Ask musicians outside of the mainstream which genre they play, and it’s rare that you’ll be met with a simple answer like “pop” or “rock.” The age of the Internet often gets a bad rap for its impacts on the music industry, but it has also opened to floodgates to music from all over the world, and the result of people listening to a broad spectrum of music has meant that the idea of “genre” is becoming less constricting.
This is certainly true for K.Flay (real name: Kristine Flaherty): often billed as rap or hip-hop, her music is a far cry from the conventional idea of either of those styles. She churns out rhymes with a lyrical flow that moves from melancholic and intense to light and airy within a matter of seconds. Her rhythm lines are hammered out by a live drummer intermingled with synth melodies, which has made for a tough-to-categorize, nearly genreless style that’s allowed her to resonate with a diverse demographic, and landed her on bills as a support act for Icona Pop, Snoop Dog and even a spot at Warped Tour.
“You have to be either totally understandable or nobody knows what’s going to happen next,” she says, and case in point: she’s en route to her final support gig for Blur and Dashboard Confessional before heading out with Awolnation. “Obviously I’m not going to put out a metal record or something—well, I mean, you never know. I could go through a dark phase.”
There’s no metal record in her immediate future, though, as K.Flay tours in support of Life As A Dog, her debut full-length album released last year, though she’s got a back catalogue of EPs and mixtapes to her name, too. Life As A Dog also marked her departure from RCA, after spending two years with the label. It was creative differences over the direction of her music and how it should be presented that led to her heading out as an independent artist.
“I was kind of doing things on my own and doing them in a way that was more in line with how I wanted to release music,” says Flaherty, who enlisted crowdfunding support for Life As A Dog, and raised the necessary funds in just six days. “There’s no limits on spontaneity, which is really awesome, and sort of no limits on how creative or strange or whatever something can be or it becomes, which is a really nice feeling because I often have some strange ideas that can exist.”
Flaherty hasn’t ruled out working with a label down the road, but she notes it would have to maintain the spirit of her work. Regardless, being independent doesn’t appear to be impacting any of the momentum she’s gained since making the move to pursue music full-time. Anyone who’s been following the growing amount of press about her online is well aware of the fact that music wasn’t part of her initial plan. While attending Stanford (she graduated with a double major in sociology and psychology), she and a friend were discussing what was wrong with mainstream hip-hop, and her friend challenged her to write a song. Things picked up from there, and she’s continued to hone her songwriting with lyrics that are often poignant, quick-witted, bitingly sarcastic and even humorous at times.
“I was focused on writing songs that made sense,” she says of Life As A Dog, noting she’s going to get back to work on a new album once her touring wraps up in August. “I know that’s kind of a weird thing to say, but in the past sometimes I think I’ve thought about—when I do write and think about songwriting—I think I wasn’t necessarily considering each song to be its own thesis statement, or have a thesis statement on its own. And when I’m writing these songs and thinking about them it sort of feels like each song has a message.”
Tue, Jul 7 (8 pm)
Union Hall, $33.50 – $115