Interview: Nite Jewel Speaks On AOR In The Internet Age

Album-oriented rock has the unique distinction in the canon of recorded music as being the one genre that is not a genre, but instead a concept. In fact, not even a concept really, but a radio station format. Originally coined sometime in the 1970s, the AOR tag referred to tunes that didn't necessarily fit into a three-minute song structure, or weren't the record-label ordained singles. In order for DJs to play these songs, they had to rely on albums that were more or less good the whole way through and the ears of a progressively-minded audience. Somewhere along the way however, in a continuous thrust for growing ad dollars, radio programmers began guiding the AOR albums in rotation to ever mounting heights of slickness. Exit Pink Floyd, enter Kenny Loggins. By no means are we necessarily saying this is a bad thing, mind you.

This is Nite Jewel's slick AOR moment. Unabashedly so, in fact. Though in the case of her recently released album One Second Of Love on Secretly Canadian, this is AOR for the internet age. We rapped with Ramona while she was in a tour van somewhere on the road between Boston and Montreal. Read our interview with her below. And catch her live at the Bowery Ballroom in New York on April 24th, or on RBMA Radio shortly thereafter.

In a way, your new record seems like the pinnacle or culmination of the sound trajectory you’ve been on since Good Evening. I mean, within your career, you started with extremely lo-fi but danceable pop, and over the course of your last few EPs have gradually added production value along the way. And your voice keeps coming more and more to the forefront.

Well, I wouldn’t say it’s the pinnacle, but it’s a sound I’ve always wanted to do. I mean, at least three of the songs on One Second Of Love were written during the Good Evening era, so they were ones I always wanted to put out. Then I jammed with Cole [Cole MGN of The Samps, Ramona's husband and co-conspirator] on a couple for this record, and then I wrote another third of it entirely by myself. And of course, it was all done in a studio this time so it’s got a much different sound than Good Evening.

It’s funny that you mentioned that, because in other press I’ve seen surrounding this album, people seem to make a point of bringing up that the album was recorded in a studio as opposed to at home, lo-fi style. Which is just weird when you think about it: like lo-fi is so ingrained in the current culture that you have to bring up the fact that someone makes a professional record these days.

I know! That’s exactly why I wanted to do it this way this time though. I always want to do what people won’t expect from me. I’ve always been that way, and it’s just my approach to my life and my art. Which is why I wanted to just make this album super clean and bring out all my AOR instincts.

But this album started out as a krautrock record originally, right?

It started out as an instrumental electronic record. It was kind of some ambient, kraut-y thing that Cole and I were working on by just doing long 15-minute jams. And over time, I just started adding some vocals. “One Second Of Love” was the first vocal idea that popped into my head and it just stuck. Cole and I are working on the instrumental versions for a release sometime soon.

Nite Jewel - One Second of Love

And the title, One Second Of Love, that you were just talking about refers to something, right? Can you explain it a little bit?

Well, “one second of love” refers to the way humans interact in this day and age. It’s like one second of everything because of the internet and all that. I’ve been in the music industry for like four years and I’ve witnessed it personally in the way that relationships can be so intense, but at the same time so short lived. Even some of my best friendships kind of operate under this system. Or even how artists now rise so fast online out of nowhere, and then disappear. And they have to do so much work to keep relevant and keep their name out there. Like there was that talk Christopher Weingarten gave [of 1000 Times Yes] talking about Hype Machine and Twitter - which I didn’t even know what Hype Machine was at the time. I forwarded the clip to my manager, lawyer and booking agent, and said that they needed to see this to understand what I was doing. After they watched it, they just told me I needed to chill out. And I was like, "screw you assholes!" But anyways, yeah, the album title just basically references this whole modern way of interaction.

I really wanted to create a fantasy because that’s what I love about the music that I grew up on.

Yeah, it’s very hard to stay outside of that mindframe as a musician. And still sell records or whatever.

It’s so hard. You know, there is basically only one person I know who does it really well, who doesn’t play the industry game too much and doesn’t shout really loud and whatever. But who also has total street cred at the same time, and that’s Peanut Butter Wolf.

Totally agreed. But in general, what does this "one second" theory mean for putting out records?

I don’t know. I really don’t know. You can’t think about that without getting really depressed. [laughs]

Well, it’s interesting too because it seems like even music consumption falls under the “one second of love” theory. Like how easy it is for me to go and download Ed N’Sted off a blog or something. Like a musician’s references, which change every second, are more important than the actual music.


And regarding your references, you’ve got an insanely obscure record collection. And a friendship to Whitemare, which I’m jealous of.


But I found it intriguing that despite all these crazy influences you have, you went with a record that was more...


Yeah, in a way. If you count Steely Dan as straightforward.

Well, to be honest I don’t think it’s that straightforward. In a way, it’s packaged like that and it’s recorded cleanly, but the actual songs are a bit twisted.

And your image is a bit twisted. Or different this time around.

That is true. I never used to wear makeup, like during the Good Evening era and what not. For this record though, I really wanted to create a fantasy because that's what I love about the music that I grew up on.

And a diva is your fantasy this time around?

Not a diva. More like an anti-diva. A woman who’s masculine and feminine at the same time, and can be aggressive if she wants to. Or not.

So, after this tour wraps up, what are your plans for the remainder of the year?

After this tour, Cole and I are doing this kraut rock concert in LA...

For the dublab dudes?

Yep, exactly. Then we’re going to head over to Europe and Australia for another couple of tours. Then I still have this project I’m doing with DâM-FunK.

Haha! Nitefunk. Long overdue. I didn’t even want to mention that.

We’ve got so many songs together, we just need to sit down and finish it.

By James Singleton on April 2, 2012

On a different note