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SFP x TBD: An Interview with K.Flay

On her Facebook page, K.Flay, a 30-year-old alternative music artist, describes her sound as “a version of indie hip-hop, mixed with electronics, mixed with me headbanging.” K.Flay’s style is certainly all this and more; having collaborated with artists from Danny Brown to Louis the Child, it’s obvious that she doesn’t fit perfectly in any one musical category. K.Flay’s curious nature paired with her adventurous creativity in sound (plus a whisper of mystery) produce the music that her thousands of fans adore.

To prepare for the upcoming TBD Festival this weekend in Sacramento, I spoke briefly with K.Flay about her background in psychology and sociology (she graduated with a dual degree from Stanford University) and just how difficult it is for her to explain her music to people at weddings.

I’ve read and seen a few of your interviews, and I’ve noticed that the first thing people tend to mention is that you’re a Stanford alum. I guess, technically, I’m kind of doing the same thing. But, fuck it! How important is your background in sociology and psychology when it comes to the music you make? Does it play a role in your content/ the process?

Ha. Fuck it is a good way to start the interview. I think my education plays a role in my music in the same way it plays a role in my life. I feel a rather pressing imperative to learn, analyze, be curious & humble — all things that were instilled in me at school. And I think my desire to understand the world in whatever ways I possibly can affects my creative process tremendously. When you approach writing with the premise that you know very little, it expands your potential exponentially. As you write, you gain insight. And as you gain insight, it informs your narrative voice.

Your style is not easy to define, and jambase.com has referred to you as “genre-defying.” Do you ever try to embody any certain specific style? If not, is there any genre (or artist?) to which you would relate it? Do you like that it can’t really be categorized?

I’ve always been a bit in the middle of things, largely because I never had a preconceived or hyper-stylized notion of who I ought to be. I’m essentially just me, meaning that I’m mysterious in some ways, transparent in others, unapologetic in many. I didn’t start making music as part of a scene, so I never really felt like I had to fit into a particular genre. It’s liberating in many ways, but difficult in others. Especially when I’m at weddings trying to explain my music to people.

What part of your personality do you think really “shines through” (sorry for the cliché) in your music?

I think (or at least I hope) it’s my honesty. For better or worse, I was raised at the altar of truth.

I know you’ve played shows in huge venues, small clubs, and well-known festivals. In what setting, if any, do you like performing the most?

Each venue has its own charm. Small clubs are intimate and wonderful in that way. Larger venues afford an opportunity to expand the show and get weird with production. Festivals are chaos but amazing. I love them all.

In terms of style and/or performance, are there any particular artists you most admire?

I just saw the Weeknd play — such a cool mix of pop, R&B and a sort of industrial electronic vibe live. Really, really loved that.

You’re playing TBD Festival this weekend, but it seems like you’re constantly touring. Where are you headed next?

After TBD, we’ve got some more festivals in the states, & then I’m headed to Europe for more writing and touring. Life is best lived in a weird hotel.

Go see K.Flay at TBD Fest this weekend on Sunday, September 20. While you’re there, look for the San Franpsycho crew– we’ll be hard to miss!

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