Chatting With DRAMA About Music, Food, and Style
Na’el Shehade and Via Rosa AKA DRAMA are a duo out of Chicago. They combine Via’s vocals and in-your-face songwriting with Na’el’s catchy electronic production. The two have created a sound all their own where emotion combines with dance in the best way possible. The group played a mid-afternoon set at the Park Stage at Mamby on the Beach. Via dressed in a short colorful dress with her signature blue hair and shiny chandelier earrings that sparkled in the sun. Na’el wore a lively blue button-down. Their set brought people from across the park as Na’el’s beats paired perfectly with Via’s angelic and soulful voice. We caught up with this dynamic duo following their set to get to know what makes DRAMA so unique.
Sensible Reason: Your set was awesome. You were pulling people from afar.
Via: Thank you! I saw this couple in the distance, and they must have known who we were but didn’t know we were playing because they came running with their hands up to the stage. They got front row, he was holding his girlfriend and singing the songs. They ran to see us, it was really cool.
SR: You described the story of how you met when you were on stage, can you do that one more time for our readers?
V: We met at the studio. My friend was working with [Na’el] at the time and she was really young. I had to go to her mom’s house to meet her mom so I could pick her up and take her to the studio sessions. They were working and she would always be like “You gotta work with Via!” and I didn’t really care because I was working with someone else at the time making stuff at the time. A year later there was finally time. He told me he was going to make some beats and to write a song. I wrote half of it at my house and half of it on the way to the studio, I was really nervous. When we got to the studio, we made 4 songs that night and he was like “I want to start a band.” A week later he already had the name and hit me up. When I came to rehearsal it was just us. He said “you’re going to sing and write, I’ll do everything else,” and the rest is history. Now we’re on tour and it’s magical.
SR: You have a lot of songs about love. What is your opinion on love? Is it forever, is it magic, is it a waste of time?
V: My definition and theory of love change every day, but I think that nothing lasts forever and you got to find the crazy person you’re willing to put up with and figure it out. Love is whatever you want it to be, you and that person, you and other people, you by yourself. Everyone has to come up with their own definition. Whether it be 2 weeks, 2 months, or a year, you have to appreciate it for what it is.
SR: I’m in a committed relationship with my cat.
Na’el: Welcome to the club, man.
SR: Your lyrics aren’t exactly cryptic.
V: I’m literally talking to myself [when I write].
N: It’s like Drake and Sade, straight and to the point
SR: What is it like being so transparent in that writing process?
V: I honestly don’t think about it at all. I never went to therapy ever in my life, so music has been my therapy. If I ever feel confused about a certain situation I sit down and hopefully there’s a beat that can speak to me enough to want to speak back. I just kind of talk myself through these situations. Is it me, is it them, is it the people around us telling us what to do? All of those things affect a relationship. You can have the best relationship in the world and you tell your friend one day they did something and they’ll just turn it around when it could have just been a bad day. It helps me understand what I’m doing and what they’re going through. I don’t really think about using the right words or anything.
SR: Has your openness ever backfired?
V: Yeah, everybody leaves. [laughs] I haven’t had a date in 7 years.
“Did you just write about me?!”
No, I swear I didn’t!
SR: Your first passion was food. Do you think you’ll go back to it?
V: I’m actually always in food. [Na’el] owns 3 restaurants, and so it kind of magically happened. When we started working together I found out he had restaurants and I told him I was a chef and he tasted my food. I think that actually sparked us working together. I invited him to my solo album release party. He came in by himself, tasted some of the noodles I made and listened to the music and thought it was really good. So, when he was designing a restaurant and building the brand in San Fransisco he needed some Vegan options and asked me to cook for him.
N: We were working together and I said, “hey do you want to do something for me?”
V: I didn’t know it was going to be for a restaurant or as big as it was. I thought he just wanted some recipes for some tacos. I’m always cooking, always creating recipes. If I’m not writing a song I’m trying to figure out how I can pair things together that haven’t been paired before.
SR: You have amazing style. What inspired your style?
V: I like a lot of colors. I actually used to dress like a girl going to prom all the time. Then our team didn’t think it worked and we needed to coordinate more. He was going to wear all black today, but we talked him out of it. So our style is inspired by dramatic theater mixed with some simplicity. So, my earrings, the hair, the lashes are the drama. I have a halo crown that lights up but with the set being during the day no one would have seen it. We don’t really care about what we wear, we think about the music.
SR: Na’el, you’ve been making music for a while. What moves you in terms of making your beats?
N: I go into it mostly searching for the right sounds, it has to be right in order to make the right beat. Drum sounds, synth sounds, and then I go through chords and what fits in there. Sometimes I’ll start with the drums, sometimes the chords and it transforms. Most of the time what I start with is nothing like what I end with.
N: It changes instantly. I’ll make something that starts a certain way and I’ll add to it and remove something and it often can be a completely different beat.
SR: Do you have any artistic goals as a duo?
V: To be together forever!
N: To keep making music and creating a new sound that others don’t understand yet.
V: Travel. To be inspired and inspire simultaneously.
N: To work with some of the best musicians out there. My goal in life is to find the best musicians and record them and be able to have them be part of the process.
SR: We’ve seen a few groups like you guys with a female singer and a male producer such as Sylvan Esso and Vallis Alps, but these artists don’t have the R&B feel that you two do on top of the electronic aspect.
N: I love R&B music. My background is hip-hop, R&B, dance, house music. House music is kind of like R&B, ladies screaming in the back of the record. It has that feel to it. I’m all about the soul feeling. Via brings that with what I create. It’s R&B but it’s not. The BPMs are different than R&B.
V: We might start with a hip-hop, boom-bap beat and I’ll sing to it and it’ll be a ballad all of a sudden.
N: I sort of trick her by making something that will help her write and then change it. “Barely Friends” was that.
V: I didn’t think it was going to become anything. It was a beat he made for someone else and he gave it to me and we decided to re-record it.
SR: Tell us about your latest release, “Majid.”
N: “Majid” was one of the first records we made for Lies After Love.
V: The song is about magic and believing in magic even though you might be in a relationship you’re not really meant to be in. It started from a conversation that I had with someone I was dating at the time. We basically told each other what’s in the song, that we didn’t want to be in a relationship. I said that I wasn’t looking for anything and here we are and it’s not really working but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone out there for you. You should still be optimistic and you should still find a “coffee shop spoon boy” where you drop your spoon and he picks it up. I meet a lot of guys in the studio and I think it’s going to work out but it can’t. It’s about believing in magic even though you might be in a really dark place.
N: My brother’s name is also Majid.
V: He was going through a horrible divorce and we kept saying, “we still believe in you, dog, there’s someone out there for you!”
SR: What’s next for DRAMA?
N: New EP.
V: It’s done, just waiting for the right time to put it out.
N: We’re also touring with Jain, a French artist.
SR: She’s great!
N: We’re doing a North American Tour with her in October. I’m excited to really learn from her. That’s going to be the ultimate test, it’s a new show almost every day.
V: I’m going to need to drink more tea.
Check out “Majid” at the top of the page, and stay tuned for the latest from DRAMA!