“I kind of hit the curb, but it’s a bumper, it’s supposed to get bumped”, continues Kristine Flaherty – better known as singer songwriter K flay – as she tells me about the beginning of a stressful morning, which fortunately seemed to end on quite a calm note; “I’m very relaxed now though, drinking my coffee and talking to you.” Speaking from the opposite sides of the world, we spent a moment figuring out time difference, before discussing the exciting new release of her EP, Inside Voices.  

You’ve got an EP, Inside Voices coming out tomorrow, haven’t you?

I do – technically tonight at 9pm here!

Are you doing anything to celebrate? 

I’m hanging out with my best friends and one of my main collaborators. We’re going to order takeout and spend some quality time together. Celebrating the release of any body of work always feels the best when I’m just with some close friends who don’t really care about me as a successful person. The people I try to spend all my time with are those who think I’m a strange nerd who makes loud music – that’s a very novel element of my personality. 

How has COVID been for you? 

So obviously I’ve experienced the same sense of loss and isolation that we have all been feeling. In many ways though, this last year has been really productive and rejuvenating for me because I traditionally live such a chaotic life. Being in one place, having a routine and being able to distinguish the type of stimulation which is helpful for me and which is not, was really good. I don’t think I’ve ever made that separation [between helpful and unhelpful stimulation] because I was just always in these stimulating environments; even just sleeping on a tour bus is stimulating the bus is bouncing so you’re never still. It was very productive from a creative point and productive from a personal point. 

The overriding theme that I got from your recent releases was quite anti-capitalist. Was there any event or trigger that inspired you to give your music these undertones? 

On some level, it started when I was at university and first read Karl Marx. Not to say I’m a communist – unfortunately I think all systems of organising humans are highly corruptible – but I will say being exposed to these ideas that challenged the systems I grew up with was very eye opening. It’s something I continued to think about and then when Donald Trump became president, that trigged this country in many different ways and there’s many facets to it but one of those has been the rise of greed and the way in which greed is rewarded. We see this more and more as shit gets opened up – these people at the very top seem to be lunatics and are not participating in the social contract. While that’s all flowing around in my mind, the other side is like well here I am selling my music, I’m part of this stuff! I have enough self-awareness though to say I’m not the saviour, it is important to at least call out our own contradictions and start a conversation. That doesn’t have to initiate a revolution but might initiate a huge change.

You’ve been on the music scene since 2014, how have you seen the industry change and which do you see as the most impactful?

I think the biggest change I’ve seen is the increasing disregard for ‘genre’. The question I always got asked at the beginning of my career was, “What genre are you?” Such a stupid question – who cares? Increasingly, I don’t get asked that question which is nice. As a culture we are becoming more tolerant of spectrum-based understandings instead of categorical based understandings. Sexuality – if you talk to people honestly – is a spectrum and where you are on that spectrum can change over time. I’ve experienced and talked about that myself and I think similarly, genre to me is more of a spectrum. Loud versus quiet is a better way to look at it, or high energy versus low, fast tempo versus slow. Those are more useful ways because I’m sure you have playlists – I know I do – which are such weird combinations of songs, but it makes sense to me. You can listen to the softest song in the world, and it can make you feel energised in a way that you can’t explain. What’s the mood – not the genre What’s the vibe. 

Who are you listening to at the moment? 

I’m listening to the new Brockhampton record which I really enjoyed. I really like when a record has all these different voices and people are weaving in and out. There’s a band I’ve been doing some writing with who I’m a fan of, called Waax, they’re out in Brisbane. I’m still listening to the Dominic Fike record which I love a lot, I love the lyrics on that. Particularly within this past year, I’ve needed to find productive stimulation and music is that for me. Certain types of music motivates me to move my body, to write my own music or to cook – just anything. 

Do you have a favourite person to collaborate with or who you would like to collaborate with in the future?

Something I would love to make happen is to collaborate with Andre 3000 from Outkast; I love him. I met him once and got really starstruck which is crazy because I’m not shy at all and talk a lot, but I just went mute! Also, Garbage is putting out new music and I would love to work with them. I love having these people to look up to and be like, ‘wow you’re awesome’. 

Have you been able to do anything to celebrate pride?

You know I was talking to my friend who cuts my hair, and they were asking me about this, and I was like, ‘Well I’m putting out my EP.’ I’m so consumed with the prep for that, and it coincides with pride in this amazing way. I’m not trying to spin the question to be promotional but, in some ways, I do think my celebration of pride is putting out this music which is very uncensored and to me the most honest expression of things I have felt. I think one of the important parts of pride is the celebration and expression of individuality and to me the way we achieve that is by honestly saying, ‘this is what I feel’ and owning that.

I was listening to your track Dating My Dad about the inevitability of becoming your parents or dating someone like them. It didn’t seem like a sad song – did you write that in an intentionally positive way?

I’m glad that shines through. My feeling when I had this revelation was just, ‘this is so funny’. There are certain things in life you just have to laugh about because if you can’t take the piss out of yourself then God it’s depressing! You’re doing the same shit as everyone else and it’s comical and there’s relief with that. I had a father who was an addict and died from that and I’ve always known that has affected me, but it didn’t click that it was affecting my relationships and friendships. The minute I realised that I was like, shit! It’s interesting for me to understand that this is why I’m so affected by this – it’s built into your emotional response system. I was noodling on guitar, and I thought it was very funny and I laughed. You get the sense of humour and relief – I’m glad that that shines through.

K Flay’s new EP, Inside Voices is out now at Kflay.com

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