Having pushed herself for years with unrelenting passion and dedication to her craft, Nala is now expanding her influence with the launch of her own label, Mi Domina. Shaped in the scenes of Miami and L.A., Nala’s musical inspirations have come from a mix of underground genres that have tuned her sound to a unique blend of analog synths and ’90s punk vocals filled with elements of electro, house, indie dance and more.
With Mi Domina, Nala has put herself in control of the entire process of creating and releasing music which fits her distinctive ethos and energy without compromise, while exploring the “marriage between punk inspiration, bad-ass women and dance music.” Mi Domina is a place where Nala aims to feature femme punk behaviors and underground dance music while including all artists who blend talent, respect, and kindness.
The premiere release Get Familiar EP represents this concept with a “grungy, acid warehouse party feel” that takes you deep into the underground while also featuring Nala’s hypnotic vocals which encourage love and respect. Joining her on the release is E.R.N.E.S.T.O., a fellow Miami-based DJ/producer whose affinity for Miami bass and Chicago juke music blends seamlessly with the initial EP’s intentions.
The debut of Mi Domina is the latest move in a career that has been growing exponentially in recent years, supported by Dirtybird’s Claude VonStroke who was impressed by Nala’s sound and attitude, and has become her music manager and mentor. This year will see Nala traveling all across North America, where she will share her music at some of the industry’s biggest electronic music festivals and events. 5 Mag dives in with Nala to discover more about these latest developments and find out what keeps driving her into the future.
Nala photos by Russell Tandy
It seems like an exciting time for you in your career right now — how are you feeling with all that is happening?
Overall, I feel great. I think it’s hard for my brain to grasp what’s happening objectively, but I’m excited that it’s getting easier to pursue and release my creative endeavors. I feel like I’ve really found my niche, which is comforting as well.
I’d love to hear about some of your experiences in the underground music scene of Miami – what were some of the first influential moments that inspired your love for the music? how do you think that early atmosphere affected the way you work and play today?
The first moment I recognized the music industry was at a Red Bull Guest House event during Miami Music Week. I was about 19 years old at the time. Skrillex was playing for like 100 people. I was hanging out with influential artists from all sorts of mediums such as fashion and film for the first time in my life, and I really felt at home in that community. Soon after, I quit my job as a waitress and decided to pursue a career in music.
I always had an affinity for live alternative bands and bloghaus, so I spent a lot of my college experience going to Phantogram, Boys Noize, and Brodinsky shows. When I really started honing in on my sound as an artist, it was from that era that I would be most inspired.
What brought you to LA? How does the Southern California scene compare with Miami and what do you enjoy most about it? What is most challenging about it?
I was actually born in LA! I moved to South Florida in high school and Miami for college, but I always knew I wanted to go back to LA, especially since I was pursuing music. I felt I had a lot to learn and a lot of people to meet here.
I think when I was living in Miami, the underground music scene was just getting started. I was an intern for III Points in its first year. It’s since flourished, which is really exciting! After college, I felt like I needed to leave in order to grow, but I’m so happy to be going back as often as I do because Miami is a gorgeous place.
This was originally published in 5 Mag issue 201 featuring the making of Detroit Techno doc God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines, Ultra Nate, 10 years of Heist with Dam Swindle, Nala on Mi Domina & more. Support 5 Mag by becoming a member for at $2/month.
What has been the best part of connecting with Claude VonStroke and the Dirtybird family?
The best part about connecting with Claude is that he’s pushed me out of my comfort zone and given me the confidence to really reach for the stars as an artist and business owner. It was at his suggestion that I start my own label. He was the one to push me as a producer as well and overall, he taught me the importance of being self-sufficient.
As far as the DB family, I am just so lucky to have been adopted by an incredibly supportive community of artists. They’ve become a family to me, and it really helps when you’re navigating something as chaotic as the music industry.
When choosing who to work with, what are some of the factors that are most important to you?
When it comes to collaborations, I look for skill set and taste first, but the nail in the coffin is attitude. I don’t work with rude people or people with bad reputations. There’s simply too many kind and talented people out there. I don’t care about clout.
What were the biggest driving reasons behind wanting to create your own label?
I needed freedom to create and release music that fit my ethos. When working with other labels, I have to fit myself into a box. I wanted a place to explore the marriage between punk inspiration, badass women and dance music.
Did you know what wanted your first release to be for the label launch? What about the track selection and remix with E.R.N.E.S.T.O. represents your intention for Mi Domina?
The Get Familiar EP was the perfect start for the label. I knew the tracks were great, and it had that grungy, acid warehouse party feel to it that I was really looking for sonically. I am really happy with the cohesiveness of the EP, and E.R.N.E.S.T.O is a class act. A real talent and kind man.
What are the most important qualities that you want Mi Domina to have? What would you like it to be known for?
Working towards creating a marriage between femme punk behaviors and underground dance music. I don’t see this being an easy feat since there aren’t many artists who do this, so I’m working a lot on pairing up people from different backgrounds.
Do you think the industry has changed in its perspective on female DJs and producers? How has your personal experience been along your journey? What can still be done better by fans and peers?
If there’s been any change in perception, it’s been small and incremental. There will always be people who try to discredit women, and I don’t think that will ever change in my lifetime. Misogyny and patriarchal attitudes have been around for hundreds of years. I do think women are getting bolder, more confident, and louder. Families including fathers are raising daughters and encouraging the confidence and fearlessness to pursue these types of careers. That’s the real change I’m seeing, and that’s probably the only way things will continue to get better.
For myself, I always made it a point to advertise my expertise in an effort to avoid being discredited, and I work very hard and have done so for years. I’ve dealt with some pretty annoying behavior, but I never let it discourage me.
E.R.N.E.S.T.O. & Nala’s Get Familiar is out now on Mi Domina.