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Breaking: Nite Jewel

January 13, 2010 12:00 AM ET

Who: Ramona Gonzalez's bedroom electro-pop project. In just one year Nite Jewel has gone from generating sound tracks for Los Angeles art galleries to touring European festivals on the strength of her lo-fi debut Good Evening. After early experiments in rock ("I was imitating some certain style, like trying to be Grace Slick," Gonzalez tells Rolling Stone), Gonzalez gained the support of the flourishing indie scene that revolves around Los Angeles' the Smell venue — and her husband Cole Greif-Neill, a guitarist for Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti — and started the more personal Nite Jewel.

Sounds Like: Eighties pop princess Lisa Lisa hooking up with German ambient crew Cluster instead of Cult Jam. Nite Jewel combine warm synths, Eno-esque landscapes and old-school recording techniques — Good Evening was recorded entirely on eight-track cassettes — on an LP that is intimate yet cavernous, classic new wave yet cutting edge.

Vital Stats:

• Gonzalez began Nite Jewel while balancing her music with her undergrad studies in philosophy. In fact, her first East Coast shows went down during Spring Break. "I was writing my thesis at the time. I was finding there is this push and pull between music and school, and then the live show was kind of karaoke," Gonzalez tells RS "I wasn't committing to music fully back then. And now I am. So I feel much more at peace performing now."

• Despite only self-printing 1,000 copies of Good Evening, a sudden wave of blog hype helped Nite Jewel secure a European tour where Gonzalez found herself playing in front of hundreds. That overseas success hasn't quite translated to the States — yet. "We were in Fresno, or "the Frez" as we call it, and these kids were just so excited to see us, they were like, 'Nite Jewel's the next big thing, man! We can't wait for you to play… blah blah blah," Gonzalez tells RS. "They were giving us a hotel and money, and we were just like, 'Wow, this is amazing.' And we ended up playing for like, seriously, five people in a sushi restaurant. And I don't know if those five people were there to see us, or if they were there to eat."

Good Evening's standout tracks include the fuzzy, funky "What Did He Say," the atmospheric ballad "Universal Mind," the bouncy Neu!-wave track "Artificial Intelligence" and closer "Lover," a cover of Roxy Music's insanely obscure contribution to the Miami Vice soundtrack. "That's a song that I was listening to religiously during that recording process, it's just a great studio jam," Gonzalez says of "Lover," which was introduced to her by her record crate-diving friends. "It's on the Miami Vice soundtrack, which I was sort of bummed out about, I was like, 'Aw, naw man, these people don't think I'm doing this '80s throwback thing, I hope! I didn't mean to do that!' But the original track is out of control. It's just beautiful."

Hear It Now: Gonzalez is currently holed up in a Los Angeles studio — with better recording equipment — working on new material, and Nite Jewel will embark on their first proper East Coast tour in February. Until then, visit her MySpace and check out the video for "Lover," directed by Travis Peterson, above.

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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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