Winter is Samira Winter, a Brazilian-born, LA-based singer-songwriter. Her latest record, What Kind of Blue Are You? is out now on Bar/None.
(Photo Credit: Elizabeth Weinberg)
Samira Winter is a Brazilian-born, LA-based singer-songwriter who performs as Winter; Dominique Durand is a French-born, New York-based artist, and formerly the frontwoman of the indie pop band Ivy, which she formed with Andy Chase and the late Adam Schlesinger in 1994. The two are labelmates on Bar/None Records, and mutual admirers (Winter included the Ivy track “Decay” on a playlist she compiled for us in 2020), so to celebrate Winter’s new record What Kind of Blue Are You?, the two finally got a chance to meet over Zoom.
— Annie Fell, Editor-in-chief, Talkhouse Music
Dominique Durand: We’ve never met, [but] we share the same label. Mark, one of the guys at the label, contacted me and said, “You know, I have an artist that you would love.” He said that she liked my band, and so he thought it would be a good idea to connect us. So I listened to it and I loved it.
Samira Winter: [Laughs.] You’re in New York?
Dominique: Yes. You’re in LA, right?
Winter: Yeah, I’m in LA!
Dominique: OK, so it’s early for you.
Winter: Yes, I have my coffee. But this is the week that my album comes out, so I’m really excited.
Dominique: Congratulations! When is it coming out?
Winter: Friday. [Winter’s record was released October 14.]
Dominique: Oh, wow.
Winter: It feels really good. I feel like, in a way, making music — and I don’t know how you feel about this, but I know that that abstract painter Kandinsky talks about this — it’s sort of like a birthing process.
Dominique: Sure, yes.
Winter: Because there’s like this inception period when it’s really in the dark, and then it’s growing and forming its characteristics. And then I feel like Friday is going to be my birthing. [Laughs.]
Dominique: Yes, I can totally relate to that. Absolutely. For me when I make music, I never really think about, it’s going to be released one day and people are going to hear it. In a way, I’m very selfish — I just make music because I love making music, and it’s just so much fun. And then when it’s supposed to come out, I’m always like, Oh, shit. Now the real thing is happening. I mean, I try to get excited, but there’s always a part of me that just wants to keep it for myself, just for my close friends. This is your second record for Bar/None, right?
Winter: Yeah, it’s my second record with Bar/None. It’s my fourth record total. I have this whole thing with colors — I’m very visually inspired when I’m also musically inspired. I don’t know, I love cinema, I grew up watching music videos. So when I make music — I honestly think I’m going to at some point become a director, I just always like visualizing music videos in my head. So, I have this cycle that is kind of coming full circle with this album: My first album ever was called Supreme Blue Dream, and it was sort of my coming of age of my 20s. And this album, I feel like, is kind of reconnecting with that and picking up the pieces and moving forward in this also blue theme.
Dominique: Yeah, I was going to say.
Winter: It feels cool to sort of come full circle and connect with the project in a very intimate way.
Dominique: That’s really cool. It’s interesting, because when I was listening to you — we have that in common, because I also studied film and wanted to film director. So for me too, everything is a visual experience. The first time I heard music, it was images coming into my head. I’m exactly the same way: When I make music, it’s almost like the image comes first and then I get inspired, from the image. When I hear you music, that’s exactly the sentiment I get. It’s a very cinematographic kind of music that you make, for sure.
Winter: I love that. That is so cool. What sort of images came to you, when you heard my music?
Dominique: So, I was very impressed, because when I was discovering you, I realized how many videos you have. It’s crazy. The one video that you made for that song, “Good” — I loved it, because it’s very kind of esoteric, it’s dark. It’s just very moody. When I listened to the song first — which I love, by the way — I was sort of visualizing that whole vibe. And then I looked at the video and I was like, Yeah, exactly.
Winter: So that’s that’s so cool, I love that. I love your videos, too.
Dominique: Well, actually, I really hate my videos, but that’s OK.
Winter: You do?
Dominique: I do. It’s so funny — you know, we were really a ‘90s band and it was a very different time in a way. I think if I was your age with the kind of technology and the way you do things today, we would have so many videos. But we have very few, because back then it was a whole different process. First of all, there was no iPhone, so you couldn’t make [your own] videos. So the record company would give you a budget to make a video with a proper director, and it cost a fortune every time, for something really ridiculous at the end. Musically, we were very independent, we could do whatever we wanted. But for all the the visual aspects, we were kind of stuck with the record company.
They would choose the director, and I remember they would always bring a stylist and a makeup artist. I would be like, “No, no, no, I don’t want this! I don’t want stylists, I don’t want makeup, I just want to be me!” At the end, I look at the video and I don’t recognize myself. The only one that I like is “Edge of the Ocean,” and we did it ourselves. It was when we were touring in Mallorca, in Spain, and we had a little 8mm camera, so we were filming ourselves. And then we edited it, and it cost nothing. That’s the only one where I feel like, OK, it’s us. That’s our vibe. This is really Ivy.
Winter: Yeah, I love that video. I find that with videos, honestly, that’s usually how it goes — with the cheapest [way of shooting], the more you can just be yourself. Because Adam [Schlesinger] directed it, right?
Dominique: Yeah, he shot it. But then Andy and I would pick up the camera whenever we would be walking around. We were mostly in Spain, but at the end we were in Martha’s Vineyard, on the boat, and so I was filming the seagulls in the sky, things like that. But yeah, it was mostly Adam. And we were just filming nothing — we were just filming life, the people that were with us on that tour, people on the streets walking around on the beach, just getting the vibe of Spain and the summer.
Winter: It fits the song. It’s very dreamy. It’s so beautiful.
Dominique: So do you make your videos yourself? Do you direct them?
Winter: Yeah, I’ve been like, co-directing them. I love arthouse cinema and French New Wave, Czech New Wave. One of my favorite movies ever is Daisies [by Věra Chytilová].
Dominique: Oh, I don’t know this.
Winter: It’s from the late ‘60s. It’s really cool. It’s kind of anarchist, surrealist, feminist. But basically, I wrote and recorded the record during 2020, and so I was able to watch so many films and I got really into painting for the first time, and abstract art. So I felt like I was making music in a cave, because everything was shut down, and I think it kind of lent itself to this special moment of time. I think every album is like that — it’s a kind of a Polaroid of that moment in time.
Dominique: Yes. I think in a way, you were very lucky that you were able to make a record during that time. First of all, I’m sure that was a savior for yourself.
Winter: It was.
Dominique: And I mean, because the world shut down, there’s no distraction whatsoever. You can completely focus on your music. I wish I could have done that, but I didn’t. [Laughs.] I think that’s that’s amazing, and that’s something you will always remember. This is something that one day — do you have children?
Dominique: But one day you if do, you’ll be able to tell them, “This is the record I made during the pandemic, during that time where we thought the world was collapsing.”
Winter: Yeah. With Ivy, you were having children during the time of making certain records, right?
Dominique: Yes, yes.
Winter: How was that?
Dominique: Oh, well, my god. It was amazing, but also quite challenging, I have to say. When I was pregnant, I was going on tour, I was making music, recording, and that was amazing. That was for me, in a way, even more exciting. There was something amazing to me about the idea of being in a studio recording, and my belly is huge and I have a living creature inside me — I just loved that feeling. But it’s afterwards, when suddenly, the reality — you have babies and kids, and you’re supposed to go on the road. And then, it’s not only just the mom going on the road, but it’s the dad [Dominique is married to Ivy bandmate Andy Chase]. So it’s like, “What do we do with the kids? Well, we can’t bring them, so we have to leave them.” And so that becomes a very difficult, challenging lifestyle for sure. I would not recommend that; it’s definitely hard.
But, you know, I remember just going into the studio, and I just gave birth — we had a recording studio in Chelsea, but having a newborn, we set up a studio at home so I could just do my vocals between breastfeeding. So, there’s definitely songs where I’m doing my vocals and my daughter is basically on my boobs, I’m feeding her and I’m singing. [Laughs.]
Winter: [Laughs.] That’s so badass.
Dominique: It is. But, you know, it’s like anything in life — you figure it out. It’s not easy, but you find a way.
Dominique: But to come back to your record — I’ve been listening to it a lot and it’s really beautiful. I’m so happy that I got to know your music, because I’m trying to stay up on new artists. I know a lot of new artists from my kids, now because they’re older and they listen to a lot of music. I’m going to actually send your music to my oldest daughter, because she would love it. Your record I just has all the elements that I love in music — which obviously is a dreamy, hypnotic, very kind of melancholic, but also uplifting [feeling]. So you have the beat of sweetness, which I love, because if it’s too dark, then it gets too heavy handed. That is what I cherish in music, that combination of both. And I think you really capture that. So Bravo.
Winter: Thank you. That’s so cool to hear that, because I feel that our music has that in common. There’s sort of this ever-longingness.
Dominique: I know.
Winter: I grew up in Brazil — you know, everyone talks about that word “saudade.” It’s just that feeling of bittersweetness, of beautiful and melancholic and sort of like the world is passing you by. It’s just this ever-longing feeling.
Dominique: Absolutely, the yearning. To me, it’s beautiful. There’s nothing more beautiful in life than than being in this state of emotion. You know, sometimes it’s painful, but it’s OK. When you fall in love and then you’re separated and you’re yearning, or when you family’s far away or whatever — all these feelings are just, to me, what keeps you alive. They keep the fire going inside you. But I think it’s maybe a cultural thing, too, because I’m French. French, Brazilian — I think there’s something very similar in these two cultures. It’s a highly romantic culture.
Dominique: It’s all about enjoying the moment, enjoying life, enjoying good food, people, a good laugh — just the little simple beauties in life. I think we’re both very good at that, the Brazilian and the French. But also, we are not scared of nostalgia or melancholia, or darker, more complicated human interaction. I think we embrace that as well, without being scared or without trying to escape that feeling. I’m not saying Americans are not as good at that, but in a way, they are — I’ve been living here for more than 30 years, and I think American culture has a harder time with that. They’re more focused on always being positive and always trying to be happy and not embracing the darkness of humankind, in a way. I don’t know if you agree with me…
Winter: Yeah, I mean, I think both cultures — it’s really like how you said, the simple pleasures. I think there’s such a flavor and deepness of emotions. I think even the language lends — and I don’t know French that well, but just speaking for Portuguese, there’s so many words for different emotions and for love, and it’s very poetic. I feel like the poetry is so rich, even in the way people talk day to day. There’s a lot of beautiful nuances in the language and in the music. And I think it’s cool, the fact that we are making music that’s in English and trying to kind of bridge that gap — expressing our emotions and that kind of beautiful sadness in English, which is such a straightforward language.
Dominique: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny because Adam and I always loved Brazilian music — and actually, we used a lot of Brazilian musicians on our record. So we would always try to add a little bit of Brazilian influence, if we could, in our music, but without being so obvious. And Andy actually produced many, many bands in Brazil, so we spent quite a lot of time there.
Dominique: Yeah, so we do have a bit of a Brazilian connection.
Winter: I honestly think that I can see that. Now that you’re saying it, I can see it in a subtle way.
There’s some good stuff that’s come about from that intersection, I feel like, in the 2000s, of bossa nova, sort of twee — like Cornelius or something.
Dominique: Yeah, yeah.
Winter: 800 Cherries, Japanese bossa nova. I love that.
Dominique: Do you know Nouvelle Vague?
Winter: No! I’m going to write it down right.
Dominique: It’s a French project. They’re four or five musicians, and they use different singers. Basically what they do is, they take all these original songs and they make covers, but with the bossa nova feel. You should check them out, it’s amazing.
Winter: That is so cool. Which record had Brazilian musicians?
Dominique: We had some on Apartment Life, and also Long Distance. I think it was mostly these two records, because that’s when we used a lot of more organic strings, trumpet, and things like that.
Winter: That is really cool. Do you feel like in the ‘90s — I’m so curious about that time and what it felt like to be making music. [Laughs.]
Dominique: It was great. I mean, I don’t know if it was the ‘90s or it was the fact that I was young and open to anything. Who knows? But there was something really great about the ‘90s, because suddenly there were all these new bands coming up — and they were not great musicians for sure, but they have a chance to express themselves. The ‘90s really created that scene of the shoegazing and being very introverted and shy — which, I’m part of — and suddenly you throw on stage and that’s the last thing you ever wanted, but here you are. And so you’re like, OK, I’m not going to be faking it. I’m just going to be myself, which is, I’m really shy and I’m going to turn my back away from the audience. You don’t need to put sexy dresses, or suits for the guys. You could just be in jeans and t-shirt and basically act as if you were in your living room. And so there was something very liberating.
I mean, there was also other issue for me being a female singer, and especially doing that kind of music, which was very dreamy and gentle. It was still a very male world: I was always the only girl. The band was guys, the crew was all men, so I was always going on tour around basically 15 men. And then you go to clubs — I mean, in the audience there were girls, thankfully, but the people working in clubs were only men. It was definitely back then very macho, so it was a little tough for me. But I learned to maneuver through that.
But there was also such a sense of community, with all these indie bands getting together. And actually, I read in your bio that you started in Boston — why were you in Boston?
Winter: So, I studied journalism in Boston.
Dominique: OK. Where did you go?
Winter: Emerson. I quickly came to realize I was not going to be a journalist. I was like, I don’t want to be running towards the disaster. [Laughs.] I think my heart and soul is more positive and optimistic in life, so I don’t want to be reading and writing about negative things. So I realized that I wanted to do music and start my own project, and Boston had a really cool music scene there — noise music, experimental, the shoegaze bands. And I’m a big like Galaxie 500 fan — I got to open for Luna when they returned.
Dominique: Good friends of mine! I’ve known the bass player Britta [Phillips] for 30 years, way, way before she joined Luna. Actually, Adam was the one that recommended her to Dean [Wareham].
Winter: Oh, my god!
Dominique: Yeah. He was looking for a bass player, and Adam was like, “Oh, I know this girl, she’s amazing. You should audition her.” And then they fell in love. And at that time, he was married and it was a big, you know.
Winter: [Laughs.] Wow. That made history!
Dominique: They’re great. OK, so, you opened for them.
Winter: Yeah. So basically, I started my project in Boston because I was really inspired by a lot of the music there, and music from the past there. There’s something about — this sounds so funny, but the wintertime.
Winter: I don’t get to experience it living in LA, but I think it’s a very good time for writing music, and for ideas and reading. So I honestly started Winter during the winter. You know when you write music thinking about the music that you would want to experience and hear?
Winter: I really did that with Winter, like created the world that I wanted to hear.
Dominique: This went by so fast. When you come to New York, let me know, OK? I want to come and see you.
Winter: Yeah! I’m going on tour on the East Coast end of October, early November, from the 28 through November 5.
Dominique: Great. Well, good luck with your record, and I will definitely come and see you when you play in New York. And also, I’ll play your records for all my musical friends!
Winter: It was so amazing to talk with you. I am such a big fan of yours, and it’s really cool to connect.
(Photo Credit: left, Elizabeth Weinberg)