“I’m a very sensorial person. The way I experience music is pretty visual,” says Samira Winter as we chat in the living room of her Echo Park apartment, her cat purring quietly. For Winter, you see, music is more than just sound — it’s also color.
“I have music video ideas for all the songs on the new record. And I even have some ideas for other people’s songs, too.”
Though Winter advocates indulging in all forms of childlike ideation, what she sees in music is not strictly daydreams. She experiences synesthesia, where sounds are perceived as colors when the frequencies reach her brain. It contributes to her vivid life, which she views with unrelenting optimism.
Winter goes through color phases, most recently having been flooded with blues. “A lot of people associate blue with sadness, but maybe that’s just a shade of blue.” She prefers to think in terms of water: “For me, blue is tranquilizing. And a lot of my [guitar] pedals can sound like the ocean.”
Her debut full-length was called Supreme Blue Dream, and she named her brand-new label — under which she plans to release all future Winter music — Everything Blue. But her band’s new album, Ethereality, shimmers with pinks and oranges. It is a new chapter.
Though she is arguably the most important ingredient in the Winter project, she explains that the band is not just her.
“Winter is its own living being," she says. "It’s got a certain aesthetic, colors and sounds. It’s beyond me. It’s its own entity.”
That world is most tangible in her bedroom. Pale, warm lights line the wall near her bed, illuminating books including Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking and Bluets by Maggie Nelson, which sit on a side table. Posters hang on the walls, one in particular touting Brazilian indie rock group Boogarins. A shag rug covers most of the floor.
The room has an energy so palpable, it is a principal facet of her songwriting. Almost all of Winter’s material was written in her bedroom, whether at her home in L.A., her old Boston digs or when visiting family back in Brazil. She has been writing since college, with one of her earliest singles, “Alligator,” finally getting a physical release as part of the new record.
In years past, she would record with her friend Nolan Eley, who did the mixing and mastering, and her live band was separate. On Ethereality, she opted for a more democratic songwriting process, which allowed the band to contribute to the compositions before laying them down in a studio.
“When you hear the record, it sounds like a band," she says, before proudly adding, "It doesn’t sound like a solo artist with a producer."
The sound of Winter has always been some iteration of fuzz rock, and on the new record, her vision is clearer than ever. Her admiration for pretty, gentle vocals stems from listening to MPB (música popular brasileira) thanks to her mother — especially when she lived in Brazil as a teenager — while her father’s punk records instilled in her an appreciation for distorted guitars. This dichotomy defines shoegaze, which in turn describes Winter succinctly. The mood on Ethereality goes deeper still, oscillating between numbing post-rock, like on “You Don’t Know Me” or “Black Sea,” and intoxicating dream-pop, including “Sunshine Devine” and the unforgettable ode to her best feline friend, "Zoey."
Zoey has become something of a celebrity. Winter says, “People are so happy when I talk about Zoey during our set, and I think that says something!” She has a picture of her cat pasted to her guitar and Zoey also has appeared in fan art of the band. Winter recently put out a music video for “Zoey,” which of course stars her as well. Even their Pledge campaign features a reward of an hour of quality time with the friendly feline.
Winter rescued Zoey right when she moved to L.A. As we talk about Zoey’s adoption, I realize Winter has a passion not just for her own wonderful cat but for animal rights in general.
“Animals are very special beings that have knowledge and skills that we don’t have, and sometimes people don’t acknowledge that,” says.
In another conversation, we discuss trans rights and inclusive feminism. But Winter rarely confronts these or any political issues in song; she hopes that the music can give fans a refuge from reality.
“I think people listen to my music to escape and be in a dream world,” she says.
Ethereality embodies this dream world, not only as an extension of the spirit of her bedroom but also, as Winter plainly explains, an “ethereal reality.” She compares it to magical realism.
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“There is a lot of magic in the world," she says. "I think ‘ethereality’ is like seeing reality with that magic. And a lot of the songs on the album are experiences that were magical or experiences made that much more magical.”
Where the album title specifically originates, though, is a completely different story. Her bandmate came up with it in an interview several years ago.
“They asked us, ‘If Winter were to have your own festival, what would it be called?’ and my bandmate at the time said ‘Ethereality.’ In that moment we were all like, that’s such a great word, that’s genius! That’s what we should call the record.”