Samira Winter Is Echo Park's Queen of Dream-Pop, Glitter and Guitar Pedals
Anna Maria Lopez
Glitter traces the arcs of Samira Winter’s eyelids before trailing toward her temples. This is the makeup look that every child dreams up, though kids are unlikely to apply sparkles with the Echo Park-based singer-songwriter's level of expertise.
She’s keen to trust the judgment of her inner child. After all, the Brazilian native first picked up a guitar and the art of songwriting at 12 years old. That year served as the foundation for her music, even though it first came to life mainly as means of catharsis.
“When you’re just a girl in your bedroom, those first songs feel like diary entries,” Samira recalls. “I was always writing them, but I didn’t really show them to anyone for years.”
Though she now shares many of her songs performing with a full band known as Winter, even now, when writing at home, Samira uses the acoustic guitar her father gave her back in Curitiba, Brazil. She still believes in the creative force of the bedroom, too. That fort of privacy and memory is where she recorded Winter’s first full-length record, 2015's Supreme Blue Dream. The band’s practice space sits one floor below.
In locating the origins of Winter’s sound, environment means everything. Each space that Samira cites as a home base over the years played its own part in shaping her style. In her childhood home, she drew from the differing tastes of her parents. Her father promoted punk ethics through the likes of Crass and The Cramps, while her mother was immersed in bossa nova and a Brazilian genre called música popular brasileira, or MPB.
The contrast readied Samira for her exposure to shoegaze — the intersection of fuzz and falsetto. During her time at Boston's Emerson College, she tested the sonic division between utopian imagination and wilted reality, just as the Cocteau Twins did in crossing heaven with Las Vegas. Boston’s experimental noise scene also influenced Samira to work with new effects. Collaboration with friends and peers, including bandmate Matt Hogan (guitar), introduced her to the possibilities of pedals.
“A pedal is really something that should always be changing in your life,” Samira says. “I think it’s something that can grow and evolve and take you through phases. Matt’s always going through a ton of phases with pedals and being like, 'I just got this one, want to try it out?' or, 'I’m not using this one anymore.' And I’ll be like, 'OK, I’ll use it.' ”
Samira cites her Boss CH-1 Super Chorus pedal as an early component in the band’s developing sound. From there, she explored delays, loops and distortion to carve out the space that would become Winter.
The project's first two releases — Supreme Blue Dream and the prior EP, Daydreaming — were released on Lolipop Records after Samira made her move to the West Coast. Remnants of her past homes live on through fuzzy guitar riffs or seraphic Portuguese verses, warmly indifferent to the garage-rock that is more Echo Park's signature. Samira has no qualms with her neighborhood's sound; it just doesn’t match up to the one in her head.
“I never liked the feeling of playing things that are redundant or repetitive, so I always try to come up with something new — figure out a way that’s more unique and authentic even when nowadays, people are saying everything’s been done before.”
Samira Winter (right) and her Winter bandmates
Samira's refusal to follow trends may be Winter's secret to booking such a wide range of shows. With Hogan, Justine Brown (bass) and Garren Orr (drums), she played the weekly Part Time Punks alongside avant-R&B legend Gary Wilson last month. In August the band performed at Lucky Day Fest, a full-day event at Hollywood community space Junior High. They recently returned from a festival curated by Animal Collective in Big Sur. The band's pairing of heavy riffs and high-flying melodies seems to hold near-universal appeal.
When you pull from two ends of the spectrum, you bring something for everyone — those who seek distortion and those who want a love song addressed to Samira’s ultra-friendly cat, Zoey. She strives to satisfy all of her influences, from Astrud Gilberto to her inner child, who is always hard at work.
Winter performs at the Bootleg Theater on Tuesday, Oct. 18 with Ducktails, Ablebody and Wyatt Blair. Tickets and more info.
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