Yes, Nite Jewel's Ramona Gonzalez appreciates strangeness.
While making her 2008 debut, Good Evening, Gonzalez held recording sessions in her living room as well as a friend's residence. And that's how the songs sounded -- lo-fi, sweet, strange.
She applied that same approach to her latest record, One Second of Love, recording in the same kind of non-professional spaces. But curiously, the new album turned out nothing like its predecessor. Still sweetly strange, though.
Meanwhile, as she's toured to build the Nite Jewel name, Gonzalez has unsurprisingly played a variety of strange shows over the years. And before her band hits Bardot for a show on Thursday night, we chatted with Gonzalez about a sushi joint show in Fresno, playing a house party for horny gutter hippies, and doing drugs with a hoarder in Oklahoma City.
Crossfade: When you spoke to Rolling Stone in 2010, you talked about printing up Good Evening and gaining a lot of attention in Europe. Some of it happened within the States too. And there's a story in Fresno that you mentioned where you guys played a sushi bar.
Ramona Gonzalez: Tokyo Gardens!
Yeah. How did these people get into Night Jewel? And why did they set you up in a sushi restaurant?
OK, so ... You know, in California, there's a huge stretch of highway that goes through the farm country and Fresno is right in the middle of that. It's a highly Latino community there. And because I'm Latina, they really wanted to bring me to Fresno.
Fresno is not brimming with cultural landmarks. And these boys really, really wanted Nite Jewel to play. But the only space that would have these boys arrange the show is this sushi restaurant that has a stage, which is bizarre to me. Is it a karaoke-type thing? I have no idea. But we played with this fucking guy from Acid Mothers Temple.
It was the weirdest thing ever, because here we're playing our little lo-fi dance-pop jams or whatever in this sushi restaurant and all these little dudes are so excited and happy. There's, like, eight of 'em, and they're the only people there to see us. And then afterwards, it's this psychedelic Japanese master, who is playing at a sushi restaurant in Fresno, and he's from Japan. The whole thing was so crazy.
The other funny thing was just kind of a small detail. But it's so funny. In our rider, we had hummus and pita and carrots or whatever, y'know? I guess they really skimmed the rider and they just really wanted to fulfill something. So we got to our hotel room and there were two huge, quart-sized Whole Foods containers of hummus. Nothing else.
Not even some carrots or celery or anything?
Nothing. It was, like, the weirdest shit. Maybe there was, like, one chip or whatever. But it was just an overwhelming hummus thing. Like, "Whoa!"
How did you feel about that experience two days later?
I'm happy about all that. Shows that are superunderground and really random are always, to me, the payoff of being a band. It can be a pretty entertaining experience. I've just had a lot of experiences like that.
When we were in Norway, Liquid Liquid headlined the show. I'm a huge Liquid Liquid fan and it turns out [vocalist] Sal P's a Nite Jewel fan. Of course, no one in the audience gave a shit that Nite Jewel was there, because everybody was there to see Liquid Liquid.
But afterward, I gave Sal P my hotel number and he comes over and we do acid together and just talk about New York all night. I'm just like, "Who the fuck cares if there was no audience to see my show? I'm hanging out with Sal P. Whatever." You know what I mean? Those kinds of experiences are super-duper rewarding.
Would you say that the Tokyo Gardens one was the weirdest show you've ever played?
Dude ... I mean, I don't know. We played some pretty weird shows. [Laughs] We played in Portland at this house party of gutter hippies who were, like, freaking each other and taking off their clothes to our songs.
We played in Oklahoma City at this club that had no heating in the dead of winter, and there was, like, two people there, and then I went around the corner and there was this brimming club. It was fully heated and there were all these people doing tons of drugs.
We ended up staying with a guy that night who was a hoarder. We had to sleep in this guy's house who was a hoarder. It was pretty crazy, and me and the dude just ended up doing coke all night and listening to Miles Davis and talking about jazz.
There's been so many crazy experiences. I'm just sort of scratching the surface right now.
-- Reyan Ali