One can’t help but pick up on the enigmatic energy that pulsates from the creative works of Sam Franco who’s also known professionally as BARA HARI, her music persona. The artist crafts dark pop sounds tinged with ethereal vibes fit to dance to in the goth clubs. The songstress writes and produces her music, plus heads the creation of the accompanying videos—and that’s not all.
Franco is also a burlesque dancer and has performed with the witch-inspired troupe Belle, Book and Candle. Adding to her extensive list of artistic talents is her knack for costume design. She made the impressive angel wings she dons in the music video for the track “Ugly on the Inside,” and she’s done striking cosplay inspired by characters such as Selene from the Underworld films, Mistress of the Dark Elvira and Lucy Westenra from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to name just a few.
There’s no question that she’s an artist with substance, creating work that empowers women, rebels against the patriarchy, and reflects on the deeper significances of life and the human experience. In the following interview, Sam Franco talks about how she got her start in the music industry, her new album Dark New Day, why she got involved in burlesque and more!
Q: You are definitely a multitalented artist! You’re a singer, songwriter, burlesque performer and producer. How did you get started in the music industry and how did you come to form the persona BARA HARI?
A: Thank you for saying so! My background is actually in visual art and dance. Music has always been a passion of mine, but I never felt confident enough in my ability to create it. It was actually a pretty dark period of my life that brought music creation into the forefront. I was dealing with a slew of health problems that ultimately led me to have to quit dance and my job, so I had a lot of time at home. So I took it upon myself to take a stab at writing music. My boyfriend was kind enough to let me use his home studio and teach me the basics and I went from there.
Q: I checked out the videos and playlists on your YouTube channel and love your sound. Your music style is described as dark electropop. What made you want to dive into this genre of music?
A: I grew up listening to a lot of goth, 80s pop, and darkwave music so I suppose I can’t escape my influences that much! I think it’s the style of music that feels the most natural to write because of growing up listening to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Switchblade Symphony, Madonna, Depeche Mode, etc. But the more secure I’ve become in my songwriting, the more I am experimenting with different musical styles. I honestly can’t say that I prefer one genre of music to another. On any given day, I can go from listening to Type O Negative to Amy Winehouse to Al Bowlly. I think most of all what makes good music is the ability to convey a mood or emotion well.
Q: Your music videos exude a dark, visceral atmosphere. How do you come up with the concepts for them?
A: It kind of depends on what I am obsessed with at the time of the video’s conception and if there’s any specific mood that I want to set for the song. I am excited that the production quality of my videos has increased exponentially since I first started this project. I started by just filming things on my phone. My debut single, “Carving Flesh,” is about giving up the Catholic guilt and shame that surrounds a person’s sexuality so I thought doing something with the vibe of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” would be suiting. As far as my newer videos go, “Weapon” took on a Kill Bill theme because it’s a song about sexual abuse and manipulation so I thought it would be perfect to channel the film and play out a sort of revenge fantasy. The video for “Ugly on the Inside” was kind of just an amalgamation of my version of my favorite 90s music videos, specifically “Losing My Religion” by REM. I am also a seamstress, so I love creating the costumes for each video. It’s part of the overall vision of my project.
Q: What was the creative process like working on your newest album Dark New Day?
A: I started writing Dark New Day when the lockdown started. Like so many others, I feared falling into a deep depression during the pandemic, so I took it upon myself to work on my production skills. It was hard to write because at the time, I was sharing my space with three other people. So the entire album ended up being written in a small corner of my kitchen. The overall concept for the album ended up being my deep disappointment with society and welcoming the end of the world.
Q: In addition to being a musician, you’re also a burlesque performer. How did you get started in this performing art form?
A: I used to be really shy and insecure as a kid and in my early 20s and would constantly make excuses for why I couldn’t do certain things. It wasn’t until my mid 20s that I finally decided that I was going to do all the things that scared me but that I always wanted to try, and burlesque was one of them. I just absolutely love the drama of it. The costumes, the music, the larger-than-life femininity. To me, it feels like drag. I become a completely different person and that’s what draws me to it. I incorporate singing into my acts to give them more of a unique touch.
Q: From where do you draw inspiration for both your music and burlesque?
A: Films are one of my biggest inspirations! To me, everything is easier to do when you’re playing a character or taking on an alter ego. My music usually comes from a very personal place and is mostly a reflection of my observations about human behavior.
Q: Can you drop any teasers in regard to what you have in store for the future? What’s next for you as an artist?
A: Currently I am working on a full-length album and planning a new music video. I also have a few collaborations and covers in store for this year, and I am hoping to play live eventually.