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Nite Jewel on Aaliyah and a Bedroom Music Obscurity

Nite Jewel / Photo by Jake Giles Netter

In 2012, Nite Jewel mastermind Ramona Gonzalez took her project out of the bedroom and onto the dance floor with One Second of Love — metaphorically speaking, anyway. (She recorded at a friend’s house.) Formerly known for her wispy romanticism, One Second sashayed towards pop with its brassy, R&B-tinged vocals and glitchy hooks. With help from her husband and co-producer Cole M. Greif-Neill, Gonzalez is making sophisticated, sexy grooves for the post-everything generation. We gabbed with the Los Angeles-based Gonzalez at the SPIN House at the Ace Hotel + Swim Club in Palm Springs during Coachella’s first weekend about idolizing Aaliyah, make-out songs and dive bars.   

Aaliyah’s Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number
“It was one of my favorites which came out when I was a wee lass. I was so obsessed with that record. R. Kelly produced, so it’s like the best of both worlds: Aaliyah’s singing but R. Kelly producing, because I get sick of hearing his voice after eighteen tracks. But I’ll never get sick of Aaliyah’s voice. I bought the sheet music to a couple of the songs off that record and I forced my voice teacher to play them on piano so I could sing them. I don’t really remember where I was when she passed, but it was a tragic thing. I was definitely in high school, and Aaliyah was a big part of what I was listening to at the time. She still is, and I don’t think anybody has really come close to matching her swagger or voice. It was a big loss for the music community.”

Making Music
“I work on music every day pretty much, unless there’s some weird reason why I don’t. For me, it’s fun. Any time it feels like a job, it sucks, so you try to have as much fun as you possibly can.”

Nunzio Fattini
“Oh man. This is a really obscure reference, but there’s this guy named Nunzio Fattini. He’s like a bedroom musician in New York, and he’s older, in his forties. He had a project called Fanuelle, and it’s home recorded, MIDI-instrument lounge-y music, and on the surface it feels like it could be R. Stevie Moore or something. But when you listen to the lyrics, they’re super raunchy and sexual. It’s got this very easy-listening vibe but it’s sexy. You don’t want the make-out song to be something like ‘I want you girl in the back of the car.’ This is subliminal sex music. It sets in, you pounce, and you don’t feel too awkward because you know something is going down.”

Carl Jung
“It’s pretty nerdy, but right now I’m reading The Portable Jung. I don’t really read psychology. I mainly read philosophy. But for novelists, I like Nabokov a lot.  Phillip K. Dick, Borges, deep shit. I’m definitely a heady reader. Right now, this Jung is taking me for a ride. I like to read stuff that somehow explains my life and why it’s so insane. Something that sums it up so I can say, ‘Oh, that’s why I’m so crazy! Thank you for letting me know!’ I guess some novelists can do that too, but they’re usually the crazier ones who commit suicide.”

Her Husband
“My favorite Cole quality is how he can see bullshit in two-seconds flat. If you meet him, he can tell if you’re being fake instantly. It helps me, because I’m not very good at that. I’ll be like ‘That person seems really cool!’ and he’ll be like ‘Nah.’ I really trust his opinion about that. That’s a personality thing. A music thing [she likes] is his incredible ability to fuse genres really well, from being a beat maker to playing with Ariel Pink. He’s really good like that.”

Club Tee Gee
“It’s [a bar] in Atwater Village [Los Angeles]. I like places that are empty, have cheap drinks, aren’t too air-conditioned, and a bartender who doesn’t talk to me the whole time.”