Interview with K.FLAY
Despite unintentionally becoming a rapper K.Flay, otherwise known as Kristine Flaherty, is fast becoming a well known name in indie-rap. A 26 year-old Chicago native and Stanford graduate, she isn’t your run of the mill hip-hop songstress, but she’s got a way with words and a lot to say. I caught up with her during her North American tour, and asked her a few questions.
You’re on tour right now, how are you feeling?
I’m good, I’m super hot right now, I had to pack all these boxes, and it’s very very warm in the Midwest right now, it’s been over 100 degrees in every city we’ve been in, so we’re getting a suntan, which is good.
So what do you like most about being on tour?
I’m still in a place where I’m visiting a lot of new cities, in fact I’ve never been Toronto, I’m super excited to go. Every place we visit we try to do local stuff and really get a feel for whatever town we’re in, chat with people about what it’s like to be there. We go to a bunch of weird dive bars, that’s the most fun part. We went to this weird dive bar in Kansas City the other night, it was next level, it was insane! They had this random drum kit that people were drunkenly playing, and a guy came up to and was like “we just ordered some pizza, you want a slice?’ So that’s the kind of stuff that makes touring really fun, at least for me.
So those are the good aspects, but what are the downsides?
For me, just the lack of a routine is difficult sometimes. I’ve been a very regimented person, so it’s hard when everyday is kind of different and you’re flying by the seat of your pants, but for someone who is weird and into their own habits, it’s sort of nice to be thrown out of your own comfort zone. I feel like touring has allowed to me to grow a lot as a person outside of music.
So we’re about the same age, born in the same year, 1985, and we grew up listening to some pretty iconic music in the nineties, who are some of your biggest influences from that era?
For me, the biggest album from the nineties was Liz Phair’s first album, Exile in Guyville. That was one of those albums where it was the only thing I listened to for a year, literally. I mean I listened to stuff on the radio, but that was what I listened to in my room. I’m a huge Fiona Apple fan too, I think a lot of the angsty rocker girls of the late nineties were a big influence on me.
You grew up in Chicago, which is a huge hip-hop city, any musical influence from your hometown?
There were a few groups that I listened to growing up, but I didn’t get super into hip-hop until I was about 18 when the first Kanye record came out, and I feel like it was sort of the revival of Chicago hip-hop. Common started to resurface and do a bunch of stuff, and there was a lot of cool blending of electronic and old school hip-hop that was going on, so I was listening to it a lot in college, once I started making music.
So you started rapping by kind of making fun of it with your song Blingity Blang Blang. What made you want to start rapping for real?
The first time I did it I liked the puzzle of it, piecing something together and creating something, but I’m not sure exactly when it happened. It was after I was out of college and I had gotten a little bit of support locally for my music and I was starting to work on it. It became less about the novelty of it, and I became less oriented towards punch lines and it became more of an emotional outlet. It was always something I enjoyed, but it became more meaningful to me when I stopped trying to be clever or funny and actually became a bit more honest.
You don’t see many rappers or even musicians with degrees from Stanford, so what would you say to aspiring musicians who are graduating high school this summer and want to launch a career in the music industry?
Everybody has a different path, but I do think you can definitely pursue music and build up your career while you’re in school, I don’t think being in college precludes any of that. If you’re working on any artistic endeavour, being in a stimulating environment is very important, and can really broaden your perspective, so I’m a big fan of being a part of any learning community, whether it’s organized as in a college, or some weird collective in west Texas.
As with all female artists in the indiesphere or hip-hop world, they’re often subjected to a lot of superficial and aesthetic pressures that mainstream pop artists are. Do you ever feel pressured to conform to a certain look?
The sad thing is I feel most girls feel pressured to conform to something, whether they’re in a semi-visible profession or not, but I’ve tried to define myself outside of that. I think for some people perhaps it makes sense and its part of what they do, but for me, I’ve kind of tried to have no image, you know what I mean? I think it’s hard being a girl, well it’s hard being anyone actually. I know guys have pressure in their own ways, but I think it’s very hard to be a girl. Like we were at the beach yesterday just stopping through and we saw these 15 year old girls taking Facebook photos of each other in bikinis for literally 2 hours, and it was so depressing because we were there playing football and being weird and burying my drummer in the sand. I think lot of girls and young people in general get caught up in all this weird image stuff, when at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter. A skeleton looks like a skeleton, you know what I mean?
Rap has been diversifying a lot lately with some odd collaborations, such as between Bon Iver and Kanye West. Who would be your dream collaborator?
So this is just circumstance, but I do love so many artists from Canada. You guys have good music, but I’m a huge Emily Haines fan. I’m a huge Metric fan. That’d probably be my number 1, so I’m going with that.
You can catch K.Flay with Colin Monroe at Wrongbar in Toronto on July 7th at 9pm. Get tickets here.