Interview: K. Flay
Interview by Carl Pietrusinski
Illustrations by Peter Hopkins
If it weren’t for a game of truth or dare, Kristine Flaherty may have never given music a chance.
Thankfully one of her friends challenged her to write a rap song after listening to her gripes of the imitative and sometimes clichéd rap music that had been dominating the airwaves. That same night, Flaherty, a freshman studying psychology and sociology at Stanford University, wrote her very first song entitled Blingity Blang Blang. The song started off as a joke but was met with nothing but praise from her peers, motivating Flaherty to write a handful of more songs in the coming weeks. Just like that, K.Flay was born.
After about a decade of releasing mix tapes, EP’s, and plenty of singles, K.Flay graced her listeners with her first full-length studio album Life as A Dog last summer. She was able to do so with the help of fans who raised 196% of her monetary goal to finance the making of the album via Pledgemusic.
The result was a tremendous 44 minutes of genre bending instrumentals accompanied by a gritty angst that somehow has you singing along at the same time. The project is far from formulaic to say the least. Many of the tracks on the album flirt along the line between indie rock and electro house with K.Flay’s flow adjusting accordingly with each beat. Track after track she shows the versatility of both her voice and writing skills.
In my personal opinion, Life as a Dog, sets her miles apart from popular female rappers. But we shouldn’t feel the need to compare K.Flay and other female rappers. The natural instinct to compare K.Flay to the Nicki Minajs, Iggy Azaleas, and the like comes from the vast underrepresentation of women in the rap music genres.
K.Flay spoke of the comparisons with nothing but respect. But she also noted that there’s no need to compare her with her peers.
“There’s this idea that anything you do reflects all woman. It’s not like that as much as men because there are so many in the field. The way to combat that is to have so many different perspectives that there’s no way that anyone within reason can say that. It’s important to emphasize your individuality.”
It’s safe to say that her perspective adds to and may perhaps be the highlight of the growing culture of females in rap. Furthermore, her individuality showed itself in our phone interview to say the least. In one of the most fun interviews I’ve ever conducted we talked about Rabies, her YouTube cooking show, favorite books, Missy Elliot, and what she has in store for her fans next.
POND: I did some digging and discovered that you started off rapping as a dare while attending college at Stanford. Can you fill us in on that a bit?
K. FLAY: Basically, I was in college in California. I grew up in Chicago, so it wasn’t until I moved out there that I became kind of immersed in the west coast indie rap scene. Basically, I was starting to listen to non-radio rap in a major way and I was complaining to a friend about stuff on the radio. It felt kind of formulaic. And he basically challenged me to write a song as a joke and I did. There was something about doing it that was very interesting to me. Eventually I ended up buying a keyboard and learning how to make beats. For a while I was just making crappy music. But as time went on I started making less crappy music. It eventually morphed into music that I felt pretty good about. It was this kind of Unexpected but bizarrely natural progression. I’m so happy that I went though with it.
POND: You have an amazing YouTube channel, easily one of my favorites. Are we gonna have anymore “Late Night Cooking with K.Flay” installments?
K. FLAY: The problem with that at the moment is that I don’t have an apartment. I need a stable place to film these things. But there’s gonna be more. I tend to be kind of impulsive to my manager’s dismay with the weird things that I put out on the Internet. I’ve got a couple of things planned to do soon. We’ll definitely have some weird adventures this summer. The cooking video kind of got crazy with my friends interrupting a bit. But it was a good sandwich, so I’ll have to look into doing one of those again.
POND: I also stumbled upon your book reviews. Have you read anything noteworthy in last year?
K. FLAY: I’ve got a few for you! The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson is great. It’s fiction and has a very interesting structure. The first half was slower. But the payoff is very immense. I found it super interesting in a number of ways. It also takes place in North Korea. It actually won a Pulitzer too, so other people liked it too. I also read a very amazing book about Rabies believe it or not. It’s called Rabid and it’s a history of rabies. It’s insane. Did you know that it’s the deadliest virus to humankind? It’s like 99.99999999% deadly whenever you contract rabies, or close to that. Of course if you get a vaccine and proper treatment you’ll be ok. But if you get bitten and don’t receive any treatment you’re toast. What I found most interesting is that there are descriptions of rabies way back throughout history. As soon as humans could write, people were writing about rabies. A lot of monster like creatures are sort of modeled off of the rabies virus. But I don’t wanna go on all interview talking about rabies, because I totally could all day hahahaha, maybe some other time. Regardless, I definitely recommend reading it.
POND: What’s your favorite verse that you’ve ever recorded?
K. FLAY: I have a song called Rawks off an EP entitled What if it is? The first verse of that song will always be one of my favorites. It has a lot of wordplay and I just really like how that song turned out as a whole. But from an emotional standpoint, I have a song off a mix tape West Ghost, called Another Round. That’s one of my favorite ones as well. It’s basically one long verse. There’s no hook, but that’s another verse that I really enjoy.
POND: How did you come up with the album title “Life as a Dog”?
K. FLAY: The title was actually what I named a Soundcloud playlist of demos that I sent to my manager. I was basically sitting in a hot room, feeling sorry for myself and exhausted. So I just went with it. It’s really hard to make titles, at least I feel. But “Life as a Dog” seemed so natural. There seemed to be an element of triumph and defeat with the title to me. That kind fit thematically with the record. It’s like falling down and getting back up, which is the vibe I tried to go for on the album.
POND: What was the first CD that you ever purchased?
K. FLAY: I remember that my brother and I group purchased the first Ace of Bass album. It had some Scandanavian Bangers. But it also may have been the Tevin Campbell record “I’m Ready”. That had so many great songs on it. I’m not even sure why I bought it, looking back into the mind of an 8 year old. I’m really not sure what was going on there hahaha. He does have a beautiful voice. Can We Talk is a great song. His voice is so high and perfect.
POND: Who are your favorite rappers at the moment?
K. FLAY: I’m a big Run the Jewels fan. Their stuff is sort of hyper aggressive in certain ways. They have a lot of grit and energy in a very real way. It’s not a fake pumped up way either. It’s very genuine. I’ve also been getting really into Lorentz, he’s Swedish. His newest record is amazing. I have to translate a lot of the words. But the English words are also awesome. The production is crazy as well. He also has some singing elements in there as well. He’s some amazing videos too. I’m also a big A$AP Rocky fan historically. I love his new record. I’m also excited for whatever Vic Mensa has coming up next. I’m a big Chance the Rapper fan as well. Those guys are doing a ton of cool stuff right now.
POND: What was it like working with Danny Brown, is he as crazy as he puts off in his music?
K. FLAY: He was cool to hang out with and easy to get along with. We met because I did a remix as a fan of one of his songs. We’ve stayed in touch. But I don’t have any crazy stories sadly, or maybe happily haha.
POND: Who would your dream collaboration be?
K. FLAY: I would love to do something with one of the members of Outkast, or both honestly. I’m a big Outkast fan. It’s always changing as to whom else I want to work with. I’m open to a lot of different possibilities to be honest.
POND:How does it feel to be making such a big name for yourself in a musical field that is for the most part saturated with males? Of course there are the Missy Elliots, Iggy Azaleas, Nikki Minajs, etc. but it’s still a minority…
K. FLAY: It’s a very cool place to be. I think my experience has been interesting and different because there’s a rap element to what I do. But I’m more involved in the indie world. I’m a bit in between genres in that way. But the most important thing for any underrepresented group in a field is the diversity of perspectives. There’s this idea that anything you do reflects all woman. It’s not like that as much as men because there are so many in the field. The way to combat that is to have so many different perspectives that there’s no way that anyone within reason can say that. It’s important to emphasize your individuality. It feels great to be another voice in that court. It’s important to have pop rap from one perspective like Iggy is doing. It’s also important to have the emo/indie rap like I do. It’s interesting to have an inside look on this stuff. Missy Elliot was ahead of her time. From a broader perspective of identity, artistry, and creativity she’s someone that I look up to. She’s the apex of my inspiration and should be for a lot of females.
POND: What is in store for you next?
K. FLAY: I’ve got a 2-month summer tour that’s gonna be an amazing experience for me. It’s a mix of shows. I’ll be opening for Awolnation and Third Eye Blind for a bit. Then I’ll be headlining my own shows and also playing a few festivals. It’ll be keeping me on my toes, which will be awesome. I really like being on the road and the experience of a live show. I normally play with a drummer and a bassist live, so there’s plenty of energy. I just love what that adds to the performance. I can’t wait for this summer. Oh, and new music is on the way as well. So look out for that!