"Smiling is the new f**k you" - K. Flay opens up about her new album Solutions
Kristine Flaherty, better known simply as K. Flay, spent the first decade of her career struggling to gain attention for her intricate and confessional brand of hip-hop.
Thankfully, that all changed in 2016 with the release of hit single 'Blood In The Cut', which cracked the Top 10 in the US. The album that followed, 2017's Every Where Is Some Where, her first for major label Interscope, announced her properly. It scored her great acclaim as well as landing her collaborations with Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and fiery indie types Fidlar.
After a lengthy world tour, she returns today with the follow-up, a new LP named Solutions. With the album arriving in stores today (July 12th), we chatted to Flaherty about how she put it together and why she wanted to make a positive statement...
When did you start work on the songs for Solutions?
"Last summer. I’d just gotten off the road – I’d been touring for two and half years on my last record – and was just kind of broken down mentally and physically. In retrospect, it was a great place to start working on new material. I was ready to be really honest and really open and really creative."
How did you want this album to move on from what you did on Every Where Is Some Where?
"In a lot of ways, Every Where Is Some Where felt like an exploration of problems. I had a broken heart, I was angry, I was questioning a lot of my decisions and beliefs. On Solutions, I genuinely wanted to find some answers. Right now, with the state of the world as it is, I feel like the most transgressive, dangerous thing I can do is to look for solutions, to stay optimistic, to banish unnecessary cynicism. Smiling is the new f**k you."
You did the album with Tommy English, what did he give you as a producer?
"Tommy is such an incredible creative partner because he doesn’t settle for the first idea or the easiest idea. And because we’ve built a friendship over the last three years, there’s an intimacy between us, a level of vulnerability that I think lends itself to powerful songs. Tommy produced half of the album tracks. Three others I did with JT Daly, one with Joel Little, one with CJ Baran. I love all of my collaborators."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme to it?
"Lyrically the theme is cautious optimism. The inspiration point for each song was a feeling of pain or angst or fear, but instead of travelling down a path of darkness, I challenged myself to follow whatever little light I could see. And write from that perspective instead. Be my own big sister, in a way."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"This would be ‘Good News’. I wrote a version of that verse lyric and rhythm six years ago, and then put it in a pile of half-finished songs. For some reason, the idea came back into my brain while we were working on Solutions, and something clicked. I brought the idea to Tommy, and we worked on a new version of the track. But it still wasn’t right."
"A week or so later I came into the studio, upset about something I’d read in the paper, probably something about our terrible president, and was just like 'Man, I could use some good news'. Which ended up being the right chorus lyric. And it stuck."
And which came together most quickly?
"I’d say ‘Bad Vibes’. It’s the first song I wrote for the album and because of that, there was sort of no pressure. Tommy and I got together and were like, let’s make something. Anything. Doesn’t matter. And that sense of freedom can be so great for quick songwriting."
When did you settle on Solutions for the album’s title? Were any other titles in contention?
"Last fall. It came to me suddenly, and I knew it was right for the record. Because there’s imagery to that word as well – solutions as liquids, as a mathematical notation."
What are your plans to take the album out live?
"I have headline shows all fall. I absolutely cannot wait to play the record live. It’s going to be wild and energetic and emotional."
When will we see you back in the UK?
"I’m playing Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester, and London in October. So I’ll see you then. I’m excited."
K. Flay's new album Solutions is out now in hmv stores.