. But the term “I’ve created a monster” is just the point. Once you create something you have no power over how the thing will live out that existence or how people will perceive it. That is up to others.
TC: You mentioned in an interview with Drunken Werewolf that part of the reason for the delay was that the record felt “too maximal” for a Nite Jewel release. Can you explain what Nite Jewel’s sound is to you?
RG: Yes, I felt the production of the record when I previously finished it in 2013 was too overwrought, too many unnecessary layers and effects covering up for the fact that I didn’t know what I wanted. I think that minimalism is a strength, and it doesn’t mean that you have to only use 8 tracks but it can also mean (like you mentioned) perceived minimalism. I believe that minimalism sounds like confidence. And when the songs are there, you don’t need all 100 tracks of reverb muddying everything up.
TC: You are not an overtly political figure, though you consider all of your music to be political given who you are and how you choose to create. Do you think you’ll find yourself writing more directly about our current political landscape?
RG: I grew up in a very political household and community. My dad is a Mexican immigrant who fought in the Chicano resistance and my mother was born to communist Jews who were under investigation for their political activities by the FBI. I’m no stranger to political action. I am also no stranger to struggle as I grew up quite underprivileged. That being said, every bit of my existence is by definition a political action. As a woman, as a mixed-race person from a lower class background. But furthermore, I don’t think it is possible to live a non-normative life or make non-normative art. Someone is always saying something political with their work, whether they are making feel-good music from a place of privilege or overtly activist work from a place dissimilar to that. It all speaks to something. For worse or for better.