Nite Jewel - "Weak for Me/Suburbia"
Nite Jewel is one of our favorite artists of the last several years. Ramona Gonzalez's Nite Jewel recordings - starting with 2008's Good Evening through her latest, remarkable releases Real High and Obsession - offer rewarding listening for anyone appreciative of a bold, synth-based vision that welcomes a unique intersection of idioms including r&b, pop, dance, experimental music, and more. Nite Jewel's unflinching individuality over the past several years has consistently defied categorization, and cemented her credibility as an artist of authentic purpose.
One of our most treasured selections from the Nite Jewel collection is her 2009 vinyl seven-inch single featuring "Weak for Me" on the A side, and "Suburbia" on the flip side. And while we had no questions about why the songs continue to captivate our ears with their mysterious atmosphere, ephemeral vocals, and groove-grounded minimalism, we were curious about the background to this single. The Stones Throw website offers the following narrative, which certainly struck us as having more than a kernel of truth mixed with a dash of artistic license:
Dam-Funk first discovered Nite Jewel's now out-of-print full length album Good Evening (that these songs were pulled from) at Groove Merchant in San Francisco and bought copies for Peanut Butter Wolf and Folerio.
This story - with its inclusion of Dam-Funk and Folerio - only piqued our curiosity about this gem's history even more. Of particular interest for us was how the Nite Jewel/Stones Throw connection was made in the first place, and why the label for the release wasn't officially Stones Throw Records. We reached out to Nite Jewel herself as well as Stones Throw Records founder Peanut Butter Wolf, who were both kind enough to share some insights into these questions.
On How the Nite Jewel/Stones Throw Collaboration Came About:
PB Wolf: "I reached out to Ramona as soon as I heard her first album, and wanted to do an album with her. Dam-Funk and I loved the "What Did He Say" track, but really the whole album. I loved that she recorded it to 8-track cassette. I vaguely remember her cassette multi-track recorder broke, so I bought her another one and gave it to her. [I'm] not sure if she ever used it. I tried to sign her to Stones Throw and she wasn't really interested.
On The Release and Name of the Label, 1984:
PB Wolf: "I [had] started working with Cole [MGN]. I had him intern for me, digitizing my vinyl collection. Later, we went to a studio and tried to mix down [Good Evening] to re-issue it, and I forget why that never happened. About a year after that, I started releasing 45s under made-up label names and asked her if she was down. [It] wasn't really thought out. We just pressed it and sold it to a few stores."
Nite Jewel: "Stones Throw was thinking about doing an album with me, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work with them or not, so we decided to just do a single. Chris [Makanak, also known as Peanut Butter Wolf] asked what year I was born, and I said 1984. He said we’d just call it 1984 Records, which happens to be a good year for music, so I was down with it."
On the Sound of the 45:
Nite Jewel: "They actually mastered those tracks, so they’re a little more Stones Throw sounding than my album. They’re super hyped – like, fucking loud. I remember I told Chris it was insane, and he said, 'That’s what our DJs like to play.' So I said, 'alright, whatever you want!'"
The "Weak for Me/Suburbia" 45 is a brief and fascinating stop along the way of the important and evolving Nite Jewel and Stones Throw narratives. If you're lucky, you may be able to find one here.