On her dual EPs, K.Flay makes peace with the voices in her head
For Kristine Flaherty, who performs under the moniker K.Flay, her year was focused on putting out not one but two EPs. Together, Inside Voices and Outside Voices form a bigger project. “The way that I envisioned these EPs is really like the side A and side B of a record,” she says. The two EPs are an effort to encapsulate the human mind, with Inside Voices representing the more impulsive id and Outside Voices embodying the conscientious superego. “Thematically, the concept was, ‘Can I put together two bodies of work that represent these disparate parts of our psyche?’” she explains.
Along with the subject matter they span — the frustration of being trapped in a capitalist system, the strange experience of being online, the pain of being misidentified — the timing of the EPs make them even more relevant. It just so happened that Inside Voices came out in June — right before coronavirus restrictions in many places started easing up — and Outside Voices came out in November. “I feel like when Inside Voices came out, it really felt like this moment of the collective scream, and we are now in this position of reflection. I do think most people that I speak with are in that mode, just that psychological mindset. So I hope that this EP really resonates with where people are at, just as a collective,” she says.
How was the last year for you?
I think it’s been really wonderful to be able to release new music and to put out these two EPs, which constitute a full record. [I] got to play shows this summer and this fall and do a couple of short tours, which was really, really nice. I think, particularly as I prepare to tour next year on the larger headline run, just getting back in that headspace of, “OK, what do I want to do here onstage? What am I excited about? What kind of show do I want to put on for people?”
I feel like on a personal level, I’ve been able to reflect a lot on how I want to be in this world. I think, even in talking about some newer or younger artists who are coming up, being a very small part of other artists’ projects and taking on that role is really exciting for me, too, because I don’t really like to think about myself all the time. [It] gets pretty fucking boring. [Laughs.] It’s nice to get outside of my own head.
Despite the chaos of the world right now, I think I feel pretty grounded, which is a nice feeling. The point of this music I’ve put out, the thesis of it, in a way, is: The only way to achieve a semblance of balance and peace is to accept without judgment the authentic voices in your own head and to take a step back, hear them and figure out how to respond, how to move forward.
From talking to you, and from watching your interviews and your songs, it seems like you reflect and introspect a lot. Do you take time to look back and reflect at the end of the year?
I try to reflect a lot. The end of the year is a good time to do it because it’s ritualized for us as a society. There’s a couple things I’ve been thinking a lot about and reflecting on, which I’ll continue to do at the end of the year, in a larger way. One of those is, “What am I doing to avoid pain?” I actually think that’s a good question for a lot of people to ask because often those behaviors are those real sources of misery and real agony and angst, from a psychological perspective. I know that’s been true for myself. So I like to try to stand back and examine: There is pain happening. Am I doing stuff to just avoid it and not sit with that discomfort?
I’m reflecting on how I am giving my time and energy to all the different parts of my life that give me meaning. Not just my work, not just a romantic relationship, not just my friends, not just my health, my home space. Instead of putting certain things at the bottom, trying to create a little bit more of an equal balance because I do my best work, and my best songwriting, when my relationships are really solid. Everything’s connected. The end of the year is a good time to think about how all of the things in your life give you support and strength. Are those things being nurtured? It can be easy to put a lot of your time and energy into one or two things to the detriment of the others, and then you’re out of whack.
What are you taking away from 2021, whether that’s something you learned or something that happened?
One thing is that I really love to play live shows. [Laughs.] That was a good reminder. I’ve been touring for 10 years, so I’m just used to fucking playing shows. Then I didn’t play shows for a while, and part of me was like, “Do I like this? Is this something I like to do?” When I got back out there, that was very much emphasized for me. So that’s one thing that I really took away.
I think another big takeaway for me, just in general, is trying to be careful as a person, to take care. By that, I don’t mean being cautious and trepidatious. I just mean coming into situations carefully, thinking about things, being prepared, anticipating other people’s needs. Being careful with ourselves, being careful with other people [and] being careful with our community is really important. Of course, that applies to health and us being careful not to transmit a deadly virus to each other, us being careful with who we elect to public office. I think there’s a lot of ways to think about taking care. That’s been a big point of consideration for me.