Sometimes, the best music doesn’t come purely from guitars, basses, drums and so forth. There are instances where the coolest sounds that make or break a track come from everyday objects, voices of strangers and more.
With the ability to record anything anywhere and scroll through endless lists of odd sample sounds online, it’s safe to say your favorite alt artists have used this to their advantage. Oftentimes, they’re changed in such a way that the sample lives in a world of its own where it’s harder to identify.
Now, listen closely to the tracks below and see if you can hear the weird sounds these 10 artists used to complete their songs.
“bury a friend” – Billie Eilish
As a producer for his own projects as well as his sister Billie Eilish, FINNEAS is always looking for out-of-this-world sounds that other music makers may not consider. When he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he shared how the two have Invisalign sets and often have to get checkups at the dentist. One day, Eilish came home having recorded the dentist’s drill used at her appointment, and FINNEAS threw it right into the song. That high-pitched sound will transport you to the dentist’s office, and you may never hear this song the same ever again. At the very least, it will remind you to floss better.
“Teardrops” – Bring Me The Horizon
Bring Me The Horizon’s latest album, POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR, was full of amazing guests such as BABYMETAL and Nova Twins. However, did you know that “Teardrops” also has a special guest included? Elephant sounds were used as the song’s sonic signature. You can see Oli Sykes on TikTok looking up sounds that he ultimately convinced Jordan Fish to use on the final track.
“Uma Thurman” – Fall Out Boy
If you’re a younger person who didn’t experience television before cable and streaming, you may have not noticed that Fall Out Boy’s “Uma Thurman” samples the theme song from The Munsters. Yes, straight from the ‘60s, the pop line that gives the song nostalgic, beachy vibes is from this famous TV show. It’s not a hidden sound by any means, but Gen Z and millennials may have not been familiar with this fun fact.
“System Blower” – Death Grips
Death Grips are known for their aggressive and experimental music that’s unlike anything else in the scene. In this particular track, they sampled Venus and Serena Williams playing a tennis match and grunting, and they also sampled the Vancouver Skytrain. You can hear the grunts around the 58-second mark and the train throughout the entire song.
“Saturnz Barz” – Gorillaz
It’s a known fact that Gorillaz aren’t one bit afraid to experiment with new sounds, and this certainly applies to “Saturnz Barz.” For this intergalactic song, they appropriately sample a children’s science toy, specifically an interactive planetarium. When you hear the lyric “Press the button to begin” at the start, that’s just a planetarium toy talking right at you.
“Soap” – Melanie Martinez
Melanie Martinez didn’t just add fun synth sounds to the background of her vulnerable pop song. Her producers actually inserted a mix of sounds into the song that imitated soapy bubbles popping to make it be as true to its title as possible.
“Voldemort” – With Confidence
With Confidence’s most-streamed song on Spotify uses the sound of celebration and chatter to close it out. While some may think this is just the band excited in the studio after a good recording session, it’s actually a sample from the sounds of a bar the band patronized. In an interview, they shared that they wanted “happy and carefree” sounds for “Voldemort.” They found just that in Sydney, Australia’s Frank’s, where they brought a mic and sat in a booth to record the ambient noise of bar-goers having a fun time.
“Bang!” – AJR
AJR are known for their larger-than-life performances, use of extraordinary trumpet sounds and intuitive blend of technology and music. Though, did you know that this brotherly trio is obsessed with the voice you hear on the New York City subway? So much so, they actually reached out to the man who did the voice-over for “Stand clear of the closing doors, please” and asked him to use his voice on their song. In “Bang!,” the recurring lines “Here we go” and “Metronome” is—you guessed it—the voice of “the subway guy.” Turns out he was already a pretty big AJR fan.
“Space Dementia” – Muse
Muse are sonic giants who love synths and heavy basslines. They’re certainly not afraid to push the boundaries of rock music as we know it. In “Space Dementia” from Origin Of Symmetry, the band experimented with new sounds by incorporating Matt Bellamy’s pants zipper into the mix. If you listen closely around 5:32, you can hear the repetitive up-and-down sounds of a zipper at the song’s climax.
Biffy Clyro – “Wolves Of Winter”
Biffy Clyro may be pure rock, but laced underneath those melodic guitars and booming basslines, they recorded a myriad of sounds right outside their doors and windows for “Wolves Of Winter” from Ellipsis. They shared how the introduction came from a recording of crickets chirping outside and even L.A. couples fighting in the street. Inspiration can truly come from anywhere and everywhere, right?