Fresh from six showcases and a quintessential southern garden party at Austin’s tucked away enclave, Nite Jewel’s Ramona Gonzalez chatted with us on her first day back in Los Angeles. Already busy working on costuming for her tour (it kicks off next week in Boston) Ramona was candid and affable in her responses. Success suits her.
ELLE: This wasn’t your first year at a balmy SxSW; how’d this round treat you?
RG: We’ve been to SxSW two times before, and both times were pretty hectic. I really love Austin a lot, but SxSW is sort of an atypical experience of the city. This year was actually the best. It went really smoothly and was all around enjoyable, in large part because the band I have in place right now is really tight, and I’m taking more of a hands-free approach—playing less instruments and singing more.
ELLE: Did you have to work the whole time, or did you get to walk the streets and catch some of your favorite artists, or find a new musical obsession?
RG: It always happens that every year at SxSW I catch an artist that becomes a new favorite of mine, or someone that I find I have immense respect for. The second year I can remember it was James Blake, and this year I got to see this rapper Space Ghost Purp at the True Panther showcase we performed at. He played right after us, and he was really amazing. I’m definitely a fan now.
ELLE: You’ve lived in LA for quite some time now. Do you pull a lot of musical—or fashion— inspiration from the city?
RG: I actually think because I got my start being a young person in New York that’s where I’m probably still garnering most of my ideas from, although I have over the years acquiesced to certain things about LA. For instance, attention to health and beauty is really more apparent here than it is anywhere else, meaning looking really healthy, looking like you’ve been in the sun. It’s almost as if the clothes are less important than what’s actually going on with your skin and body. I actually have a make-up artist here, and we focus on hair and the appearance of skin, so that’s definitely something that is unique to living in LA.
ELLE: Do you enjoy being on tour and connecting with fans? And what kind of stage attire can fans expect this time around?
RG: I do! It’s really kind of this fortunate thing, a once-in-a-lifetime situation. I’ve always loved singing and performing for people and to get to do it in such a grand atmosphere makes me very lucky. We’re going for this Cher look on my oncoming tour—Cher from the ’70s—and my make-up artist was concerned about my lack of tan, so I got my first spray tan and realized that committing to that level of tan and aesthetic was so cumbersome. One would have to have no job to be able to pull this kind of look off! I think I’ll just go to the beach this week.
ELLE: Oh, tell us more about the ’70s Cher-like vision of the tour.
RG: We’re more trying to meld the aesthetic of the tour with the style of the album, and I really don’t want to be a fashion victim on stage. Suno is going to provide me with some designs, just really nice patterns and nice fabrics.
ELLE: On your new album, One Second of Love, there seem some very obvious themes woven through, love being one of them, but there also seems to be a little disorientation. Were there any particular experiences going on that really color the album?
RG: I guess it’s sort of darker than I expected, at least in comparison to a lot of albums that are coming out right now. I hear a lot of people using the term life affirming for the album, and I wouldn’t say that necessarily but I think it’s definitely inquisitive and a little scrutinizing. It explores concepts like love and how we stand culturally today with love.
ELLE: What is the writing process for you, and did it change a bit with this album, considering the product was much darker than usual?
RG: This writing process was slightly more in-depth and experimental than the last. There were several songs on the last album that were a bit painstaking, and I was trying really hard to push myself in a certain direction. Several songs on this album were spawned from improvisation, One Second of Love being one of them.
ELLE: Who was behind the choreography and the styling in the video to your title track? Particularly the Stepford-like spectators? It’s fascinating!
RG: (Chuckling) I was at the helm of the styling, and I got my friend to do the costumes. I really wanted the cult members, which is how I describe those women, to do a choreographed dance as well as appear pious in the midst of this really visceral dance. So it’s the combination of visceral feelings as well as restriction. My friend Allison, who is kind of a modern dance, yogi type, was able to create really out there choreography for the video. So really, the video was mostly inspired by the dancing at first, and the storyline took on a life of its own. It was just fun, and that was the point! We really tried to stuff the video with as many exciting visuals as possible. I was actually surprised at how strange people think it is. Its culled from a lot of experiences that are in my memory bank, and it doesn’t feel that weird to me. I guess I have a lot running through my head that is uncommon!