INTERVIEW: K.Flay releases new single 'Bad Vibes': "It all boils down to one word – curiosity"
WORDS: Jett Tattersall
Kristine Flaherty, who performs under the name K.Flay, started her music career while studying a degree in psychology and sociology at Stanford University. Initally recording a parody of rap and hip-hop music, titled ‘Blingity Blang Blang’, in response to what she believed was the misogynistic and formulaic hip hop music that was popular at the time, she soon discovered a love for the process of writing and recording music. After several mixtapes her debut, self-titled EP arrived in 2010, followed by debut album Life as a Dog in 2014. In 2017 she released second album Every Where Is Some Where which garnered three Grammy Award nominations last year including Best Rock Song for the stand-out single ‘Blood in the Cut’.
Flaherty recently released the new single ‘Bad Vibes’, a beat heavy, rap-rock-synth crossover track which quickly becomes an earworm. Currently touring across the US, Flaherty will be returning to Australia in July to play concerts in Sydney, Melbourne and Splendour In The Grass. We recently caught up with K.Flay to chat about her new music, video and touring.
Hey K.Flay, thank you for chatting with us
How is life in the world of K-Flay at the moment?
Lately, it’s really good. I think right now I’m in a time of a lot of excitement and I’m working really hard. I’m very passionate about everything that’s happening, but my body is kind of suffering slightly because it doesn’t understand that it’s good stress, everything that’s happening is good. It’s just taking a lot of energy and mental space, but it’s very exciting.
Your body is going into fight or flight mode despite the enjoyment?
Yeah, I think that’s what is happening now and I sort of forgot that this is what happens before you start going back on the road and putting out music. I’ve been really lucky, I’ve had about eight months to work on new music and be in Los Angeles, which is where I live, and take care of myself. I’ve gotten a little spoiled. I’ve had a vaguely normal schedule and now I’m getting back into the craziness, which is like the yin and yang. I can only take so much routine then I need to be thrown into the den of chaos.
What was the inspiration behind your new single ‘Bad Vibes’?
The inspiration is really just people that I was spending time with in Los Angeles. Pretty much any time I work on music it’s just coming in with whatever is going on in my life or whatever I happen to be thinking about that day. I was in with my collaborator and producer, Tommy, who he and I incidentally grew up thirty minutes from each other in the mid-west of the US and so we kind of have this childhood connection in terms of how we were raised and our values and outlook in life. I was saying to him ‘Man, I just feel like I’m around this energy, it’s just like bad vibes. It’s like everybody’s trying to outdo one another with levels of cynicism and negativity.’ I don’t need some idiot at a bar with an annoying tattoo pontificating about some weird political bullshit he doesn’t know anything about. I just really want to be around creative people. I want to be around hopeful energy. I want to be around people who are curious and using their imagination. That was really where the song came from. Every detail in that song is something I’ve heard someone say or I’ve seen where I was just like ‘This sucks.’
The video for ‘Bad Vibes’ is an absolute killer. It’s beautiful and so inspiring. What was that like to make?
Very cold! The location was insane and we tried to capture as much of that as we could, especially in the basketball court shots. We were on the edge of the continent and just gazing out upon the Pacific Ocean. So epic, so California magnificence. It was a very beautiful environment to be in. It was shot in [the headquarters of] a former acid cult, so it was this bizarre compound that had been built in the ‘60s or ‘70s with all this weird stuff. There was a swimming pool shaped like ovaries and fallopian tubes, you know totally bizarre druggy stuff. So, it was kind of a mythical place to do it, but I think it suited our kind of vision because we wanted there to be sort of a dreaminess to the video and a dream-like quality to how it felt and looked. The location really had that.
That’s what you get. You get this dream quality, but you also get this extreme empowerment. Is that the message you wanted to come through? Femininity but with some punch to it?
For sure. The song to me and the new music that I have been working on is really about instead of looking at the walls of your confinement, whatever that might be, and imagining how you could leave. How you can change the environment that you’re in or change your mindset. And that was really our intent with the video. To say that sometimes the prisons that we feel like we’re trapped inside, these prisons of the mind, they are our own creation. This feeling like you’re trapped in a cycle of negativity or trapped in a pattern of behaviour, it really might be as simple as acknowledging that, identifying it and starting to make changes. I’ve been able to kind of re-centre at the same time as I was making the record and a lot of the sentiments of the song reflect that, about how do you make change. Often it’s difficult, but it’s possible and we are the engineers of our destiny. At least in certain ways.
Can you tell me about your creative process? I know you did a lot of your writing in your parents’ basement for your last album.
My parents actually moved, they no longer have a basement! They live in a one-storey condo now. So there is no basement for me to write in. I realised this a couple of weeks ago that all of the new music I wrote in houses. And nothing was done in a studio per se. It was all in home studios. And aside from a couple new people, it’s really been the same crew that I worked on the last record with. I’m a big believer in creative partnerships that stands time. I think you always want to maintain tension in any creative relationship. You never want to settle. But so long as tension can be maintained, productive tension, it’s so valuable to have collaborators who know you and who you know. You spend so much time working on music and in the studio – late night, early morning - really intimate time together. For me, I want to spend that with people that I really care about and value as friends. To me there’s a groundedness to the music that I’m excited about. It feels like something that we’ve made in a home if that makes sense.
You are going to be coming back to us in July for Splendour in the Grass which is very exciting. Have you thought about what your set will be like?
In terms of the set, I’m just beginning here in the US. We start playing shows on Monday 15th April, so I’m in rehearsals right now. We’re dipping our toes into the waters of the new stuff and figuring out how I want to play it. It’s really exciting. It’s very fun this part of the process for me. So for the Splendour set, lots of new stuff and honouring the old material as well. I have to say, we were in Australia two years ago for Groovin’ The Moo and sideshows as well and I had such an incredible time. Very, very truly and I say it very sincerely, some of my really best memories came from that month that we were down there. So, I’m just looking forward to being back. Obviously, Splendour is an incredible festival and I’m super, super excited to be there and just be a fan. I truly just love wandering around and hopefully discovering new music. One of my favourite things about doing Groovin’ The Moo was that I got see so many live Australian acts that I wouldn’t always have the opportunity.
You are a role model. You’ve got your own fangirls out there. What are the key qualities you return to both in your lyrics and your videos to inspire this generation?
You know, it all boils down to one word – which is curiosity. And I think curiosity is kind of the thing that can really get stamped out of us as we get older. It can be discouraged in this odd way. To me, curiosity embodies so much of what is beautiful about being alive and human. It means you’re compassionate, you’re open. you’re a listener. You’re exploring new experiences, but you’re also asking questions about those experiences to make sure that they’re good ones and that they can benefit you and other people. Whenever I’m feeling super anxious or super depressed or somehow out of sync with myself, it’s usually because I’m not tapped into my own curiosity or imagination. So that’s been the real guiding principle over this last year and is kind of what has driven this process of new music and hopefully the rest of 2019. Curiosity is to me the key word and the key way to order your life.
K.Flay is touring Australia in July. For more info and tickets, click here
To read more on K.Flay, check out our six page feature in issue 2 of Women In Pop magazine.