Oyster #99: Nite Jewel
"A lot of people don't have faith in women to be successful."
I first heard Nite Jewel (aka Ramona Gonzalez) back in April 2008. It was a lo-fi synth slow-jam called 'Lover', and it sounded just like driving through late-night LA — probably because Gonzalez lives there herself, in the quiet sanctuary that is Topanga Canyon. She recently released her second album, One Second of Love, and it has that same subtle quality that's seen 'Lover' survive many an iTunes cull.
Ariane Halls: Can you hear me OK?
Ramona Gonzalez: Yeah, I can hear you.
I'm sitting in a car stopped on a highway, so if a big truck goes past, you'll hear it. Just warning you.
You're sitting in a car on a highway?
I'm parked in a clearway. It's fairly legal.
But a truck might go past.
Anyway, I wanted to ask you about women in music, because sometimes I struggle to find female musicians that I want to write about. Why do you think there are so many more men than there are women in music?
Well, in general women were never… Before, say, the seventies — even when my mom was growing up, in the sixties and the fifties — you could do [music] as a hobby, but mainly, at least for my family, in the lower middle class, women were either technicians — typists or whatnot — or they were mothers. So, I guess it's taken future generations a while to recover from that perspective, at least in America. I still think there's a sense in which being a caretaker/mother … is something that we're taught we're naturally inclined to do.
Are there women in music — going as far back as the forties and fifties — that you're inspired by now?
Growing up I used to sing a lot of Billie Holiday songs, and I found her inspiring and also an enigma — she was this really gorgeous, seemingly pretty lonely character; super emotional and brave. And, as a woman, you don't… I mean, you think of women back then — doing what she did, it just seems unbelievable that she was able to do that. So, I definitely admired her when I was singing jazz when I was younger — junior high, high school. I look up to a lot of singers. Recently I was into Sade and her whole vibe. Watching interviews with her, she's just so unbelievably demure and classy. I'm not really like that, but I definitely find her to be pretty beautiful; her whole aura is really inspiring.
What about through the sixties and seventies?
I'm watching a lot of Stevie Nicks interviews, like the VH1 Classic Albums documentary on Rumours. She's pretty interesting 'cause to me she's, like, ultra feminine, but if you see her interviews she's kind of a badass. She doesn't really suck up to the industry at all — she's really her own person. She's just got a very unique delivery. It's rough around the edges, but she's just so incredibly beautiful at the same time.
I find that women tend to make music that is very melancholic. Aside from hip hop — people like Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks — it's always so serious.
That's interesting that you say that. God, I hadn't really thought about that. I mean, for me a lot of women make music that's really very uplifting, in a way. The girls that I'm listening to — it's dark, but it's still kind of life-affirming. I think about living in an American culture, and rappers back in the day who were expressing their situation living in America and being maligned — a lot of those albums happen to be very dark, 'cause they were living in a certain situation that wasn't extremely positive. And I think that with many women… well, we're maligned too, in many ways. A lot of people don't have faith in women to be successful, so I think that's maybe expressed in music.
I feel like there's a massive gap between people like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift and people like you, Nina Kraviz and Julia Holter. It's like there's no in-between — but maybe I'm just not listening to the right people.
Well, Taylor Swift isn't human, so you can't really use her as an example. She's not even… I mean, I was just reading an article about her, and it doesn't really seem like she has… Like, she might even be a psychopath. She has no empathy; she's just very much a robot. But I think there are a lot of pop musicians and singers who are wavering in between dark and light in a pretty successful way.
Photography: Cara Stricker