Rising house star Nala delivered two sets at Outside Lands, then stopped by to chat about her growth and how she’s paving the way for women in music.
With roots in Miami and now LA, Nala is quickly becoming one of house music’s breakout stars. In 2020, she signed with Dirtybird Records and has worked closely with label founder Claude VonStroke, who gave her a platform to share her artistry. With tracks like “Everything Is Burning” and “Psychic Attack,” fans are loving Nala’s unique take on house music. The talented DJ and producer’s work stands on its own, and in 2022, she started her label, Mi Domina, with a focus on bridging underground house and punk rock sights and sounds and, most importantly, uplifting other femme producers.
Nala’s tracks and energy make her performances so much fun, but it’s the work she’s doing to make music more accessible to women and to push women in the scene that makes her even more of a powerhouse. She is living what she preaches by running a femme-dominated label and calling all female, non-binary, and trans producers to show us what they’ve got, encouraging them to step into their light. Nala says she likes to yell at people in her music as well, and everyone should listen. She has a lot of valuable things to say about women’s representation and the state of the industry.
To dive further into some of this, we got to sit down with Nala after her first set at Outside Lands. We dive into her growth over the past few years, how she’s spreading her wings, her influences, and her initiatives to push women forward. Press play on her latest single, and keep reading for our conversation!
Stream Nala with The Dandy Warhols and Debbie Harry – “IWNSLY” on Spotify:
You just played at SOMA Tent and have a set at the Toyota Music Den after…
Yeah, my Toyotathon set!
What is your mindset when you’re preparing for a festival set versus a more intimate DJ set?
You know, it depends on the festival. For Northern Nights, I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna be playing during the sunset, outdoors in a forest, I could get really experimental. I could play a lot of live music-influenced electronic music.” Whereas I stepped into this, and I was like, “Oh, we’re playing bangers only! We’re just gonna have to keep the energy high in here.” I played HARD last weekend on the Pink Stage; that’s the more underground house stage. So I tamed it down and a more underground house set. Either I’ll go into it knowing what to expect, or I’ll get there, like today, and be like, “Okay, bangers only.”
And then, how are you prepping for the Toyotathon set?
It’s 30 minutes, so I think I might just do all originals. Once I get there, I’ll get a better vibe for it, but I think I want to do all originals. I think I want to yell at people.
Yeah, that’s great! We featured you as one of our artists not to miss at HARD Summer, and you’ve had a packed summer. Looking back, what has been a moment you’re most proud of?
I’m just proud that this year, I’m really starting to see the fan base grow, and I’m really starting to see a lot of good turnout to all of the shows that I’ve been playing. For that alone, I’m just really excited because I’m like, “Yay! It’s working!”
I know! And your mentorship with Claude VonStroke is paying off, which is cool.
Yeah! I still contact him, and we talk maybe once a month, but at this point, I’m the butterfly, and I’ve spread my wings. So I’ve been doing this on my own. At the beginning of the year, I was really nervous. I was like, “Can I do it alone?” Because I got so codependent with having him as my mentor and guiding me through everything. Then I finally took my first few steps without him and was like, “Okay, no, I think I got it. I think we’re going to be okay.”
It’s definitely working; we have so many members of our team who are fans of yours. Switching to your influences, being from Miami, how does that influence your sound and style, if at all?
I think Miami’s influence is deeply electronic and house. I think that’s where I picked that up. The West Coast influences like that rock thing that I was exposed to – electro, rock, and that punk-influenced dance music – that’s what I picked up here. For me, it’s taking that and then throwing in tech house, house music, and techno and creating a blend between those two sounds.
It’s really cool, though, because you’re also influenced by punk rock and like the Riot Grrrl movement. So how are you interpreting the Riot Grrrl feminism in today’s era?
I just did a song with Debbie Harry, who was like the queen of punk. She was the matriarch, and so that’s one thing. I feel like that was a really big pinnacle moment. Then in my own music, I do a lot of yelling. I just yell at people. I’m very introspective about my experience as a woman or a person in general. And then I yell at people.
I love that everything you’re mentioning is just leading up to the things I want to talk to you about next because you have a remix competition right now with “Growth.” You put a call out for only female, trans, or non-binary entrants. Then you also have your femme-dominated label, Mi Domina. Obviously, representation is important, and it’s getting better within dance. Can you walk us through the initiatives that you’re working on to improve female representation?
There’s literally only 2.5% of producers who are female, which is mind-boggling to me, You know what I mean? I started this femme-dominated label, and I feel, at times, very limited in the demos I get because there are not many women. There just needs to be more opportunities for women to learn, and personally, I think there need to be more opportunities for people to support women. Production is a very collaborative experience. You don’t have to know how to do everything, but men know other men who are really great at producing and engineering and mastering.
So where are the women, right?
Yeah, like how can we apply these tools and what’s already available to us – and it’s primarily male – but to help women get their head start and get better. Claude VonStroke, fucking nailed it. He said, “I’m going to get a female producer, and I’m going to coach her and give her a mentorship where I can really lift her up, and help her get to that next level.” Because that’s the kind of initiative you need to give, just helping women, plucking them out into the abyss, and being like, ‘Okay, here’s your chance.’
Sometimes people just need a chance and someone that believes in them
Yeah, and access to resources to make it happen. Otherwise, we’re kind of stuck with mostly men. Especially with the stigma of women being that you’re sleeping with the person you’re working with… There’s always an excuse not to help women for some reason, whereas men are constantly being connected with engineers, mixing engineers, mastering engineers, and fucking ghost producers. Let’s teach women. Let’s give them the resources so that they can level up too. I mean, we are seeing a lot more women, but it’s still 2.5%.
Yeah, I totally agree. Even in just what we do, it’s always like, ‘What’s your motive? Like? Who are you trying to get on guest lists for?‘ For me, it’s like, ‘No, we take a lot of pride in promoting artists and the scene. I’m not here to be a fangirl.’
Right! There is just a very annoying stigma. I will say now, though, where I’m at in my career, it’s really fun encountering that and then just being very hardcore back and being like, “Fuck off. Like, oh, you think I’m a fan and a groupie?” It’s kind of fun to flex back now.
With that in mind, what are your goals with Mi Domina, say, five years from now?
Five years from now, I hope that the music that I’m creating inspires other women and also non-binary and trans people, literally anyone, even men, to just create music that infuses rock and electronic music. That’s the niche that I’m aiming for, and it’s, again, limiting; I don’t really know anyone doing it at the moment. So I hope that by the five-year mark, I can really start to build that community. I think people need to see it done first, and that’s where I’m currently. I have to show them that they can do it.
I think that the intersection between rock and dance music is so fun and tasteful, hype, or very sexy and smooth. I heard Ben Sterling; he played a Doors remix that was really, really cool. So I love that intersection, and it’s just about trying to get more people to do it so I could sign their records. That’s where I’m at currently.
I love that. How are you sourcing artists right now?
Honestly, at this point, I just put it out there that that’s what I’m looking for, and I hope that it resonates. Occasionally I’ll encounter some friends and women that I’ll try to piece things together with A&R staff, but we’ll see. Hopefully, soon I can put more stuff out!
Going back to your remix competition. What are you looking for once you get all of the entries?
I’m just looking for a song that I know is going to work at the club. That’s the main thing. I don’t care about the genre, just is it going to work at the club.
Amazing, I can’t wait to hear whoever gets released
I know, same!
Then last question. What is one thing that you’re obsessed with right now?
What am I obsessed with right now? I’m really obsessed with eating.
This is the best festival for that.
I heard, and I have not yet explored yet, but I’m gonna do it!