Interview: Conquering the Bad Vibes with K.Flay

Friday, April 12, 2019
Photo by Koury Angelo

Kristine Flaherty, also known as K.Flay, is on-track for a huge year if her new single 'Bad Vibes' is anything to go off. With new music currently in the works and an upcoming appearance in Australia for this year's Splendour in the Grass festival, we had the chance to chat about the new single, connecting with fans and how she channels bad energy.

What are you currently up to?

I'm sitting in my car (laughs), doing interviews so I can have some quiet space because I'm actually at rehearsal at the moment. We're about to start our first show of 2019 — we start on Monday, and we're doing shows in the US — kind of these super small intimate shows as little warm-up gigs. We're getting ready for that, and I'm really excited. I'm just getting super pumped for the year and touring and everything else to come.

That's very exciting. So 'Bad Vibes' came out recently. What was the initial moment that spurred you to write it?

You know, there wasn't a single moment. I think it was really an accumulation of experiences and sort of the lyrics of the song kind of detailed those different deep, those small little aspects of conversations or observations on people's behavior that I've been, I guess, unknowingly recording for a few months. The song really came from just being in those social situations where I felt like people were trying to one-up one another with their level of irony and cynicism. I'm certainly all for a healthy dose of sarcasm and pessimism at times, but it kind of felt counterproductive or unproductive to me. I got in the studio to work on whatever, and I was just like, "Man, I've just been around all these bad vibes, and it's rubbing off on me and I don't like it." That was really the impetus for the song.

The world can be a shitty place and then you go online and it's just as horrible. What do you want listeners to get out of the song?

Oh man (laughs), I think for me, my goal with the song is it's like an exorcism. It's sort of saying, oh God, I'm gonna reorient myself to seek out people and experiences and art and energy, whatever you want to call it, however you want to imagine it — things that make my world bigger and make my world more imaginative and make my world more hopeful. Because I do think...I mean, being alive, being a human being has always been a very dangerous enterprise, both psychologically and physically, since the dawn of humankind — that's never gonna change. But I think what we sort of have control over are these communities we create for ourselves, and not being complacent. Not just saying, "Oh yeah, this is life. These are the people I hang out with, this is the thing I do." Even if it's not giving you happiness or hopefulness. To me, I hope that people listen to it and can kind of laugh a little bit. It's a fun song and it has a sort of irreverence to it, which I hope gives people a little bit of levity and also challenges them to think about where they're getting bad vibes in their life.

It's a song that many can relate to. As an artist, how important is it for you to personally build that connection with your fans through music?

That's the crux of it. I think it's your job when you are a writer of any kind, whether you write novels, non-fiction, songs, whatever. It's your purview to try to distil common experiences and just share what feels meaningful to you because not everybody has time. They have to do other jobs that take up their time and energy. To me, that's kind of the whole point is to try to say something or express something in a slightly novel way that sheds some light on it for people. It's been really cool, because I you mentioned, the online world can be a ruthless cesspool of negativity, and it's been really great to see people's reactions to the song and to kind of have a very positive space online in talking about music and what's going on in people's lives. That's really exciting for me.

When there's so much bad energy around you, what are some of the things you like to do to escape it?

Well, I mean there are unproductive ways to escape it, which...that's the way you get tricked, I think, by society. You think going out and drinking or making money or whatever is gonna solve those problems, and it doesn't. I think for me, it's about really going back to the basic things, and almost sort of what I was imagining with all the new music I've been working on is how did I operate as a kid? What were the things that when I didn't have access to substances and autonomy and all these things that I have now as an adult, how did I derive joy? How did I interact with the world? I think so much of that is using my imagination, being creative, being curious, so a huge part of it for me has been making music and being creative in that realm, because that's kind of the reason I started doing this in the first place — the ultimate good vibe is being creative and making music. But I think also, spending time with the real core people who ground me and who help me engage with the world in different ways and in meaningful ways — not just in ways that seem cool or lightly compelling. Also, just really basic stuff like taking long walks. I love to walk, I'm a huge believer in walking. If you are physically able to walk long distances, I think it's one of the most beneficial things that you can do. Yeah, just really simple stuff like that.

That's awesome. With the video, it looks so cool, especially the scene towards the end when you jump in the car like an action hero, it's so badass.

Thank you (laughs).

How did you come up with the concept for the video?

The video was really a collaboration between myself, my creative director, and the director of the video, Lorraine. It kind of went through several different iterations, but Lorraine had the idea to use basketball. I had no idea where that came from, really. But I grew up playing basketball and I love basketball. That kind of ended up being, I mean, as you can see, in the video, just as this very visual centrepiece of the whole thing. The primary intent of the video was to sort of investigate or explore how we can make our own prisons in our mind that feel limiting and feel permanent and feel inescapable, but we do also have control over elements of that. Especially when it's a mentality, and that's really what bad vibes is about. It's about breaking free of this negative world because you can make your own world in your mind. You can do anything with your mind. That was really the headspace in making the video.

Did you have any memorable moments on set?

Ooh. I mean, you talked about jumping into the Jeep. I was like ready for it (laughs). I'm a pretty physically active person, I can jump and do weird tricks and stuff, so that was a real shining moment for me. That was one take and I got it. They were like, "You nailed it!" I was like, "What? I don't get to do it again?" That was pretty fun.

You've been to Australia before, and now you're coming back. Are you excited?

I am very excited. I was really, really hoping to play Splendour this year, and that little dream came true. I'm very, very anxious to be back. I was there two years ago for Groovin the Moo and sideshows in a bunch of the cities. We had such a beautiful time over there. Everyone was super welcoming to us and just yeah, really excited to be back. My tour manager is Australian, she's originally from Perth, so there's a lot of friends and fam that we're gonna get to see, which is gonna be great.

Is there anything that you're looking forward to doing outside of playing?

I'm not totally sure what our schedule is gonna be like yet, but my bandmates and I can have fun in a cardboard box, so when we're in a great city on the other side of the world, we can really have a great time. I'm just looking forward to wherever we get a chance to have a couple days off. I'm really hoping we're gonna get to spend a little bit of time in Byron. That's where my tour manager lives now, and I haven't been there yet, so I would absolutely love to be on the beach, go for some walks, and kind of get a lay of that land — I've FaceTimed her many times from home and it looks absolutely beautiful.

And without getting into any trouble, what have you got coming next?

I appreciate that (laughs). In a few weeks, I will be able to talk about everything without getting into any trouble, but the bare bones is lots more shows, lots more music, and yeah, a lot of all those announcements coming pretty soon...

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)

You can catch K.Flay live in Australia in July during Splendour in the Grass from July 19th to July 21st. 

*UPDATE: K.Flay will be playing the below sideshows:
July 17th - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
July 18th - Howler, Melbourne
Tickets go on sale 9am April 16th, and during Chugg Entertainment’s presale 9am April 15th.