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Interview: Samira Winter

7 November 2022

Photo by Athena Merry

Four full-lengths into her career, Samira Winter’s latest album, What Kind of Blue Are You?, is the realization of the sound the Brazilian-born songwriter has been chasing since discovering shoegazing music after moving to Boston for college. The album, released under Samira’s surname of Winter, is swimming in reverb and dreamy vocals and features special guest appearances by Hatchie’s Harriette Pilbeam (“Atonement”) and Sasami Ashworth (“Good”) on the ’90s-influenced tracks.

Samira and I opened our conversation talking about the shoegazing qualities of What Kind of Blue Are You?

The new album explores a shoegaze sound that was hinted at on previous releases.

SAMIRA: It’s been such a journey. I feel like I’ve been exploring Winter’s language since the beginning with different albums and different sounds. Everything added up to the point of this album and I think I was in a headspace where I was searching for the purest sound of what I was feeling. I ended up landing on a really shoegazey record which I think is my soul, in a way. It’s always been.

Your album’s been out for a few weeks. Are you happy with the response it’s gotten?

SAMIRA: I’m really happy with how it’s been received, just the positive response. I feel like it’s coming out at a good time, everyone’s feeling moody on some level and it’s a moody record.

What are some of your earliest music memories?

SAMIRA: Listening to Violent Femmes, with my dad, and just singing along to those songs and having little jokes about them, like “this will go down on your permanent record.” I think my earliest memories are of having fun and a positive relationship with music. I was thinking about it today. I was like, “Wow, I need music. I need to listen to music to get through life.” For me, it gives my life meaning. I was also reflecting on memories of before I started Winter. I lived in Boston and I studied journalism. I had these really fun musical memories of going on Bandcamp and finding Sarah Records and twee and watching French new wave videos. I like reflecting on it because it makes sense in how Winter has evolved.

Did you end up in Boston because you moved there with your parents or did you end up there on your own?

SAMIRA: On my own. I did formative years in the south of Brazil in a city called Curitiba. I would call it the Seattle of Brazil. It’s rainy, there’s a lot of coffee shops, it’s very European. Then I moved to Boston for college.

Why Boston?

SAMIRA: I wanted to move to California because I was watching The O.C. in high school (laughs) but California had a bad rep. So, I was like, “Okay, East Coast.”

And you mentioned that you studied journalism.

SAMIRA: Yeah, I studied broadcast journalism. It was a really great time because I feel like I was able to get a taste for music and film and the arts. There were so many colleges surrounding me so I was able to take film scoring classes and all these sorts of things. I was able to meet a lot of people. That’s where I discovered shoegaze. It was a very important time for me musically, it’s when I discovered the first influences for Winter.

How did you discover those bands that would influence you?

SAMIRA: I got into Galaxie 500 because of one of my best friends. We were obsessed with Galaxie 500 and Blueboy, but Galaxie 500 specifically because they started in Boston. And then The Breeders. I think I really connected with Boston bands in a way.

I think I was turned onto shoegazing bands like My Bloody Valentine by Nina and Louise of Veruca Salt. When I interviewed them when they were first starting out, they were talking about how much they loved My Bloody Valentine so that’s when I decided to check them out. That led me down a rabbit hole to discover the bands you mentioned and others.

SAMIRA: That is so cool. I love Veruca Salt.

There are some moments on your album where I hear something that reminds of Veruca Salt meets My Bloody Valentine.

SAMIRA: That song “Seether” is one of my all-time favorites. I was born in ’91 and I feel this really strong connection with the ’90s. I’m inspired by other things, obviously, but I have this fascination and romance with the ’90s and I think this album I was really able to fulfill it, like, I am a songstress from 1991.

Did the band start in Boston or was it born when you moved to Los Angeles?

SAMIRA: I started the project in Boston as a senior in college. I think I played one show in Boston but I formed my band when I got to L.A. I was part of the DIY scene in L.A. for a really long time, just playing shows and going to SXSW and touring. My world started opening up.

Did you move to L.A. for a music-related job?

SAMIRA: I moved to L.A. because my friends from Emerson College, who were in film, were all moving including my boyfriend at the time. So, a lot of my Emerson friends were like, “We’re going to L.A.” I was like, “Cool, I love warm weather.” I came here, I had a summer where I was interning for a place that would make playlists for hotels and stuff like that. Then I started finding out about Echo Park and going to shows there and meeting people and going to this book store that really changed my life. It’s called Stories. I first showed up there and thought, “This is where I want to be.”

Is L.A. a welcoming place for an artist like yourself?

SAMIRA: It’s changed. I think any city is like that. I think there’s waves of the DIY scene and bands. Because it’s been some years, I’ve gone through the different waves of it being welcoming, me meeting people, and it just clicking and finding those people that are so similar to you and that you want to work with and do stuff together and be friends. And then there’s waves of really messed up things like not being okay in the music scene and shady people and just sketchy industry things. It’s always a lot of work. I think life is a lot of work. For the most part, I’ve met and loved so many people that live here so I’ve been really lucky to find those friends.

What gives you the confidence that you can go out on the road and play in front of people that you don’t know?

SAMIRA: I think it’s because I just went and did it some years ago. I was just like, “I don’t care, I’m just going to do it.” I would pair up with friends’ bands and co-headline. The amount of the touring that I did up the West Coast, national tour, East Coast, I’ve gone to Europe once, I’ve done Brazil, Mexico. It was different times, it was different economic times. I think right now things are really, really different. Interacting with listeners and fans, that gave me a confidence and you keep building and building and building.

Do you feel like things were going full steam when the pandemic hit and put a pause on your plans or did the pandemic give you time to ramp things up so that you could hit the ground running when things started getting back to normal?

SAMIRA: I think I was really burnt out and I didn’t realize how bad I needed a break. Then the pandemic hit and I was like, “There’s some stuff I’ve got to figure out.” There was a lot of rough stuff during that time. Because it was surreal, everyone was going through something on some level mental health wise. I think I wrote those songs and the record was made of that. It’s like a capsule in time. I think it was a very transformative experience. It made me rethink. It made me reconnect. And I felt lost at times. But, I think you have to feel lost and in the dark sometimes to be able to then find your direction.

Did you have to work differently in the way you recorded this album compared to how you recorded your other albums?

SAMIRA: The whole conversation was like, “I have these two songs, let’s give it a try and see how it goes. And then I’m going to South by Southwest.” Technically we started recording before the pandemic and it went really well and then the pandemic happened and South by wasn’t happening so I was like, “I guess I’m going to be in L.A.” We were super careful, we just met up a couple of days every month, really spaced it out. There were moments during the pandemic where things were really bad and we wouldn’t meet each other. More time would pass, we’d get tested before we got together, it was just always the two of us. We had a drummer come in one day. It was very specific to the conditions.

When you say it was the two of us, you’re talking about Joo Joo Ashworth?

SAMIRA: Yeah. His sister is SASAMI. It’s one of those weird things, as we were talking about, with L.A. and arriving here and finding your people. They were one of the first people I met when I moved here.

Is he just a producer or did he play on the record too?

SAMIRA: He had a band called Froth. We started working on this record at the beginning of when he was transitioning from artist to producer. I think he’ll be both, always, he’s an artist and he’s a producer. It was this really cool thing where I think he understood the artist perspective when we were working together. It was very empowering to work together, it was all about making the coolest music we could. We had the same goal. We understood aesthetically what we wanted to do and had the same references but it felt like we were on the same page which helped streamline the record.

How did you end up on Bar/None Records?

SAMIRA: I connected with the label through a mutual friend, Justus Proffit, who is also on the label. They put out this record and Endless Space (Between You & I).

Was it important for you to have the album release on vinyl?

SAMIRA: It’s important for me to have physical copies. I was just thinking about it the other day that I miss having an iPod. I’m all about listening to music in different ways because I think it affects your experience of the music. Having a phone and listening to music can be really distracting. Listening to music on headphones is a very specific experience versus dancing to it loud or listening while driving. I’m all about the different formats. I wish I had a CD version for this release, maybe in the future. Right now it’s just cassette and vinyl.

I think our connection to music is similar. I really like to create soundtracks or playlists for situations. For instance, when I traveled to Seattle in 2019, I spent a few hours walking around the city listening to Nick Cave and it just worked for me.

SAMIRA: I used to do this thing. I lived close to a park for many years and I went through a phase where I went through albums Pitchfork reviewed, not just Pitchfork, but I would listen to a new album every time I went on a walk. It filled my well. It was such a fun phase.

Are there bands you discovered on your walks that you’re still listening to?

SAMIRA: I feel like sometimes I’ll find a song that I get obsessed with and if the record doesn’t totally stick with me, I’ll still be like “Oh, I love that song from that artist.” I’ve recently really been into finding a select couple of albums and obsess over a certain artist. I’m all about repetition. I think that’s really powerful. I’ve been listening to a lot of Teenage Fanclub, Ivy, the new beabadoobee record. I love the new Alvvays record.