EVERY once in a while, a musician comes along who does exactly what they want to do. Rules are there to be broken, genres shunned and, somehow, everything just works. K.Flay is one such artist.
‘I love left-of-centre styles, people being unconventional within a genre. If I have to scratch my head for a second then I love it,’ she laughs. ‘I don’t have rules for myself about staying in one lane. I confuse people, everyone wants to categorise things as it makes the world easier to deal with. Being genre-less is freeing.’
Also known as Kristine Flaherty, K.Flay had some surprising early influences. ‘When I started making music I was definitely immersed in an indie, alt-rap world. One of my really influential records was Dizzee Rascal — listening to non-American rap was so inspiring to me. Singing was a new frontier for me, as opposed to rhythm which is where I started.’
Her latest record, Solutions, is a rebellion against curated misery online. ‘I think there’s absolutely something cool and dangerous about being a tortured soul, that’s been a pretty constant theme throughout human history,’ she explains. ‘However, I feel like right now with the current state of the world and my own internal state, the riskiest thing I could do was not be cynical, or negative,’ she shrugs. ‘For me, smiling and exuding positivity, however temporary it may be, feels like a cool thing to do.’
The album became a step forward stylistically as well as lyrically. ‘On my last record I felt like I was talking about problems all of the time and that’s a common theme when you’re a writer. Upsetting or painful things can be cathartic, but I wanted to reframe those situations and try to find solutions.’
It’s ironic then that K.Flay’s music career started as the result of a row. ‘I got into a spirited argument at [Stanford] university and wrote a song and recorded it to prove a point. I realised I had a knack for it but it was so outside my world. I was a serious, academic student,’ she laughs. ‘A very deep part of my psyche understood I needed to untether myself from my very regimented ways. Music was the key that unlocked a lot of really important parts of my brain. I was a very rigid teenager. I owe music a lot.’
K.Flay has come a long way from those early days, earning a string of Grammy nominations and having songs featured in movie and game soundtracks.
‘Even though I don’t think awards should matter — I mean, there’s so much music out there it shouldn’t be possible to say that anything is better than anything else due to quantity — but being nominated for Grammys was cool,’ she says. ‘It was a frame of reference my loved ones outside the industry could understand. That was a great moment, to be able to share that with them. That’s what it’s all about for me.’
K.Flay has been touring the UK. ‘My goal with the live set is to strike a balance between wildness and energy, and then intimacy and vulnerability,’ she explains.
‘I do think as the leader of the night, you’re louder and setting the tone for how people can behave at the show.
‘I want to be an example of freedom of movement and energy so that other people attending feel like they can be that way too.’
■ K.Flay plays Heaven, London, on October 23, heaven-live.co.uk