One of the largest bands in today’s rock scene, Bring Me The Horizon have created quite the stir during their fifteen-year history.
Though they have a seemingly inescapable association with metalcore from their early days, the UK rock outfit quickly gained a reputation for completely transforming their sound with every release. Unafraid to polarize their fans to pursue the music that inspires them, Bring Me The Horizon left their mark in 2019 with the release of amo, an album that seamlessly blends influences spanning alt-rock, electronica, hip hop, and pop. Though its 13 tracks largely made little effort to appeal to the band’s old-school following, amo‘s unique amalgam of genres recently earned the band a GRAMMY nomination for the category of “Best Rock Album.”
While a nomination in this category may not be much of a surprise for Bring Me The Horizon, the album features several unlikely collaborators who can now say they’ve contributed to a GRAMMY-nominated rock album—including the likes of dream pop singer-songwriter Grimes, former The Roots member Rahzel, and vocalist and sample pack creator KARRA. While Grimes and Rahzel are explicitly listed as features on the tracks “nihilist blues” and “heavy metal,” even the most avid listeners of amo may be unfamiliar with KARRA’s name, despite the fact that her vocals are prominently featured as the hook of one of the tracks, “in the dark.”
The interpretation of a sample
Unlike her peers, KARRA was never in communication with Bring Me The Horizon. In fact, she wasn’t even aware of the fact that she was on the album until after it was released. “I found out I was on Bring Me The Horizon’s album while I was filming promo for a collab with my friend, Tisoki,” she explains. “He’s a huge fan of the band, so he noticed my vocals throughout the entirety of amo.”
This sort of phenomenon is becoming increasingly common due to the accessibility and proliferation of sampling; KARRA has released multiple vocal sample packs on Splice Sounds, and one of them included her performance that Bring Me The Horizon discovered and used in “in the dark:”
“I faintly remember recording this sample among hundreds of others with my co-producer / writer on the entire pack, Matthew Steeper,” KARRA recalls. “We went through these phrases very quickly, and honestly didn’t put too much thought into them. We just wanted to write phrases that were simple, easy to understand, and most importantly, easy to use.”
By keeping her phrases simple and versatile, KARRA leaves a lot of room for artists using her sounds to exercise their creativity. “My guess for why Bring Me The Horizon chose this particular sample would be that they saw it as an opportunity to transform a simple phrase into their own unique story,” she presumes. “I applaud their creativity because the song talks about not keeping someone ‘in the dark’ with secrets, rather than referencing the literal sense of being ‘in the dark.'”
Forget about the things you think I know
No secrets, you can’t keep me
(In the dark, in the dark)
—”in the dark” by Bring Me The Horizon
When she creates samples, KARRA never envisions her vocals to belong to any specific genre. That said, she couldn’t help but be surprised by Bring Me The Horizon’s use of her hook. “I will say that I typically expect my samples to be used primarily in the realm of electronic music, so seeing that a popular rock band used my samples really wowed me,” she notes. “Not to mention I was a huge fan of Bring Me The Horizon’s music when I was in high school, but lost touch with many of the bands I grew up listening to as I transitioned into pop and EDM, so this was a pretty cool moment for me!”
While KARRA’s involvement on “in the dark” may already feel like a clashing of worlds, the line between pop and rock is further blurred by tracks like “¿”—a flip of “in the dark” on the band’s latest EP that features none other than Halsey.
“[On ‘¿’], they had Halsey cut the song without the sample, which is pretty awesome,” KARRA remarks. “To be one degree away from these artists is an honor in and of itself.”
Opportunities and challenges
What’s exciting about distributing samples for KARRA is that the same high-quality sounds can be used by anyone from the likes of Bring Me The Horizon and Halsey to aspiring producers working from their bedrooms. “It’s a really cool thought knowing that your voice is being used by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe,” she states. “It truly has been an interesting ride… I look to my left and my right, and don’t see anyone next to me doing what I’m doing, which can be scary, but I believe it’s the only way to be in order to break boundaries.”
As a trailblazing sample creator / artist hybrid, KARRA finds herself at the intersection of a unique set of opportunities, challenges, and processes. “The one thing that’s consistent between supplying samples and collaborating with artists directly is the creative aspect,” she explains. “Whether I’m making a sample or writing a song with an artist, I’m still creating something that didn’t exist before. Other than that, the workflow, writing and recording processes, royalty collection, opportunities, ideas, etc. are all completely different. When I work directly with artists, multiple people are putting their brains together to meet somewhere in the middle creatively. When I’m recording samples, I’m simply throwing out ideas without having to gain approval from another artist, writer, producer, or label. With sample packs, it’s up to the producer to find a sample that speaks to them, so I have no involvement or relationship with these people—unless of course we connect after the fact.”
Although they’re different, it doesn’t seem that one path is intrinsically superior to the other. “I absolutely find both processes both challenging and rewarding,” KARRA continues. “Financially speaking, it has been much easier to collect earnings on the sample pack side, because it’s a clear-cut system. You get a download, you get paid. With music royalties, it’s the wild west. It may take you years to see any money from your song, and you never truly know if your collections are accurate. The opposing side to this is that samples are royalty-free, so with the possibly billions of streams my samples are racking up, I’m not eligible to collect on that or get vocal credit.”
A commitment to positivity and inspiration
Despite these realities and other obstacles, KARRA has come a long way in establishing herself as an undeniable voice in music. She has nothing but her own grit and dedication to her craft to thank for her achievements; in her college days, KARRA was denied every single showcase she auditioned for, but refused to give up. She worked her way to landing her first release on Proximity’s YouTube channel, and from there released her first vocal sample pack on Splice, collaborated with the likes of KSHMR and Audien, learned vocal production, and launched her own vocal label, KARRA Presents.
“Without the lows, there would be no highs,” KARRA tells us. “I’m so grateful to have had the strength to keep fighting, because my mission in life is to be a staple of influence, positivity, and inspiration in the industry that gives me purpose.”
Incorporate the sound of KARRA’s top-notch vocal production into your own tracks via her all-new label, KARRA Presents.
January 23, 2020