Chicago Duo DRAMA Calls Themselves The Musical Benjamin Button In iEDM Interview
Photo Credit: Keziban Barry
The first time I heard “Majid” by DRAMA, I was sold. Comprised of vocalist Via Rosa and producer Na’el Shehade, this musical duo from Chicago sees no genre, they just see good music. With sounds reminiscent of a cross between Sade and Everything But The Girl, it was the incredible fan reception from their last EP, Gallows, that gave them the momentum they needed to realize this music thing was for real.
With the release of their new EP, Lies After Love, the two take listeners on a whirlwind of emotions from heartbreak to love, and all the in between. If it makes you dance, they're doing their job.
iEDM: How would you describe your sound?
Via: Umm… sad and emotional. Dramatic.
Na’el: Dark. Uplifting.
Via: Yeah, but then uplifting and optimistic. And happy. So a little bit of both. The balance.
Na’el: A lot of moods going on.
iEDM: When did you decide to take on the name DRAMA?
Na’el: We just started to take that on the first few months when we started the group. I have the short version. There’s this guy named Benjamin from a band Benoit & Sergio. They’re a band out of Berlin, I believe. So he was working with me on some records, I was helping him out with some stuff, and he’s like “You should call your band DRAMA.” Just randomly. I was like, “That’s actually pretty hot.” I asked Via, and she’s like “Let’s do it.” And it ended up working out.
iEDM: Can you talk about your journey in music and the moment you guys knew this was for real?
Via: I’m still realizing this is for real. Taking off in an airplane like, “Oh, my gosh, this is actually happening.”
Na’el: Same with me. It’s still shocking to us. Well to me, and her as well, it’s always like, “Damn, people are actually coming out just to hear our sound.” ‘Cause our music, you can’t really define our genre. It’s a little different, so it’s hard to gain your fans in that way. Everyone’s like, “So what is this, R&B? Is it dance?” It’s just good music.
iEDM: How did you guys first meet?
Na’el: In the studio. Through a mutual friend.
iEDM: That was my next question, what’s the dynamic like in the studio?
Na’el: We work really well together. She writes, I produce the beats. We kind of don’t really talk a lot during, when we’re making music.
Via: Yeah, not really. Unless I come in and I’m like, “Ahhh, I can’t write to this!” And he’s like, “Okay!” And he’ll change one thing, and it’s like “Oh, it’s perfect!” And then the whole song is done. We just kind of tell each other how we feel, and then go from there.
Na’el: It’s an easy process.
iEDM: Who gets the final say?
Na’el: We both do. We don’t even think about that kind of stuff [Laughs]. It just works
iEDM: You’re from Chicago, how does that play into your life and music?
Na’el: For musicians, I think that we Chicago artists are very aggressive. When we make a sound, it’s massive. That’s kind of what Chicago people do. We have the hustle mentality. We don’t take no for an answer. We figure out a way around it. That’s the blessing about being from Chicago, I think.
iEDM: How important is it to come to Los Angeles as an up and coming artist?
Via: I think it’s pretty important to come here. Everyone that I know has done it. But I also think that it’s a little bit overrated. I lived here for a year when I was 19, and I had a good experience. It was a good experience career wise and business wise, but friend wise, it was kind of like… meh. So I always warn people: go to LA, make your connections, do what you got to do, but don’t get lost in the sauce.
Na’el: A lot of people do get lost here.
Via: They get lost in the sauce, and they start dressing like crazy people. It’s like, that’s not who you are.
Na’el: Doing crazy things.
Via: And I’m just like, “Bro…”. Then they all run back to home. I’m like “Dog, I told you not to get lost in the sauce.” Because LA is amazing, but it’s also… I feel like there’s a lot of people here.
Na’el: If you don’t have a strong personality, I feel like you could easily get lost. There’s a lot of shit to do here. A lot of people here.
Via: You’ll just be a waitress saying that she’s going to be a big star one day. [laughs] When you get lost in the sauce, and your ego gets to you in LA, I feel like it’s so easy here to just...
Na’el: Destroy yourself.
Via: Yeah, in a matter of seconds.
Na’el: ‘Cause in Chicago, it’s like “Aye man, you’re fucking up. Stop fucking up.” [laughs] In Chicago, it’s going to be different. I love LA. When you start doing shows in LA is like when things are actually moving. It’s a hard crowd to actually win over.
Via: ‘Cause there’s so much music here. Everybody comes to LA, so it’s like you got to stand out.
iEDM: So what can fans expect of your performance tonight?
Na’el: It’s about to be hot!
Love each other.
Via: Dance. They can expect to dance. Fall in love. I hope someone falls in love tonight. It’s my favorite thing to hear about, people are like “Oh, I brought my date here. I actually really like them.” And I’m like “That’s what’s up.”
iEDM: Congrats on your Lies After Love EP. What do you want fans to get from your story?
Via: Closure maybe. A little bit of understanding. I feel a lot of the songs I write are more so stories to myself to try to understand what I’m going through. I feel like a lot of people don’t want to communicate how they’re feeling because they’re afraid. I just want people to know that you’re not alone, and that what you’re feeling is okay, and it doesn’t last forever. [sings] “The sun will come out, tomorrow.”
iEDM: Tell us about the convo you had with Vic Mensa, which inspired the record “Hope’s Up.”
Via: He inspired one line, by accident. [laughs] I’m friends with Vic, and I’m also friends with his ex-girlfriend. They happened to be outside, and I was like, “Hey, come up to the studio!” They were like “Yeah, for sure!” They came up and they were kicking it, and then they left. I was freestyling the “Hope’s Up” song. And Vic just popped into my head, and I said “I’m down on my love,” and I just said “down on my luck.” I just said it back to back, and it was because Vic was there and he had this song called “Down On My Luck.”
But yeah, Vic’s the homie. I’ve never had a bad experience with him. He’s insane just like all the other boys from Chicago, but we go way back. We used to work at the same restaurant a long time ago.
iEDM: What’s it like seeing someone like Vic who continues to fight and give back to his city?
Via: It’s really dope. It’s inspiring actually.
Na’el: It’s amazing. We advocate for a lot of amazing really humans out there. He’s all about really elevating.
iEDM: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Via: I hope I’m in love. [laughs]
Na’el: Her in love, making more records, touring the world, doing more shows, putting more music out there, connecting people through what we do.
Via: I would really like to open up a studio, restaurant, lounge music venue, so that artists can come through, make music, and perform.
iEDM: In Chicago or LA?
Via: Wherever it’s clever. My dream since I was a kid was just to be able to travel and show up and either sing or cook somewhere and be like a guest for the night. So if I could have spots all over the place...
iEDM: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Na’el: We’re both in the restaurant business as well. We just happen to both make music and know how to work in a restaurant.
Via: I went to culinary school for 3 years. And he owns some restaurants. 3 restaurants.
Na’el: We worked on the last one together.
iEDM: So were you just producing on the side?
Na’el: No, no. I started off producing making music. Then I was like, “I got to do something else, ‘cause this is driving me crazy.” So I invested my money into restaurants, but I was still working on music.
Via: And mine’s the opposite. I went to culinary school first, and was making music on the side.
Na’el: Right! I was doing music, and then slowly shifted into being a businessman. Then Via kind of swayed me back into this.
Via: I like to call us the musical Benjamin Buttons, because we’re meeting in the middle. [laughs]
iEDM: What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
Na’el: Fuck man...
Via: This guy’s way busier than I am. [laughs]
Na’el: I’m juggling a lot. The group’s priority, obviously, so I’m always working. We’re both always moving around, just trying to make sure that we’re ahead of the game. That’s the most important thing. There’s no time wasted ever.
iEDM: 3 things you need in the studio?
Via: Weed. [laughs] Ganja. Good lighting.
Na’el: Actually 3 things: weed, food, good lighting, and our tour manager, Damir.
iEDM: Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Via: Drake, for sure. [laughs]
iEDM: I feel like this might be the same answer. Who’s your dream collab?
Via: No… I don’t know if I’d want to collab with Drake. I’d just want to hang out with him. I feel like we’d be really good friends, discuss love and shit. Dream collaboration… Jon Bryant.
Na’el: I want to produce with Kanye. Whoever, whoever’s making hot music. But as far as specifics, I don’t have anyone.
Via: I don’t know, honestly. I feel like a lot of my vocal idols are no longer here with us, so it’s hard for me to actually say, “I really want to work with this vocalist!” Whoever he wants to collaborate with I know it’s going to be amazing, and I’m just here for the lights. [laughs]
Thank you DRAMA for chatting with us!
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