K.Flay’s new albums Inside Voices/Outside Voices is pushing her into new territory. The singer is delving deep into her psyche and going where it’s uncomfortable. “When there is repression or denial of something, that does not lead to clarity, self-love, and love for others,” the eclectic singer/rapper tells us.
As an artist, K.Flay has always had a knack for writing and digging deeper with her lyrics with every album. Since her early mixtapes and debut album, 2014’s Life As A Dog, she has shown us her love of writing and hip-hop. She has also always carried her spirit freely, which shows in her music.
Inside Voices was released in June of last year and it’s companion piece, Outside Voices, followed in November. Outside Voices sees her collaborate with the likes of Travis Barker and Tom Morello, which help give the album a bit more edge and grit.
K.Flay spent years with a desire to be in the music industry – and she received her wish. With hard work, amazing rhymes, and a bit of unique artistry, she brought urban punk ethos to the mainstream. If you are looking to place her in a box, she won’t allow it, because musically, she touches upon many genres. Not to mention how she is digging deeper with her lyrics, as well, on both of her 2021 releases.
You went to school for Psychology & Sociology. What made you change your mind and hop into the music industry?
I had an argument with somebody about the music that was on the radio. As a puffed a 19-year-old, I thought I could write a song. I wrote my first song and that process of being creative and free in a sense, and tapping into this world where there were no expectations, is how I found I could be free and could not fail. There was no barometer for success. Finding that was the best discovery of my life.
You have done many collaborations recently, including Arkells, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, and even Liam Howlett of Progidy. How do you like collaborating?
Basically, a person I was working with from back in the day played Liam my music. I got to meet Liam and work with him. He’s really cool and a lovely person. He understands how the industry changes.
Doing collaborations with these legendary artists is [me] getting to see how they retain this creativity and joy. I wrote a song for Tom Morello for his solo album and we remained friends. Tom is someone who retains a pure and true curiosity for music. He’s engaged in it as a process.
How did you nail down your sound from the get-go? Your music is truly a melting pot of punk, emo, and hip-hop.
The spirit is punk and expressive, individualistic, and different. I am very interested in rhythm as a tool of songwriting and a way to express myself. Hip-hop was fixed very prominently into my early life and love of music. There’s such a playfulness in hip-hop – watching word play happen is exciting. If you look at the lyrics to rap songs, there’s pages. That density for words and language is what I loved.
I was listening to guitar music, as well. I started listening to early Liz Phair, Metric, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I saw Karen O. on stage and I wanted to be like that. I keep coming back to this feeling of freedom, but music has empowered me and made me feel. It’s about harnessing your own individuality.
How do you stay true to your sound?
It’s about the long game. If you buy into a trend, whether that’s how you dress or make music…. Well, we all conform to trends because that’s part of the culture. I have always been allergic to trends. If everyone is doing it, I don’t want to do it. I think that helps me keep that compass North of what’s exciting to me. I have found that my personal joy derives from being here in this world, taking in music, and allowing myself to synthesize with collaborators that don’t have an agenda.
How have you changed as a performer throughout the years?
I have gotten a lot more comfortable on stage. There’s a way to feel comfortable and there’s a way to express yourself on stage. It’s all about confidence from huge shows to smaller shows. All these experiences have helped me grow as a performer. It’s understanding as a fundamental capacity that you, as the front person, you are higher than everyone, you are amplified, and you are lit. Your behavior, attitude, and mannerisms set an example to the audience at the show.
What does the theme of the new album, Inside Voices, touch on?
The theme of the record [are] that there are all these voices – some are coming internally and some come externally. Instead of trying to silence voices, freely listen to them and then decide on how to proceed.
So much of life is about being uncomfortable – discomfort can be very productive and illuminating. My message with this record is to take it all in, do not deny anything, and then see how you feel. Sit in those uncomfortable feelings.
You seem like you’re in a more vulnerable place with this record.
Yes, vulnerability is a word that gets thrown around. It’s important with real vulnerability that something is at risk. When you open yourself up to an experience or another person, that’s the moment of vulnerability.
You worked with many producers on this project and are still personally vulnerable. Do you think that’s the way to go when creating new music?
I really enjoy working with multiple producers. I like a more eclectic approach and with any collaborator you want productive tension. It’s important to have different brains and spirits in the mix to help with that.
What’s next for you?
I’m on tour right now. I have different music on the way. I love making music! I am helping other artists on the writing side. I wake up and keep making music.
FOR TICKETS TO SEE K.FLAY ON TOUR, CLICK HERE! SHE WILL BE TAKING THE STAGE AT IRVING PLAZA THIS THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17!