Winter: "I think, honestly, a lot of the darkest times in your life end up being really the best for you."
Upon first glance, Samira Winter pulses with the same kind of star-child affectation that usually makes me want to be sick in someone’s eye. Ask me my moon sign and I glaze over, put glitter on me and it turns to napalm on point of contact. However, after a lengthy trans-Atlantic chat with L.A.’s dream-pop maverick, all those negative assumptions began to fall away – I even started to feel a bit embarrassed for having harboured them in the first place. With meticulous glam-gold war-paint befitting of the golden coast on which she now lives, Winter comes off completely sincere – and it’s this sincerity that makes her music ring true, even when it sounds so dreamy and faraway. By the end of the interview I was even more excited for the release of Endless Space (Between You & I) than I was at the start.
Samira Winter – who’s led her band Winter through multiple critically acclaimed releases and developed a cult following in various corners of the world (including Japan, which was a surprise to her) – has walked a long road to becoming a musician. She was raised in Curitiba, Brazil, whose mother tongue she still uses to write her lyrics and helps set her song-writing apart. The bilingual approach, Winter explains, “is a bit like painting with two sets of colours, it allows for a completely different method to song-writing.”
It wasn’t long before Samira flew the proverbial nest, and moved to the US in pursuit of a career. “I studied journalism and ended up becoming a music journalist in Boston. I even did this documentary about the local noise scene there. It was cool but every time I was doing it I just really wished that I was on the stage. So, in Boston I met this guy, Nolan, who ended up recording my first songs. And ever since then I’ve just been very motivated to make that my life.”
After deciding she was too performative for music journalism, another wrong turn came after she moved to L.A. and settled into a full-time office job with a long commute, which she quit (unbeknownst to her parents) after being inspired by “how everyone in L.A. was just working a service job and starting a band.” It seems the sun-bleached streets of Los Angeles, with its long rainless seasons and ambitious upstarts really had a nurturing effect on Winter, as it does on so many creatives, “I loved how everyone was following their dreams,” she said, as her beloved cat, Zoey, tinkered about behind her, “there’s definitely, like, a real scene her, one that I feel I’m a part of.”
Samira may be quixotic at times, but she’s no star-gazed fool and isn’t afraid to call out the darker side of the industry, particularly surrounding a label close to her, Burger Records, which has recently announced “major structural changes” after receiving “anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct”. “I want to understand the systems in place,” Samira mused, “I know that this isn’t just Burger. This is a culture that’s been perpetuated for years. So many men start bands just to ‘meet’ women. This predatory side of the industry has been engrained in Rock ’n’ Roll culture for so long and only now we’re getting this chance to talk about it. I want to take it a step further though, and understand what we need to change in a more systemic way.”
Aside from surviving the more wolfish side of the industry, Winter also weathered similar storms in her personal life, and speaks frankly about the realities of being trapped in a “toxic relationship”, fraught with all the pitfalls of mental instability. “I think honestly a lot of the darkest times in your life end up being really the best for you. It’s terrible to be in a toxic relationship but I guess it made me way stronger going through that.”
This darkness, however, is not particularly present in her music, which is instead quite blissful, bucking the trend of its shoegaze influences. The musical traditions set in motion by the likes of Kevin Shields and the Reid brothers are all fairly dingy and grounded, not at all like Winter’s floating dreamscapes – which may simply be shoegaze’s natural conclusion proceeding a crash landing at LAX. “I do think, in L. A, the music has a different context; it literally hasn’t rained since March”, Winter went on, chuckling to herself, “I hate 'fakeness'. I need music to maintain authenticity. I’ve always had this weird thing when people are always like “you’re so happy!” and I responded to it by writing songs. Of course I’m not always happy… Contrary to how you might imagine Brazil, I grew up somewhere where it rains a lot.”
The new album is indeed a rapturous mix of emotions, and bleeds in and out of its influences. Some songs swing closer to the sonic decay of Psychocandy, whilst others feel more like the playful inflections of the Cocteau Twins or the empyrean landscapes of Spiritualized. At the centre of it all however, is the character of Samira Winter: an authoritative daydream-believer, wielding ethereality like a pistol, capable of shooting cynicism through the heart and beckoning the listener deep down beneath the waves.
Endless Space (Between You & I) is out now via Bar/None Records.