By: Josh Terzino –
The path to self-discovery is often littered with obstacles – a journey one must make on his or her own terms. This was no different for K.Flay, who found her sound only after climbing over more than a handful of roadblocks. The indie hip-hop musician, born Kristine Flaherty, had released four mix tapes three EPs, and one full-length album, but was trapped on the roster of a major label that wouldn’t commit to an album. So at the end of 2013, Flay unhooked herself from the label and began writing songs for what would become the most cohesive, truest representation of herself – her debut album, Life As A Dog.
Prior to leaving the label, K.Flay had been living in San Francisco and then Brooklyn. In January, she left her apartment and holed up in a rehearsal space in downtown Los Angeles, isolating herself to see what sort of songs emerged. What had previously been a discouraging spiral was remedied by the process of making music without expectations or preconceptions.
The songs were inspired by experiences during, and surrounding K.Flay’s extensive touring, both with artists like Passion Pit, Icona Pop, 3Oh!3 and Theophilus London, and at festivals like Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and Governors Ball.
Life As A Dog is imbued with that sense of betterment as K.Flay tries to reconcile the tension between being up to no good and also searching to find the good in everything.
In a press conference held at the Bottlerock Music Festival this past weekend, K.Flay talks becoming an indie artist, gaining inspiration from books, and more!
You started off as a solo act doing everything on a laptop so I was wondering now that you play with musicians behind you has your writing style changed at all?
Yeah. I think it’s changed my outlook on the live show and also my outlook on recording and writing. Nowadays when I’m writing I kind of envision how it’s gonna play out live. With the last record there was and definitely on the new songs. It’s been good and in general the project has been moving in kind of an indie-alternative direction and the live show has been a big part of that.
In 2013 you broke away from your label. Do you wish you had waited a while before going with them or what happened?
I went in to the relationship with all the best hopes and aspirations for that partnership. It was just too early for me. At the time I thought I kinda knew what I wanted to do, but I think I lacked the self-awareness that comes with making and performing music for a good five years. If you don’t have a firm sense of who you are inside a major-label structure, I think it’s very hard to develop in a way that feels good and natural because there’s a lot of influences, a lot of ideas. I learned a lot, and I think I learned about what I wanted to do. And they were really cool, they let me leave.
Did you feel like they were trying to steer you in a direction you didn’t want to go?
I actually didn’t. And they did a lot of things to help me figure out my direction. But, they reached a point where their solution for figuring that out was different from my solution. A lot of times with solo artists they just put you in rooms with a lot of producers, and while that can be exciting and you can learn a lot it’s also very confusing.
What kept you going after leaving the label?
Ultimately what motivates me is, like, there’s a little feeling I get when I make something. I think it’s gratifying when you make something no matter what you make or how you make it. It’s a very human need and desire to do that. For me, I never thought about stopping which is kind of odd in retrospect. But that feeling compelled to make stuff just never went away.
Do you feel like your music is still evolving with the band or have you been able to find the sound that you are looking for?
I feel like I know what I’m doing right now, which is good. I’m sure that will change. Yeah in terms of the new music and what I’m working on, I feel like it has a consistent voice and a narrative thread that goes through even though the genres are bending in ways.
Do you have a special goal in mind looking five years down the line?
I think more than anything I wanna put out these next few projects and feel proud of them. Both sonically and from a narrative perspective. Not that I haven’t been proud of what I’ve done so far, but having the resources and knowledge to do it the way I want. That’s the main thing.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I think a lot of what influences me, obviously a lot of music, but that’s not often where ideas start for me. I think mainly from reading. It’s always inspired me. We’re all just saying the same thing over and over again. Like, there’s no better way to say “I love you” than I love you. So, to me, it’s how do we find creative ideas and angles to express the same shit we’ve been since our species existed. I think books do that in so many ways and there’s so much language that it inspires me.