Nightmare weaver SAMWOY draws inspiration from soundtracks and trauma

We spoke with the Montreal musician about his debut LP, Awkward Party, and working on a film script about his life-changing accident.

It’s an oppressively hot day in Montreal, the kind where your shoes feel like they’re melting to the sidewalk, as I stand outside of the building that houses Hidden Ship, the DIY label machine run by Juno award-winning producer and musician Samuel Woywitka. He’s just on the brink of releasing his debut solo album, Awkward Party, under the moniker SAMWOY, a garage punk meets dancefloor synth project that was initially conceptualized before FHANG, his other project with experimental bass wizard Mishka Stein.

Woywitka leads me into his studio space and it looks like a rowdy vaudevillian or bohemian gathering has just taken place; half-torsoed red mannequins, masks everywhere, glitter on the floor, a general sense of well-crafted lunacy in the air. 

“Sorry about the mess, but I had this fucking masquerade here recently for the video,” Woywika says as he relaxes in a chair next to a bean bag table. 

He’s talking about the music video for the song “Awkward Party,” one he directed with Gus Englehorn and Estee Preda (whom he just announced a small tour with), when a bunch of his friends and collaborators showed up for a masked night of artistic belligerence under orange moonlight. Watching the music video, it reminds you of one of those art parties a guy like Salvador Dali would throw. It also completely fits the vibe Woywitka is going for with his new project, music that feels like it should have a trippy sci-fi experimental art house film backing it up for every track. 

“Awkward Party” by Samwoy

“If I could have films for every song, I would,” he says. “The music I’m making is definitely sonically inspired by those darker hypnotic soundtracks to films and the visuals themselves. Like Panos Cosmatos kind of stuff.”

The theme behind Awkward Party has been something Woywitka has been toying with for awhile and the fractured narrative in songs like “White Dog,” “Hate Me”  “GUTS” and “Remember That You Have to Die” are inspired by his memories and trauma linked to a car crash when he was 17. He still can’t fully blink on the left side of his face. 

“It was brutal and I had a serious brain injury and half of my face got ripped off,” he says. “Then some crazy Final Destination shit happened which I don’t want to go into too much.” 

That’s because Woywitka is working on a film script about the experience and he wants it to be fresh for his audience once it debuts. 

“It’s weird ‘cause that experience is kind of like the only one I remember,” he says. “It was such an intense moment in my life and it was the moment where everything changed and the rest of my life started. It was kind of blurry thinking about it.” 

There’s a phrase Woywitka uses when describing his musical process. He says it feels like making a dark watercolour painting, and listening to Awkward Party front-to-back you can’t help but agree. The music feels smudged together with heavy post-punk guitars and bass, swirling synths, bat-shit hyper drumming, and SAMWOY’s dream merchant vocal style that is part angsty screams or fugue-state-verse. Altogether it feels like a fever dream.

“I think I’m just like a dark dude,” Woywitka laughs. “Like, I’m like really happy go lucky but then when I’m doing art, and creating, I feel like it’s the most true version of me. And sometimes I’m even, ‘Oh, shit this is fucking weird dark shit, dude.’” ■

SAMWOY launches Awkward Party with l’Escogriffe with Sunglaciers and Empty Nesters on Wednesday, June 14, 9 p.m., $15.56. For more on Samwoy, please visit his website.

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