Every musician has a different reason to begin creating music, but it’s usually not a farcical one. For 31-year-old Illinoisan artist Kristine Flaherty—a.k.a. K.Flay—this was exactly the reason.
In fact, she recorded her low-budget obscenity-packed 2003 song “Blingity Blang Blang” as a dare from one of her friends—parodying clichés found in hip-hop.
Flaherty did this while much more seriously pursuing a double major in psychology and sociology at Stanford University.
Ironically enough, Flaherty discovered she enjoyed making music and decided to record a few more songs the same week.
“I started making music for a laugh, but something resonated with me in a deeper way during the process,” Flaherty says. “Music eventually became part of my identity and my emotional life.”
After receiving praise from her peers, Flaherty continued recording and K.Flay was born.
She is gradually becoming more influential within the alternative hip-hop world, having opened for Snoop Dogg during her college years. There is no doubt fans have heard her 2016 single “Blood in the Cut,” and her upcoming full-length album Every Where Is Some Where will be released in April.
While her early work falls within the hip-hop vein, her most recent single “Black Wave” trickles through a flood of genres, starting with a trancy indie rap that explodes into a heavy, almost goth-rock freakout.
Therein lies the intriguing quality of K.Flay’s sound that has been present since the beginning. She will move from a comfortable lo-fi indie rock state of mind to something flawlessly more dark.
“I never grew up in a certain kind of music scene like most artists,” she explains. “When you do, there’s always certain parameters to follow for the music you make. I just never had that and—in a kind of beautiful way—it allowed me to feel free to experiment between genres.”
Much to her joy, listeners seem to appreciate her weave between genres.
“I think at the start people just kind of went along with me. I had this odd assuredness that it all made sense in my head and that got reflected into the music,” she says.
The other constant in K.Flay’s music is her high priority on detailed and descriptive lyrics. Her songs are usually crafted after Flaherty riffs on the guitar for hours while searching for the right words to describe her current emotion. Sometimes these words fade into obscurity and sometimes they move her and morph into a potential song.
“Sometimes it’s a stream of consciousness thing,” Flaherty says. “Like my song ‘Blood in the Cut.’ On some level it doesn’t make sense lyrically, but it evokes what I was feeling at the time and helps me accept those idiosyncratic thoughts.”
As it was with “Blood in the Cut,” the inspiration for those peculiar lyrics usually come from a powerful event in Flaherty’s life.
“My narrative perspective when I’m writing is 80 percent me and 20 percent some amalgamation of me that I’m feeling at the time. Those feelings could be cynicism, doubt, disillusionment or loss.”
Those feelings seem to build in Flaherty’s music. Her latest EP, Crush Me, could even be considered a concept EP about defiance and conquering doubt—ideas she will frame more with Every Where Is Some Where.
“Those songs start from a place of weakness or doubt and the concept that the album will build on is that everywhere you stand on earth, whether it’s a physical place or spiritual place, you’re making the meaning. You may not have the control over it, but you can share the narrative. So every song on the upcoming album is about making meaning out of the dark places we have all visited.”
Thurs., Mar. 16 (6:30 pm)
Mother Mother w/ K.Flay & Beach Season
Shaw Conference Centre, $39.50