The Jewels began as an ongoing late-night conversation: while on the road for two years as the touring rhythm section for various artists, bassist Derek Nievergelt and drummer Adrian Harpham spent endless hours on buses and planes philosophizing about the ideal record. They talked about David Axelrod, Quincy Jones, and the Beastie Boys. They talked about Led Zeppelin, P-Funk, and Paul McCartney. They talked about soundtracks to 60s sci-fi, 70s soft porn, and 80s cop shows. Already transitioning from life as a gig monster to producing and writing, Nievergelt realized he had a mission: to turn this philosophizing into reality.
The Jewels is the culmination of that mission.
Most of the tracks took shape based on a story or sketch. They weren’t really songs until they suddenly were. The premise of one? “Lost in the woods in nice shoes.” The core trio of Nievergelt, Harpham, and guitarist Al Street hashed out the ideas on a first take, and then the second take was it. They didn’t do third takes. But it’s not just the bass-drums-guitar trio that makes the The Jewels sound like a lost gem uncovered in a flea market at the edge of the world. Sure, there’s buzzing amps and plenty of tape hiss, but there’s also the shimmer of a Wurlitzer organ, live string and horn parts, modular synth, even a waterphone and a marxophone.
Whatever it takes.
That was the operating principle.
The analogue gear gives The Jewels a beautiful, old, warm sound. Sometimes the warmth of the sound is literal: if you listen closely you can hear the chatter of birds from recordings made with the studio door open one hot day. But despite the slinky vintage groove, Nievergelt employed the full range of technology, from 1930 to 2019. The trick was to balance human spontaneity with technical complexity—to capture the sparks created by live collaboration but not shy away from adding color and texture and vibe. As a result, there are plenty of aural Easter Eggs to discover—the record is made for repeat listening.
Nievergelt is glad it took over six years to make this album. Because music is about a lot more than hitting the right notes; it’s about getting the right feel. And the gloriously dirty feel here does justice to all the amazing musical collaborators who made it possible.
This is the record Nievergelt always wanted to make.
With its laidback openness, its refusal to be defined, and its dirt, The Jewels is the perfect soundtrack for all your quirks, whatever they may be.
released June 14, 2019
Derek Nievergelt: Bass, Piano and Vocals
Al Street: Guitar
Adrian Harpham: Drums and Percussion
Karlie Bruce: Vocals
Raed El Khazen: Guitar
Yusuke Yamamoto: Organ and Synth
Eliot Krimsky: Synths
Dave Cole: Drums
Jason Mills: Percussion
Joel Hamilton: Guitar, Percussion, Synths
Jay Rodriguez: Tenor Sax solo on J’habite à New York
Michael Jinno: Organ
Marco Cafolla: Organ and Clavinet
Dave Towers: Tenor Sax
Scott Walker: Trumpet
Jonny White: Alto Sax
Cover Image: Markus Linnenbrink excerpt of LESJOUERSDESCARTES 2018 c-print, pigments, epoxy resin on wood
Inside Photograph By Monica Frisell Sleeve Design by Ashleigh Nichols