It was a classic hungover Sunday morning in October 2015 and I was laying in bed watching the guilty pleasure rom-com format of ‘Noami & Ely’s No Kiss List’ which was a trashy direct to digital film starring Victoria Justice. But somewhere in the middle of that surprisingly enjoyable film a song from K.FLAY stopped me right in my tracks. It was the brash stylings of ‘So Fast, So Maybe’ that had me quickly grabbing my phone and opening Shazam. I had to know what this song was and who this artist was immediately. There was something about her quirky lyrics and her fierce rap delivery that had me instantly intrigued and wanting to have it on replay.
As I discovered the Californian singer-songwriter, I sat there and listened to that song ‘Can’t Sleep’ and ‘Make Me Fade’ all the way through. From right then I was sold that she was going to become a massive star. The way she interpolated her vulnerability with quirky and relatable lyrics was impressive. She had you laughing, crying, feeling and rocking out all at the same time. And in 2016 she proved me right with the release of ‘FML’ and ‘Blood In The Cut’ which catapulted her into mainstream media and saw the release of her Grammy nominated sophomore studio album ‘Every Where Is Some Where’ in early 2017. After it’s well celebrated release she kicked off a massive world tour that saw her finally coming to Australia for Groovin The Moo Festival. But after 2 years of straight touring she’s taken some time to re-enter the studio to work on her third studio album which is almost ready to see the light of day. Lead single ‘Bad Vibes’ introduces a more positive sounding juxtaposition as she offers a new way of seeing things. It’s a bold and catchy track that will have you ready to see her live again when she returns to Australia for Splendour In The Grass and some exclusive sideshows in July.
I recently chatted to K.FLAY about embracing the positives in your life over the negatives, how she manages her anxiety and what she learnt from her fans through the release of her last record. Check it out HERE;
TB: Your new single ‘Bad Vibes’ is all about embracing the positives in life and trying to not live so negatively like a lot of us do in this current political and social media climate. So what drew the big lightbulb moment for you that made you realise maybe you were a victim to this way of thinking too?
K: I don’t think there was a lightbulb moment as such but certainly when I got into the studio to start working on this song I had just been in LA working on some things and realising that I was ending up in social situations that were really demoralising in this unnameable fundamental way. So I started realising that there was this negativity competition that can sometimes occur of people trying to one-up each other within their level of cynicism and sarcasm. I was working with my friend Tommy who is my secrets collaborator and I was just like “dude this is not the energy I want to be around”. Him and I were both originally from the midwest and we were raised in a pretty simple environment with some positive core values that were counter-productive to the negative forces that are surrounding us.
TB: My favourite line from the new song is “You’re the sequel that sucks”. So when you’re referencing someone to be a sequel that sucks, what is the ultimate sequel from a franchise that you’re referencing to be the absolute worst?
K: *Laughs* It’s funny because I wrote that lyric and since then I’ve been asked that question and realised that I don’t really have an answer. This is because I don’t really watch movies, period. But someone was telling me that they made a Mean Girls sequel which I haven’t seen but that sounds like a horrible idea so I’m going to say that. It’s just funny because I intellectually know that sequels in general usually suck but one of the only sequels I’ve actually seen is Godfather 2 which is known as a great sequel so I need to come up with a better answer for this question *laughs*. Ask me this question again when I’m in Australia and I will have a better answer for you I promise *laughs*.
TB: Your music has always had a very honest vulnerability that has served as the core of your music. So reflecting on your discography what would you say has been your most vulnerable moment as a songwriter?
K: Oh wow! That’s such a hard question because it’s so hard to pin point one moment as the most vulnerable because especially for me with the last record and this new music that I’ve been working on, it really has been super honest and very vulnerable in a pretty transparent way. I think every time you do that, you do feel exposed. And what I think is interesting is that I was also speaking to a friend about this the other day and the concept that songwriting is less about admitting something to the world but instead it’s about admitting it to yourself. To me that is the first step to improving and growing as a person but it’s also a potential painful and shameful experience. I honestly think with this new set of music that I’ve been working on, I have had that experience with each song. I think in regards to ‘Bad Vibes’, I even think the realisation there that I’m a person like that too and can be like that in social situations and in my own life is vulnerable. It obviously resonated with me because it’s something I’ve done and its something I feel.
TB: On your last record there was a lyric on ‘Champagne’ that goes “my heart was never broken it was circumsized” which some people would’ve treated as a throw away lyric but to me I saw a deeper self realisation where you realised you deserved more and that you weren’t going to allow yourself to be too hurt by this?
K: *laughs* Totally! I love that line. I think more forth coming with this new material that I’ve been working on, is that my head space is in a really positive and hopeful place right now. And to me there is even a greater vulnerability in hopefulness because you’re willingly ready to be disappointed *laughs*. You’re kinda smiling in the face of all these other things. I’m really excited about this new stuff because it really feels like the next step in the evolution of who I am as an artist. I’ve investigated angst through my music and I’m not trying to say I’m no longer angsty in my music because I think angst is apart of the human experience for your whole life and I think it’s good because you’re staying engaged with the world and reckoning with opposing ideas. BUT for me I feel like I’m at a point in my personal life and my musical life where I want to be dressing colourfully, I want to be smiling and I want to be hopeful in the face of everything else.
TB: It’s no secret to anyone that works in the industry or is surrounded by it that there is a lot of mental health problems that surface from being creative all the time and being in touch with your emotions in a deeper way. This is also a subject you’ve touched on quite a bit through your music. So how have you made sure you’ve looked after yourself throughout your musical journey?
K: Aside from a bit of touring I have been off the road since August which has been nearly 8 months of writing, recording and being at home in Los Angeles. I’ve been doing a lot in these 8 months to really take care of myself. When you talk about steps to maintain mental health especially in this kind of industry the key thing for me is that I go to therapy. I find it really helpful if you are able to schedule it in and finance allows you to have someone who is outside your life, family and career to talk to. I love when I tell my therapist that I have a tour coming up and she is like “oh okay” and doesn’t really react any differently and doesn’t act like it’s special or interesting to her because it allows me to talk more freely. She’s just there to manage my anxiety and my habits and it’s really refreshing to have that perspective in my life. The other thing I’ve really been working on is separating the differences between what is actually good for me and what I think is going to be good for me. I think our society tells us lots of different things like for example going out and have a lot drinks and stay out late. Sometimes you come back and it’s a blast which I do love to do occasionally but I think more often than not what is more fun is to not do that. And to just spend time at home with family and friends and to take care of myself in different ways. For me its all about refocusing on things that make me happy. I’m not altering my mind or my environment but instead I’m using my imagination. Whenever I’m using my imagination my head is in a good place.
TB: When you rolled out your last album, there was an artist that put together some really cool tattoo ideas for your songs which I thought was such a cool idea. So if you were to get a tattoo to represent your upcoming new record what would it be?
K: Ooooh, ask me this question later because I may already have an answer for you but I can’t answer it yet *laughs*.
TB: For the release of ‘Every Where Is Some Where’ you also did a really cool voicemail service where fans could leave you a voicemail describing their inner most honest thoughts. So when you went through those recordings was there something that especially stood out to you as a collective about these messages?
K: I think what stood out to me what the diversity of them. Like right now I’m sitting in a car park at my rehearsal studio whilst talking to you to get some quiet space and I’m looking at these different cars and everyone who drove here today is going through whatever the fuck they are going through. People are experiencing such tremendous joy and excitement, people are going through heartbreak, people are questioning whether or not they want to be alive or do their job or to get a divorce. That kind of breath of messages and sentiments is what was given to me from that experience. That struck me the most. There wasn’t a particular story that impacted me the most, it was just that were so many different stories and experiences happening at the same time which was insane. In my mind that was a very useful way to remember to be compassionate and open because it’s easy to forget to be that way when you go through stress in life or work. So that’s what really stood out to me from that voicemail experience.
TB: You’re returning to Australia for Splendour In The Grass in July which is really exciting because the last time you were here was in 2017 for Groovin The Moo. So when you look back at that tour, what was one of your favourite memories from your time down here because it was your first time here!
K: We were down there for like 3 and a half weeks, it was crazy! My tour manager is actually Australian, she’s originally from Perth so it was great to be able to see her home country. We had such a great time so it’s hard to say what my favourite memory was but one that really stands out to me is that the Groovin The Moo promoters and staff were such great people and they really looked after all the bands and crew that were on that tour. They treated us to this amazing day off on Magnetic Island where I sailed a boat! I mean, it was a really little boat, but I still sailed a boat! It was so cool! We were just swimming in this really picturesque place, it was so beautiful. I just remember hopping off the ferry and there was this guy standing there handing us Carona’s *laughs* I was just like, “this is so nice!”. We had a bbq and just got to spend time in Queensland which is so nice and rare because it’s not an experience everyone gets to have especially in that environment. That was a day I will definitely remember forever. But to be honest I had such a blast in Australia and we’ve obviously travelled a lot of places but the hospitality, experiences and nature you have is really incredible and unique!
TB: With a new album on the way, can we expect to hear a lot of new tracks in the live set?
K: Hell Yeah!
TB: And can we expect any old tracks? Like maybe ‘So Fast, So Maybe’?
K: For Splendour? Ooh, who knows! I’m not going to make any promises but I’m definitely going to do my best to honour all the material and give a good show!
K.FLAY AUSTRALIAN TOUR
Wednesday July 17 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Thursday July 18 – Howler, Melbourne
Friday July 19 – Splendour In The Grass, Byron Bay *SOLD OUT*