K.Flay is a badass- pure and simple. Stanford educated, Kristine Flahery turned what started as a casual musical experiment into a full-time career. Combining her eclectic and progressive blend of hip-hop, electronica and indie rock with eloquent and thought-provoking lyrics, K.Flay sets herself (far) apart from the pack. We sat down with her before her LA show with Swedish duo, Icona Pop, to talk artistic inspirations, stage persona and mainstream rap. Concert photos at the bottom of the page!
[Cover Photo credit: Wilson Lee]
EarPeace: Who are your major artistic inspirations?
K.Flay: It’s kind of a mix. I like a lot of indie artists and then also a lot of rap. Rapwise, I’m a huge OutKast fan, I always have been. I think they’ve pretty consistently subverted whatever was normal, in a way that was really interesting and novel and relevant.
EarPeace: Who would be on your playlist right now?
K.Flay: Right now? I’m a huge Gessafelstein fan. I like a lot of electronic music even though I can’t make it myself; I enjoy it. I mean we’re all huge Drake fans…I know that’s cliche but.. [laughs]
EarPeace: Have you met him?
K.Flay: I haven’t, no. I kinda don’t want to do, I kinda think I should just like him from afar. But yeah, and recently we’ve been listening to a lot of the Hot Natured record. It’s not, again, in my genre at all but it’s pretty cool. There’s a band, our friends from Brooklyn they’re called Wet. It’s sort of electronic/indie/R&Bish.
EarPeace: Do you think of all your beats together?
K.Flay: It’s either me or other people that I work with. Noah does kind of the live DJ stuff and then Nick, the drummer, obviously plays the drums live. But from a production standpoint it’s either me or the collaborators.
EarPeace: In another interview you said that “music is crossing genres and smashing up together”. What do you see in the future of music?
K.Flay: I think there’s a little more differentiation that’s occurring. I think there’s kind of of a reemergence of genre. There are real scenes, which I think is really cool. I think the lack of scenes is bad for any type of cultural product. Musically, in the last year or so, there’s been a little bit of a resurgence of that. Like acid house music -that’s a thing. There’s super pop and that’s a thing, and there’s gritty rock and that’s a thing. And there’s maybe a little less commingling of different genres and perhaps that’s sort of good? Because I feel that it incites people to be extra creative in their own realm.
EarPeace: Favorite authors?
K.Flay: Ooh, favorite authors! Well… a few of my all-time favorites. William Faulkner, I’m a huge William Faulkner fan. I love Margaret Atwood as well. I’ve been reading a lot of weird stuff lately…which doesn’t conform to what I would normally say. I recently read this book called Nothing to Envy. I would recommend it 100%. I can’t think of the author’s name…She was working for the LA Times and was the bureau chief in I think Southeast Asia and was stationed in Seoul. And then wrote this book about North Korea, it’s sort of an oral history as told by expatriates who fled to South Korea. Anyway, it’s very interesting, it’s really good!
EarPeace: What do you love most about touring?
K.Flay: I think, for better or worse, what I love is the immediacy and unpredictability of every show. You can record music and people interact with that in a particular way and it’s not to detract from that, but it’s sort of a contained interaction. There are built-in parameters, whereas when you play a live show there’s a lot of spontaneity and a lot of room for error – in a great way! And I mean, one of my favorite things when I see shows is when things fuck up a little bit. It’s not perfect and that it’s a human enterprise. And I think that’s a good, reassuring, state of affairs.
EarPeace: When you go out there, is it a stage persona, or is it naturally how you are?
K.Flay: Yeah, there’s pretty much no difference. I didn’t grow up being on stage or performing or making music or anything. So I don’t even really know how to do that properly, I kinda wish I did [laughs].
EarPeace: Your genre is hard to define, so I’m curious to hear what inspired your unique sounds. And carrying on with that, what inspired you to rap?
K.Flay: With regards to the rapping thing, I never made music before college. I happened to get get in an argument with my friend about mainstream rap at the time, I think it was sort of a low point for mainstream rap. And, I was basically talking shit, and he was like well you can talk shit but you’ve never made music so you have no substantive basis to back that criticism up on. And then I was like well, I’m gonna go make a song… and it all kind of evolved from a very lighthearted, innocent standpoint. And I started making music and people heard about it and I started playing house parties. So that was how that occurred, but I think genre-wise, I listen to a lot of different things and I have a genuine and great respect for all kinds of music, I don’t really think anything is particularly cooler than anything else. I’m always awed by people who get up on stage and perform something, regardless of what it is. I try to integrate the elements of live performance that I see into what I do…which is always changing. I feel like I just got out of my teenage years or something when I was experimenting and figuring out… I think the new stuff is moody and it’s a little bit more indie leading but it still has kinda the hip hop backing.
EarPeace: So when you see an artist onstage and see something awesome they’re doing onstage, do you kind of incorporate that into your own act?
K.Flay: Totally, I think everything’s sort of an amalgamation. You see this, you see that, and you incorporate different aspects of that into what you do… For sure, I think there’s a really interesting kind of…darkness to pop right now… or some certain extent to which pop kind of embodies that darkness. Which is cool, I think that happened in the mid to late 90s in a really interesting way, and I think it’s starting to happen again. And you know, I’ve always been drawn to music that had a darker thematic component, but still maintained a pop sensibility. And that’s hopefully what I’ll be making…
EarPeace: What’s coming up for you next?
K.Flay: Well we’re finishing up this run, which basically ends before Christmas. And I’ve been essentially sporadically recording for the last month. January will be more of the same, recording demos and getting everything sorted. And then hopefully after January the record will be sorted, mixed and out in some capacity.
EarPeace: Is there any place you’re dying to tour?
K.Flay: You know, I’d love to go to Australia. I haven’t been and a lot friends of mine have traveled there. And I have a couple of good friends that live there too so I would really love to be there.
Check out K.Flay’s Soundcloud here.
Photos from the show. Photo credit: Micah Wright
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