When Vietnamese artists Wean and Naomi first went viral, it wasn’t even a real release. The song, “She Said,” was created for a scene in a movie about high school kids but the director posted a clip of their performance to Facebook and it blew up. “We were totally caught off guard,” Naomi Roestel giggles. “The clip ended up being more popular than the movie!” So they rerecorded the track—a chill jaunt with bouncy bass and glittering synths—and officially dropped it as their first track. And it blew again. “It changed our lives.”
Neither of them was originally involved with the movie for anything related to music. Wean was a guest stylist and Naomi was just hanging out with him on set for fun. The casting agent noticed her and said they wanted to create a small role for her in the movie because they liked her look. When they found out the two made music, they created a scene where they performed at a school dance and the rest was history.
Wean grew up in a small city in central Vietnam called Quang Ngai but always wanted to move to Saigon and make music. “I sang when I was little but my mom told I sucked,” he laughs. “But like in a constructive way! It pushed me to improve.” He was also breakdancing and one day in high school his crew mate offered him some weed for the first time. After smoking he just randomly started freestyling and loved the feeling so he kept doing it, inspired by Viet rappers on YouTube like Cam, Suboi, and Dat Maniac.
After finally moving to Saigon, he paid his way by selling clothes and using the profits to make music. “A friend of mine gave me $400 to print my first LAZYTHINK (98) T-shirts and it just kept growing from there. Friends helped me find factories and fabrics.” He started out selling his clothes in the cafe apartments (a pretty famous former apartment complex that’s now full of shops) and he’s still there. Wean’s style has always been a part of his appeal, and Naomi says that there’s even a “Wean style” in Vietnam now.
Naomi grew up in the Bin Thanh district at the center of Saigon. “My street is a heavily Catholic but there’s also lots of drugs there,” she says. “It was a really chaotic place to grow up.” Her introduction to music is a mix of both as well: she sang in the choir at church as a kid and her mom would bring her to vinahouse clubs. “I was like 7 years old asleep in the corner booth while she’s out on the floor dancing.” During high school, she became obsessed with Western rock after a cousin brought her to an acoustic cafe. “I used to watch all these US movies and dream about going to New York. I wasn’t paying attention to Vietnamese music yet.”
The pair met online and bonded over a love for music. When Wean saw her on Instagram—where she was already well-known as a model—he committed himself to catching her. First, he sent her clothes from his brand but she was with someone at the time. Later, when she broke up with that other guy, Wean quickly slid back into her DMs and they’ve been together since.
After “She Said,” they dropped the similarly popular “Retrograde.” The track was heavily inspired by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s movie Fallen Angels, whose scene with a boy and girl on a motorcycle driving through an emerald tunnel influenced a generation. “We were obsessed with 90s Hong Kong after that,” Naomi says. “So we’d go to District 5, which is Chinatown, and just soak up the vibes, trying to live the movie. We put all that into the song.” Later Wean would again channel all that in the video for “I Don’t Know.” Directed by Tôn Tôn Bo, it’s about a stylish but turbulent relationship shot with rich colors, tactile textures, and hazy fish eye shots.
These days, the it-couple travels all over the country, performing at festivals and nightclubs. “Our songs are way too slow for the club but they still book us for some reason, so thank you!” Naomi blushes. But their favorite performances are student events and proms. It’s where they started, after all, and where most of their fan base still is, especially on TikTok. Their energy is what keeps them going. “They’re the ones who really love us and they’re the most fun crowds. We love them back.”