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Photography: El Hardwick

“Why can’t someone know the entire history of dubstep and still love Ariana Grande?”

This is a question that is often at the forefront of Eden Samara’s mind. It makes sense: the Canadian singer and producer’s own output straddles pop and underground electronic music. “Pop music shouldn’t be a guilty pleasure for dance music heads!” she animatedly asserts from across the table at an east London cafe. “We’re living through a pretty fucked up time – everyone is ready to embrace fun and simplicity.”

Growing up, Samara experienced a different kind of simplicity in the small Canadian mountain town of Nelson, British Columbia. Surrounded only by vast stretches of wilderness and about 10,000 other inhabitants, she dived into online music discovery as a way to access new worlds – whether through the kaleidoscopic sounds of indie pop bands like Grizzly Bear or the mind-melting bass of US dubstep. But it wasn’t until a 2008 move to Toronto that Samara experienced the rush of experimental dance music firsthand. “There was one party that would fly in UK artists like Bicep,” she giddily remembers. “At that time, they were underground, so it was very exciting.”

This affinity for UK club culture led Samara to relocate to London in 2019. Just days after arriving, she attended a production workshop led by several Hyperdub artists. It was here that she met producer Loraine James, who shared a wonky UK drill instrumental with Samara, hoping that she’d lend her dulcet vocals to a track that would eventually become Running Like That from James’ critically acclaimed LP, Reflection. That same year, Samara met can you feel the sun co-founder Parris at a skatepark after being introduced by mutual friend and fellow Canadian DJ, Peach. “We bonded over our obsession with Charli XCX!” she laughs. Their shared love of hyperpop led them to collaborate on Skater’s World – Parris’ most effervescent song to date, and Samara’s introduction proper as an artist.

Rough Night, her forthcoming debut album for Local Action, makes good on her promise of recording “pop music for heads”. The album’s lead single, Madonna, is a slinky house tune that struts with attitude. Most recent single, The Local, sprinkles infectious keys over a shuffled beat and is elevated by a soul-stirring, multi-harmony vocal performance. Rough Night production duties are largely shared by Samara and Toronto-based artist Ryan Pierre, with added contributions from Shanti Celeste, Call Super, Dan Only, TSVI, Loraine James and Peach making collaboration one of the album’s defining features. “A lot of dance music producers see production as an entirely introspective process,” Samara says. “Making pop music forces you to break out of that.”

Instead, she’s inviting everyone to self-examine with her. Rough Night is an album about navigating the rocky road of self-discovery – particularly her uneasiness around the concept of “forever” and steering through the complexities of queer relationships (as addressed on Madonna). The project is a celebration of “growing into your new skin”, even if the process is messy.

“[The reason] most artists create is to attempt to make sense of themselves and their surroundings,” she explains, acknowledging that sometimes, for her, this can sound “awkwardly personal”. But this doesn’t faze her one bit – Samara is resolute in her mission. “It takes bravery to say, ‘I’ve watched the [dance music] documentaries, I know the traditions, and I want to apply them to making pop music.’”

Sounds like: Your favourite DJ’s favourite pop star
Soundtrack for: Solo journeys to the pre-drinks
Our favourite tune: Madonna
File next to: Jessy Lanza, yunè pinku
Find her: @edensamara_

Rough Night is out on 1 November via Local Action