K.FLAY is an artist who has seemingly never been afraid to be honest through her songwriting, but as the real human behind the stage name there were always the darkest things she was holding back from a fear of being impolite. Coming off the road from touring ‘Solutions’ and being thrown into a global pandemic, she found herself directly having to address some of the demons that were sitting on her shoulder. Spilling out of her were 5 songs that were cohesive in their unapologetic themes that addressed some things that she had never previously found a way to articulate.
‘Inside Voices’ is that refined, honest and vulnerable body of work that sonically returns to her experimental roots. Sitting comfortably in a soundscape between ‘Life As A Dog’ and ‘Every Where Is Some Where’ with a bit of the pop polish of ‘Solutions’ present, she embellishes on the playful and humorous aspect of her music that have won fans over ever since her early mixtape days. It’s a really strong capturing of where she is at right now in her life and excitingly steers her towards a even bolder approach for what’s next.
I recently caught up with K.FLAY to discuss the uncomfortable shit she needed to verbalise which created the foundations for her new EP ‘Inside Voices’, and explored the importance of humour in her songwriting. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your new EP ‘Inside Voices’ is a bold and punchy collection of tracks that hears you returning to the EP format after putting out two albums. Was there something liberating to being able to put out a smaller-refined body of work again?
K.FLAY: Totally! I think one of the things you are aware of when you make your career doing this is how do you shake things up for yourself. I think there’s many ways to do it, and the form of release is one of those. It kinda just happened that while I was working on new music and honing in on this sensibility within myself that was like “okay, there’s uncomfortable shit I feel that I normally don’t say”. There were these 5 songs that invoked that, and the title and concept of everything kinda just came together very organically because of those songs. So it became very obvious that this was an EP.
TB: Last time we chatted the main emotion that was inspiring you for ‘Solutions’ was love and happiness of where you were at. So what is the main emotion driving the process behind this EP?
K: I think the main emotion was a search for catharsis and feeling that the world on the grand scale, and the world in my relationship, has expectations in boxes for me, and I don’t always feel like I’m fitting into them correctly and I start questioning how that makes me feel. There are many voices inside my head that I typically sensor or silence because they’re impolite and not the Kristine I think I am. Like, you have met me a couple of times, and I like to think I am a polite person, but there is that element there that makes me question if people will second guess that. I think I’ve been dipping my toes in the idea of K.FLAY as the alter-ego where I can say this inappropriate stuff, and I can break out of the box. And this EP felt like a more mature and self aware enacting of that.
TB: You are a big lover of tattoos, and when I first spoke to you I asked you if you had any tattoos planned to commemorate ‘Solutions’ because for ‘Every Where Is Some Where’ you posted a sheet of tattoos that a fan had illustrated. At the time you told me there was a tattoo you already got for ‘Solutions’ but you couldn’t tell me yet, and it ended up being revealed that the tattoo was apart of the artwork. So, if you had to get a tattoo to represent ‘Inside Voices’ what would it be?
K: Oh my lord, that is a great question! I haven’t had the urge to get anything tattooed on my body for this EP yet, but if I had to get something I would probably get the outline of the artwork of my mouth where I’m screaming.
TB: ’Dating My Dad’ is a song that immediately stands out on the EP with its witty commentary on your dating life. Can you explain the creative process behind this track?
K: I had just come from therapy and was about to have a writing session with M-Phazes who is from Australia, and Mitch Allen who is an incredible writer. The three of us were just hanging and talking about life, and I mentioned that I was just at therapy and had this crazy realisation that all these things about my biological dad from my childhood are now affecting me as an adult. And they were like “yeah dude, that is like one of the first things people realise in therapy” *laughs*. So we started having this conversation essentially about how elements of your upbringing whether it’s trauma, frightening moments, or the personality types of parents, and how that really impacts how you approach your relationships as an adult, and your trigger points and sensitivity.
I was noodling on guitar and just said “mom and dad we love them. Either fuck them, or become them” and I remember just laughing out loud as I found it really funny as it was the cliche of what we were just talking about. It just felt really resonant but really funny at the same time. Like, you know my music a little bit, so you’ll know that it’s really important for me to have that sense of humour in what I write.
TB: ’My Name Isn’t Katherine’ is another immediate favourite, and what I loved about this track was the production. There is a distinct use of contrast between minimal promotion and full experimentation. What was inspiring you sonically for this track?
K: That song started as joke as people incorrectly call me Katherine ALL the fucking time. Like to a point where we were on tour four years ago JT Daly who produced the song and was on tour with me at the time was like “you should write a song about this”, and I was like; “okay, my name is Katherine”, and I wrote that chorus. I did it on a very minimal beat that I was messing around with on Ableton, and I sent it to JT and we kinda just tucked it away. We then revisited it during COVID, and I think my goal with this is from a rhythmic, delivery and production standpoint where the song never stays the same, and the song doesn’t have a “a, b, a, b, ,c, b” format. I wanted it to be always changing and surprising you as a listener.
And I think in terms of how heavy we got in the end, I think that is a product of how heavy the lyric got because as I started writing these stream of consciousness about what it feels like to be named, we started to question “what does being named mean to me?”. It’s something people get wrong a lot all the time, people are misidentifying me and not knowing me in this fundamental but really stupid and irrelevant way too. It started to get really emotional and intense for me, and we wanted to reflect that in the production.
TB: With the commentary of what a name means and that we don’t get to choose it, what would you say is the power for you between you as Kristine and you as K.FLAY?
K: The power is something I’m kind of only just understanding now with the release of this EP. K.FLAY is this place where I get experiment with who I am fundamentally and explore these different tones, moods, hopeful things and impolite things. There’s a degree of flexibility that is built into an alter-ego in that sense. So often as individuals we feel like if we say or do something then we are locked in and that’s it for us and we can’t change. For me having this place where I can be really experimental and non judgemental of that is really the key of all of that. I don’t judge K.FLAY the way that I judge myself.
TB: ’Four Letter Words’ is an empowering track where you take your power back from a toxic relationship, and I for one cannot wait to chant “Four letter words, I’m cursing. Fuck you, you didn’t deserve me” at a live show soon. But another lyric that stood out was “Baby, you play me, like Atari at an arcade”. What inspired that lyric?
K: Well that is really what it is. A lot of my songs begin with this stream of consciousness where I have a riff or a progression and I just start writing things. With ‘Four Letter Words’ I started questioning what was on my mind, and I was able to admit that I was frustrated in a relationship but at the same time I was already having a sense of humour about it. I wasn’t just in a fit of rage, I was already 10 feet above myself looking down going; “this is low key funny”. I don’t really know why I wrote that lyric now, and I’ll tell you that I originally wanted to change it to something else but I just kept coming back to it as it’s the best one.
TB: You also put out the 90’s inspired covers EP recently, ’Don’t Judge A Song By its Cover’ which was a cool little project that saw you really diving into your experimental layers. You covered Limp Bizkit, Green Day and Offspring tracks on the EP, but was there any other songs you were playing with?
K: There were definitely other tracks I considered, and I actually started a version of ‘Say It Ain’t So’ by Weezer which was pretty interesting as we were doing it as an orchestral arrangement. A lot of the feedback I got back was “okay, now do it for only female artists” because part of the idea was to take these male songs from the 90’s and reimagine and re-contextualise them. I think if there ever was a part 2 then it would probably flip that and I’d cover only female artists from that era. I got a lot of No Doubt requests, as well as Garbage, Alanis Morissette and artists like that, so I would say it would be in that vain.
‘Inside Voices’ is out now!