Reality may bite at the movies, but for Lisa Loeb it's rather nice. Until recently she was an unknown singer with an unsigned rock band, playing New York City clubs by night, toiling at temp jobs by day. With the release of the movie Reality Bites, however, she can now walk into any record store, pick up a copy of the film's soundtrack, and point to her band's song, ''Stay,'' sandwiched right there between the Posies' ''Going, Going, Gone'' and U2's ''All I Want Is You.''
''On the one hand, I feel really lucky because this was a great break,'' says the petite 25-year-old from Dallas. ''On the other hand, I feel like I've been working really hard.'' And living near the right people. Loeb's Greenwich Village neighbor happens to be Reality Bites star Ethan Hawke. It was Hawke, a fan of Loeb's band Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories (named for a book by J.D. Salinger)-who gave a tape of their folk-rock music to director Ben Stiller. ''It was one of those great experiences where the song was written totally independently of the film and happened to be exactly what the film was about,'' says Stiller. Adds Loeb, ''I'm just excited they chose something because they liked it and not because it's popular commercially.''
Well, at least not yet. RCA, the soundtrack's label, wants to sign the singer (who has been compared to Suzanne Vega) and plans to promote ''Stay'' as a single. ''There's an endearing, heartbreaking quality to the song,'' says RCA's senior VP of A&R, Ron Fair. So what are the chances of other unknowns winding up on a major film's soundtrack? ''Nil,'' says Fair, without hesitation. Unless, of course, Ethan Hawke is a fan.