K.Flay (Kristine Flaherty) wants others to know it’s alright to be angry. With her upcoming EP, Inside Voices, the alt-pop singer is giving fans a way to take a journey into some of the most vulnerable parts of her mind.
Since the release of her last LP in 2019, Flaherty released several singles over the past two years. By crafting collaborations with Whethan, grandson, X Ambassadors and beyond, the genre-defying singer was able to explore other aesthetics. Now, as she introduces her next project with “Four Letter Words,” the artist is building a world based around her own psyche.
Teaming up with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello (“TGIF”) and blink-182 drummer Travis Barker (“Dating My Dad”), Flaherty’s Inside Voices gives listeners dramatic backtracks alongside meaningful lyrics. Influenced by her need to release frustrations built up during the coronavirus pandemic, she uses dark guitar riffs and progressions filled with edge to create dynamic sounds that illustrate exactly what’s been going on in her head.
Inside Voices drops June 11 via BMG. Check out the details behind the making of the EP below.
Inside Voices is your first project since 2019’s Solutions, but you released quite a few singles up till this point. How did you decide which tracks made it onto the EP?
This EP has this guiding theme. I was envisioning it as the representation of my own id, in terms of the parts of my psyche and the part of my brain that is primal and impulsive, a little bit reckless, loud and sometimes destructive. I really wanted to put together a body of songs that reflected that and that sensibility. The songs that are on this EP all, in different ways, represent that part of my mind and hopefully reflect a similarity among the minds of other people listening.
As the lead single and opening track for the EP, “Four Letter Words” really sets listeners up for the rest of the EP in regards to sound and overall aesthetic. It’s also a very personal track based on real events in your life. Did you ever find it difficult to share those feelings when you were writing and recording?
Totally. Almost all songs have a genesis in real life. I think it’s always a vulnerable place to be, and then you wait to reveal that, to talk about feelings. Especially with “Four Letter Words,” and I say this in the track, I’m usually nice, but now I want to say something. Now I want to drop an F-bomb. Regardless of whether it’s in the context of a relationship, your government, your employment, your own reckoning inside your mind—there are moments where you feel really frustrated, really shameful or really resentful and you need some catharsis. In many ways, that song for me, while there are elements based on my own experience, it transcended that as I was working on it. It became this bigger way of experiencing catharsis. When I started working on that song, Donald Trump was the president, and as a citizen, I felt like I was at my breaking point. I think there were a lot of things that I tried to channel into that song.
Tom Morello and Travis Barker are alternative music icons. What were your experiences working with the two of them? How did the collaborations happen?
With Tom Morello, we’ve been friends now for about four years. I collaborated with him on his last solo record, and we just clicked. We have a lot in common in terms of our upbringing and where we grew up. [We] grew up around the same area in the suburbs of Chicago. Obviously, Tom is a legend, but he is also just a great guy, and I really love being able to just have excuses to talk to him and spend time with him. So, I had started working on this song and had the little guitar riff, the first verse and the chorus. When we started producing it, we got to a point, and it was just like, “Man, it’d be really sick to have Tom play on this” because of the content of the song and how the point of it is really a critique of capitalism as an outsider and the realization that I’m on the inside. Here I am throwing stones at capitalism, but I’m a part of it too. It’s like I’m a fly in the spider’s web. I can’t quite get out. It’s shit that Tom has been talking about for decades. He’s such an activist and such a smart person. So I thought semantically, the song would really line up with his sensibility.
For the Travis collaboration—again, really organic. A friend of mine named Nick Long, who’s a super-talented songwriter, he and I worked together before, but he’s been doing a ton of stuff with Travis over the last year. I essentially had a version of this song. And my manager had said to me, “I feel like Travis would sound so great on this.” So I hit up Nick and sent him the song, and I was like, “Yeah, no pressure” because I hadn’t met Travis at all. He was really stoked and super, super pro. I think he sent me the first drum take a week after. I think it’s really cool. For me to see [that] legends of alternative rock are still so passionate about what they do and passionate about their instruments, that’s fucking cool.
With this EP, you give listeners a deeper insight at your experiences with love, being a woman and even being misnamed. There’s a lot of vulnerability that comes with that. What was your process behind the EP when it came to matching the instrumentation to your emotions?
The instrumentation on this record is quite heavy and quite gritty. I think that connects back to what we spoke about earlier, in terms of [what] the theme guiding this EP is. This is what your id sounds like; this is what your primal scream sounds like. It means to be brash, it means to be abrasive and it needs to have the game dynamic shifts. There are some pretty big shifts in volume that occur, and that was important to me because sonically, that’s what that part of my brain just feels like.
The loudness and heaviness of the record felt essential because we’ve been cooped up. I talked about this notion of catharsis, and I think with “Four Letter Words,” that’s the song that brings that feeling to the forefront, where you’re just [feeling] the tension building up and you explode. As a society, as a community, we need these safe and fun places to release our tension. I really hope that people can listen to the music and feel a sense of relief, like, “Now I can do my shit and be productive and calm.”
You’re dropping Inside Voices in June. Can you give us any details on anything you might have planned before or after the release?
No spoilers. I gotta keep the people guessing. [What will] she do? I think another thing that the pandemic afforded us was an opportunity to create this broader narrative and story to the record. I’m really excited for folks to discover that as it comes out. I’m really trying to build this world and try to build this conversation of, “What are the parts of our brain, how do they interact and what does that sound like on a record?”