Kristine Flaherty doesn’t always drink hemp milk matcha lattes. But she has been known to try a new thing or two.
K.Flay, as the universe knows her now, has spent the last ten years dabbling in multiple genres, from rap to sultry alternative rock. And she only hates herself a little for trying out the new hipster coffee shop. Flaherty half jokingly entertained the names of Flayzee Bones and Flizzle, settling on K. Flay. “You have to remember, when I was beginning to make music, I was in no way serious. I wasn’t out here with a trendy ass band name. That being said, I love that name and it’s my nickname, and a lot of people know my by that. No regrets. I mean, I could have named myself curtain rod and maybe people would have been more intrigued.”
At Stanford University, Flaherty focused on her degree in psychology, and was a serious student throughout. Unlike many of her friends, she loved school, and her dedication pays off every time the 31 year old opens her mouth – and pens a new song. She reminisces about her unique experience: “Man, I did so much weird shit there. It’s funny, too, because I was totally sober; I didn’t drink or anything. I straight up drank water and OJ, not even soda at the time. I’d show up to house parties as the girl that was gonna perform, stone cold sober. It seems insane that I did this when I look back on it.” She started playing in San Francisco clubs after graduation and within a year and a half, most of Flaherty’s free time was spent writing and figuring out the logistics of production.
Around this same period, the rising female of the Bay Area hip hop scene decided it was okay to have a beer every once in a while. “Me starting to drink,” she explains, “I think it coincided with letting go of other things and opening myself up to some of the gray areas of life.” Kristine’s father died when she was 14, and due to his alcoholic and drug related problems, she had chosen to stay away. “I had a very black and white view of a lot of things, like many young people do,” she thinks back. “The understanding of nuance is the great journey of adulthood. I carved out this life for myself and started to drink socially and understand that gray area, and not feel like I’m a bad person for doing it. I realized I’m not my dad.”
Rogue spoke to the Grammy-nominated artist just four days before Every Where is Some Where officially hit the airwaves. When asked how she was feeling before the release of her second studio album, Flaherty compares her state her best friend’s before her wedding: “When she got married, she wasn’t even excited. It just felt like the normal thing that was gonna happen next. Internally, you don’t need fanfare when it feels right and good, and the thing you want to be doing. That’s how I feel about the record.” In fact, says the Los Angeles inside her, she feels very “zen,” adding, “There’s not a song where I’m cringing because it’s not what I want to do or I’m saying something I don’t believe.”
The album art of Every Where is Some Where is a New York taxi receipt, complete with the phone number 800-849-4022. Back in the spring, if you’d dialed this number, it would have been a recording of Flaherty so real you would have thought she picked up. That day was promoting Track #9, 'The President has a Sex Tape.' It’s tough to refrain from touching on politics with anyone today, especially with a woman whose career started as a countermovement against misogynistic rap lyrics. This song was written last Christmas, as her whole family crammed into her parent’s new Oakland apartment. She was frustrated – as many of us are – that not everyone in her family shares her political convictions and that she had to tip-toe around the subject at times. The riff and a few lyrics poured out of her in her parent’s guest bedroom, stemming from a place of sheer disbelief at the current state of affairs. She felt, she explains, “just an utter sense of being appalled. Do we care about anything? Is there a standard? For anyone.”
“The song,” she goes further, “isn’t just about Donald Trump or any leader in particular. I think, damn, this is horrible, but then, there have been horrible leaders throughout history. This isn’t new stuff, this is basically human history.” She tells Rogue more about her very political background, part of which involved campaigning for Obama. “I know a lot of the people who listen to my music are young, grew up with Obama as president and grew accustomed to having a leader who is an incredibly intelligent, well spoken and compassionate. I just felt compelled to talk about that in the way that I wanted to. Just cause I’m out here, and felt like it would be a shame not to.”
After all, Flaherty’s first musical inspiration was the political “woke” rap of San Francisco and she was moved by the intentional lyrics of artist/activists like Saul Williams. “It means something and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard,” she asserts. “Then I hear Lil John and Ying Yang Twins on the radio and I’m like, what? I wanna hear about people’s complex, emotional experience. That’s the reason I started making music.”
This love for words has always guided the artist. “For me, that’s the most important part. It’s what I really focus on with my music and what’s drawn me to other music historically. I had this book out in the fall where people could write whatever they want,' she says. "People were just filling them up. It emphasized to me the power of just words.” Flaherty’s Crush Me books sat at the merch table on her fall tour. She promised to read each entry after the show and post her a few of her favorites. They went through six books, and social media went nuts at her genuine interest in her fans’ lives.
Kristine Flaherty is as quick witted and cerebral when talking about her life as she is in her lyrics. She can’t stress enough how much she loves her family (“My family is my shit”)…and Kristin Wig. She’s thrashed on Warped Tour stages across the country and has been known even to dabble with slow blues songs every now and then, including the lamentable ‘No Beer,’ concerning a green room that offered Frosted Flakes and bananas – yet no beer. K.Flay’s albums have shot up on Billboard’s Rap, Alternative and Rock charts. As she explains, “I’ve always kind of marched to the beat of my own drum. As I discover new music I start to think hey, that beat’s cool I should march to that beat, too.”
So what were her plans to celebrate the new album? Bottle services at West Hollywood clubs? Hemp milk matcha lattes for everyone? “My parents are coming down from Oakland and we’ll hang out with like ten of my friends and get some beers on release day,” she shrugs. “It’s an excuse to hang out with the people that matter.”
Written by Jenni Dunn
Photography by Kenneth Cappello
Styling by Sean Knight
Style Assisting by India Madonna
Hair by Gio Campora @ The Wall Group
Makeup by Nikki DeRoest @ Celestine Agency