Henry Ate was the brainchild of Karma-Ann Swanepoel, a singer/songwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. The band formed in 1996, when guitarist Julian Sun was playing at a music festival with the band Urban Creep and invited Karma out of the audience to sing. The resulting impromptu performance encouraged them to create their own group, and the two recruited ex-members of Plum -- Barry van Zyl, Willen Moller, and brothers Kevin and Warren Leicher -- to round out the lineup. The group released their debut album, Slap in the Face, in 1997 under the moniker Henry Ate, having taken the name from one of their songs' lyrics.
Slap in the Face's folk-pop material was greeted with positive reviews and extensive media coverage in the band's native South Africa. 1998 proved to be a year of change, however, as the band changed its name and shuffled its personnel. Upon signing to a new label, Primedia, the Henry Ate was dropped. Instead, the group's follow-up effort, One Day Soon, was touted as a solo album for Karma. Only Sun was retained from the original lineup, and new musicians Brendan Ou Tim (bass), Max Mikula (guitar), and Peter Cohen (drums) were added, with Cohen leaving the group in mid-1999. The album received good reviews, and the single "One Day Soon" received significant radio airplay. Karma continued issuing new material under her own name, eventually relocating to America in 2003 and pursuing the rest of her solo career there.