That Human Touch: Eden Samara Interviewed

Digging into her club roots, and pop aspirations...

After breaking through last year with vocal performances on Loraine James’ ‘Reflection’ album and Parris’ ‘Skater’s World’, London-via-Toronto electronic pop artist Eden Samara has compromised eight tracks for her debut album on London label Local Action featuring production credits from some of dance music’s brightest, including Shanti Celeste, Call Super, TSVI and more. 

The relationship between the modern pop and dance music worlds has never felt quite so close with many of the undergrounds current-gen finding inspiration within the post-genre period we currently find ourselves in. Eden’s debut album, ‘Rough Night’, is a transatlantic, coming of age story told through two bedrooms – one in Toronto and one in London – where Eden and friend and collaborator Ryan Pierre have explored everything from introspective, Erika de Casier-like R&B to the cute and colourful dance-pop that is coming to define the current era of underground electronics. 

Built out of love, community, friendship and making the best with what you’ve got, Clash sat down with Eden Samara to chat all about formative experiences in Corsica, the relationship between pop and dance music, the legacy of DJ Rashad and her debut album.

There is a clear love for dance music represented throughout the whole record, linking up with so many of the genre’s leading underground names. Can you tell me a little about any experiences that you had within the underground circuit when you moved to Europe and how they have influenced the music you make now?

I moved to London six months before the pandemic started, so I’d been able to get to a few events but then everything shut down. What I did go to was enough to keep me here though. I went to see Lena Wilkens playing with Vladamir Ivkovic at Corsica, that was huge for me. They really focus on the arc in a way that’s very interesting; they’ll take fast records and play them at low speeds. Andrew Weatherall did this kind of thing with his sets too; building energy that’s purposeful and taking your time. When Lena and Vlad play together they really take their time, but you’re still completely riveted. It was so good that I didn’t want to leave the dancefloor in case I missed something.

I also caught Weatherall on New Years Eve at what is now Colour Factory (formerly Mick’s Garage), a month or two before he passed away. Andrew Weatherall doesn’t come to Toronto, these are people that I would never have seen before and suddenly I was seeing them and learning from them.

I wondered how the arc of a set would translate to pop music. When I started making this album I was thinking about fucking with the structure of a pop song a little bit. Like, in ‘Madonna’, that song changes so many times. You don’t get to the chorus until the end. I was thinking about how to tell a story in the club with pop music, and that’s what I was learning from these DJs. 

The third event that sticks out in my mind is when I went to see Shanti [Celeste] and Serena (Peach) at De School in Amsterdam. They played a really long set, like it wasn’t over until it was over y’know? That doesn’t happen back home, we don’t see that in clubs that often. Everything in Toronto closes at 2am. When I started going out I was going to raves because they were fun without paying much attention to who was in the booth. Originally I didn’t have an interest in the history of who was playing, but now as soon as I hear someone I like and I’m researching the shit out of them.

We have to chat about the collaborations. You have linked up with so many amazing producers such as Loraine James, Parris, TSVI, Shanti Celeste, Call Super… I feel like the relationship between underground dance music and pop music has never been so strong. How did those collaborations come about?

It’s a double edged sword that we’re coming to this point where there is a lot of crossover between pop and the underground. It’s amazing on one hand that we’re in what I like to refer to as a post-genre period. People are not only ready for that now, but they expect it. I don’t think I could have made this record until more recently, as I’m not sure people would get it like they do now. It’s cool, but it also means that underground music is moving more into the mainstream. 

It makes it even more important now to do your research. I don’t want to be making stuff that feels like empty pop borrowing dance music tropes. Not only are those collaborators my friends, it was important for me to work with people that I feel are very firmly rooted in dance music. That felt more genuine to me as that’s where my head was as well. The dance music community can feel so small sometimes, you move to London and think it’s huge and overwhelming. Literally my second day in London I met Loraine [James]. I met Object Blue in a green room at a club. You don’t meet these people in Canada. That’s why people move to these cities, because people are there, and if you’re nice and they’re nice then you make a friend.

For those that don’t know, can you talk to me a little about the story that the record tells and the experience in making it. From reading the little note you left on the Bandcamp description, and the journey between two cities, it sounded like it was quite a transformative experience.

This record started in Toronto, mostly out of my house. Ryan Pierre, who worked with me a lot on the album, we live down the street from each other. Then we moved to the UK and finished it there. We went back to Canada for Christmas one year and took all our shit in a suitcase, as we had to quarantine for two weeks we’d work on music there.

I wanted it to feel like two people making it because they love it. I wanted it to feel real. That sounds silly, but I wanted to say hey, we don’t have any money, we don’t have any nice studios, we just want to make some music. That was something I learned from Loraine too. They don’t have any fancy shit to use, I didn’t have any fancy shit to use on the song we put out on her record. We were broke, living in London trying to pay our rent. I learned to engineer because I couldn’t afford to pay an engineer. That’s also partly why so many people that feature on the record are my friends, we do each other favours and work on each other’s music together. That’s how the community should work.

I didn’t want to make something that sounded like it was made in the studio with huge elements of sound design. I wanted to make pop music that you can connect to a little more than something glossy coming out of your car radio. 

I read in previous interviews with you online where you talk about the musical inspiration and comfort of DJ Rashad. What is it about his music that draws you in?

Someone showed me ‘She A Go’ in 2017. I was still in my phase of enjoying music without knowing too much of the back story, but when I heard that song… I just hadn’t heard anything quite like it before. Some things make it across the border for your general music listener, and some things just don’t make it far enough. I don’t think I knew what is was properly until a few years later, I watched a documentary on THUMP about footwork in Tokyo and was mind blown. I used to watch RBMA videos. RP Boo did one, Jlin also did one that was really great. From watching those lectures and learning about the culture it took me to Chicago and Teklife.

‘Double Cup’ was a record I became obsessed with. When I moved to London I was so lonely because I had no friends, but I had this playlist of music that was comforting to me. There’s a lot of Rashad on there. It makes me feel inspired. There’s an interview he did on YouTube where he talks about his shitty drum machine and not having much. He says it’s something they loved to do so they kept on doing it. That was the ethos behind my record too, so I felt like I needed to hear what he had to say. 

In the press release you describe the album as a bedroom pop record because you were literally learning how to engineer and produce throughout the process. Now that you have those experiences under your belt, where do you think your sound will take you?

What excites me about my music is being able to mix electronics with organicism, like the human voice. I don’t really use autotune, or do anything to my vocals really. I like the dryness to them, I like how it has a real human element to it. I grew up as a choir kid so I love choral singing. 

Do I think my music will become more polished as I go on? Yeah, that’s inevitable as I continue to learn more, but I never want to lose that human touch.   

‘Rough Night’ is out now on Local Action.

Words: Andrew Moore
Photo Credit: Natalia Podgorska

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