It's not enough to call LA-based musician Nala, aka Stefania Aronin, a producer or DJ. She radiates artistry in everything she does. Informed by a slant towards the experimental, her off-kilter psychedelic house is a refreshing disruptor for a scene she says, “got wedged into this idea of what dance music was.” She shatters the formulaic chad-house aesthetic with her strikingly authentic lyrics. It’s proof that house music can slap the subs and captivate the mind.
In 2020 she signed a management deal with purveyors of west coast weird, Dirtybird, a perfect match for someone who created her own lane so early in her career. COO Aundy Crenshaw and Claude Von Stroke encouraged her to embrace her unique style.
They were both excited that she brought a sound that broke from traditional tech-house. Her open format DJ sets and indie inspired beats are a vessel to help push the label forward. She says during one of their first conversations, Von Stroke expressed how tired he was of paint-by-numbers tech house.
Writing that way is simply at odds with who she is. “I just can't talk about things that are superficial. It's just not part of my character. It feels wrong. It feels like nails on a chalkboard internally.”
As she recites the words for “Sun Is Hot,” the second track from her Dirtybird debut EP Psychic Attack, she explains how she disguised a meditation on the health of Mother Earth beneath what sounds like something steamy and sultry.
“That’s a song is about global warming, first and foremost,” she says. “But then its open for interpretation. It could also be about sex. It's funny 'cause NPR was like, 'Oh, this is a dirty song.' And I was like, 'It's about global warming.” She tells the story with a perfect deadpan.
“I don’t know how to be a closed book,” she admits. “Most of my writing is confessional. I think a lot of what art is supposed to be on a philosophical level is something that people relate to. It's part of the human experience. And that's why we are obsessed with art to begin with. Because it makes us feel something. It makes us feel less alone. And I just love making people feel less alone.”
In college, Aronin switched from a psychology major to advertising because psychology got too dark. Yet she continues to find ways to dissect human existence. Nala's confessional lyrics seek to connect.
“I wrote Psychic Attack, because I was really overwhelmed with the news last year," she explains about the title song on her Dirtybird debut. "I wrote that song out of a space of anxiety. But I think a lot of people could relate to that, because it was so chaotic. It was psychological warfare.”
She spends several minutes reciting lyrics to new songs during our call. And with each turn of phrase, it’s clear how adept she is with her words. She’s also so clearly excited about every aspect of her work. She radiates positivity and bravery.
Being bold is natural she says. “I don't have even like an ounce of doubt that it won't work,” she says about her fuck it Im'a go for it attitude. Her mental framework is devoid of the self-doubt that stops most people from trying. “I just don't have that kind of dialogue in my head for whatever reason. I push it out, probably as a self-protective measure.”
Or maybe it’s a touch of confidence mixed with a dash of creative magnetism. She’s consistently able to draw exactly what she wants directly into her orbit.
Three months before she signed with Dirtybird she decided to break from her indie background and go full-on into dance music. She was already well known on the Dj circuit in Miami and LA. Her music was getting played in H&M stores across the country. But she felt she needed a label ecosystem to pull her off the plateau.
She set her intention and told herself, “I need to shift focus. What is going to be best for me? I need to find a label that I can work with. And out from the sky came Dirtybird!”
The family atmosphere that seeps through all that Dirtybird does was the perfect match for Aronin. "I got really lucky that I managed to find a community of people. Because even the other artists on the label VNSSA, Walker & Royce, Ardalan we're all family now. And it's so nice to be around people that are so positive and supportive, have a good message and [are] inclusive and happy."
She now sits in the perfect position to carry her message to a wider audience. “I want everyone to feel. I want people to relate. I want them to know that their experience is not isolated. And that to me is the most fulfilling. The best I can do is create music with a message that resonates with people.”
Listen on SoundCloud
Listen on Spotify