K.Flay Lends A Lesson In Cautious Optimism
We reach K.Flay by telephone on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday afternoon. She’s painting her nails. “Black,” she quips, because when it chips, “it doesn’t look horrible.” Fractures of a cosmetic makeup are common in her world. She’s far more transient than the average Stanford grad, having spent the better part of the past three years in the studio, crashing on random couches and living in a tour bus. At 31, and about to release her sophomore album, she remains optimistic – “very cautiously optimistic.” And for good reason. Following a rocky major label ride, she released her debut full-length independently and was the first person signed to Night Street, Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragon’s Interscope imprint. We caught up with K.Flay to talk politics, contradiction and her new album, Every Where is Some Where.
Your music’s been called dark, but you’ve characterized it as introspective. Are you concerned at all with the recognition of that distinction?
The times when I feel creative to make something tend to be when I’m in a darker headspace. If I’m feeling super happy, I kind of just want to be out in the world, living in that moment of joy or whatever. Personally, introspection often ends up being on the darker side because that’s when I feel compelled to think about my life, my motivations, and make something out of that. Creativity is for me a way of maintaining emotional homeostasis.
Is it a challenge balancing the cynicism and redemption that drive your sound?
A lot of the songs begin from that place of maybe doubt, cynicism, darkness, but they kind of move by the end of the tune to a place of cautious optimism, a desire to be better and a promise to be different. For the past couple of years, most of the songs contain that natural arch.
Do you feel contradiction is a prerequisite to exploring the absurdity of existence?
I don’t know if it’s necessary, but I do believe it’s a useful tool. It’s a classic tool – the juxtaposition of antithetical, or contradictory, elements. It’s a good device for putting some of those things into sharper image. In the context of a song, whether that juxtaposition is the sonic and the lyric, having an upbeat melody but a melancholy lyric, or vice-versa, can be good. You only have three or four minutes to convey that message.
Every Where is Some Where is your first album on the Night Street imprint. How has that relationship panned out so far?
It’s been great. I just got off the phone with Dan [Reynolds]. I’ve been on a major label before, I put out my last record independently, and those two experiences gave me a real understanding for the way in which labels can be impactful, in terms of exposure and having a platform. On the other side, I saw how limiting of freedom and creativity they can potentially be. Entering this situation with Dan and with Interscope, it was kind of perfect for me.
Can fans expect a more politically charged effort from your sophomore offering?
Like many people, I was pretty unprepared for this development. Since the election, I wrote two songs that are on the record, and very kind-of last minute. Artists often don’t have the flexibility to add last-minute audibles, but I’m lucky enough to have a team of people who have given me total creative autonomy with what I wanted to do.
Do you see a correlation between results of the U.S. election and what you’ve described as the political disengagement of youth?
To some extent, young people pretty much always represent the very progressive contingent of any nation, any society. They have the most to lose and the most to gain. I think certainly there’s a disaffection with the political process. And often times it takes things like this to mobilize people.
What sparked the inspiration for “High Enough?”
I was writing this riff on an old Rickenbacker and it got me thinking, ‘I do plenty of songs about being high in some form or another,’ and I was kinda like, ‘what if I’m good? What if this experience, or this person, is enough. Like I’m high enough now.’ It was kind of flipping that trope on its head. There are times when I want to be outside of myself, but there’s also times that I’m just good.
The Toronto Star reported that, “all signs point to this being K.Flay’s proper breakout.” Is that your expectation?
I have no expectations ever. I was kind of raised in a great way, with the attitude of you do the best that you can and you remain true to yourself. In whatever context – I don’t even mean in the artistic, creative, one. You do you, the best version of yourself, and you remain very cautiously optimistic. That’s where my head’s at.
Check out K.Flay’s new single and make sure you catch her on tour now with Mother Mother!
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