Interview mit K. Flay über “Solutions”

K. Flay

(ENGLISH VERSION BELOW INKL. TRANSKRIPT) Im getriebigen Backstage-Raum der Kölner Kulturkirche, der ansonsten für Pastoren und Kirchengruppen genutzt wird, sitzt Kristine Flaherty komplett in weiß gekleidet auf einem Sofa und wirkt zufrieden mit sich selbst. Mit ihrer Crew pflegt die Musikerin einen nahezu familiären Umgang, werkelt bis zuletzt noch an neuen Songs. Als ich mich hier mit Flaherty unterhalte, hält sie – trotz gebrochener Nase und blauem Auge von einem Sturz in Paris –  bewusst jeden Blickkontakt, zeigt sich aufmerksam, lacht oft und herzlich. Kaum vorstellbar, was für ein harter Weg vor der US-Amerikanerin und ihrem Alter Ego K. Flay lag. Denn nach der letzten Tour im vergangenen Jahr musste die Musikerin aus verschiedenen Gründen die Reißleine ziehen, ein radikaler Stilwechsel folgte. Dabei zeichnet die Unterhaltung das unverzichtbare Zusammenspiel von Licht und Schatten und die intensive Auseinandersetzung mit dem eigenen Selbst für das kräftige, ungewohnt sonnige Wiederaufbäumen der Musikerin nach.

Die Dinge, wegen denen du dich als junger Mensch merkwürdig oder ausgeschlossen fühlst, machen dich später erst zu einem coolen, wertvollen Erwachsenen.

Erkenntnisse, die so gar nicht zu den finsteren Anfängen der Musikerin passen wollen. Einen Namen machte sich K. Flay mit düsteren Indie-Hip-Hop-Entwürfen wie “Black Wave” oder “Blood In The Cut”, die finstere Rapeinlagen mit zermahlenden Synthie-Noise-Wänden begruben. Wer derartige Songs schreibt, den malt man sich unweigerlich als eigenbrötlerische Künstlerseele aus, die den täglichen Kampf mit den gigantischen Dämonen immer nur um ein Haar überlebt. Dabei kam das der Person hinter Musikerin noch nie nach, wie schon der von Witzen und Quatsch-Content bestimmte Social-Media-Auftritt Flahertys beweist.

Im echten Leben lasse ich alles Düstere in meiner Musik aus, die restliche Zeit bin ich ziemlich unbeirrt glücklich.

Doch wenn diese düsteren Soundentwürfe nicht direkt der Auslöser für die Hürden der letzten Tour waren, was macht K. Flay nun anders als im vergangenen Jahr? Stichwort Auszeiten. Von denen hätte es schlicht zu wenig gegeben, weswegen diese Tour nicht nur mehr freie Tage beinhalte, sondern auch Räume für die kreative Entfaltung in Form von Studio-Einheiten. Auf sich achten möchte die Musikerin, wofür auch der Verzicht auf Alkohol an Konzerttagen festgelegt wurde – zugunsten eines ganz neuen Erlebens. Die Dämonen konnte die Musikerin so sichtlich besänftigen, wie zumindest ihr zufriedenes, geerdetes Auftreten vermuten lässt. Soundtechnisch hat sich dennoch einiges vom zweiten Album “Every Where Is Some Where” und “Solutions” verändert. Durch die poppigen Rhythmen und sonnigen Melodien möchte K. Flay vor allem eine positive Grundhaltung vertreten, was viel mutiger wäre als jede Form von Zynismus:

Ganz ehrlich, es ist beängstigend, da hoch zu gehen und positiv zu sein.

Für diesen mutigen Schritt hatte sich K. Flay von verschiedenen Gesprächen inspirieren lassen – und den Zusammenarbeiten mit Tom Morello und Mike Shinoda. Schließlich waren beide Teil einer legendären Band, die so nicht mehr existiere (was für Rage Against The Machine zum Zeitpunkt des Interviews noch galt) und würden aus reiner Leidenschaft weiterhin im Alleingang Musik machen. Doch nicht nur die positiveren Stücke wie “This Baby Don’t Cry” oder “Bad Vibes” fallen textlich auf, auch die ungewohnt dezidierten Haltungen bezüglich Feminismus (“Sister”) und Klimawandel (“Not In California”) sind Neuerungen im Kosmos der Kristine Flaherty. Dabei sieht die Musikerin selbst diese Schritte als viel selbstverständlicher an als ihre Außenwelt:

Feminismus ist einfach der Glaube daran, dass alle Menschen gleich sind. Manchmal fühlt es sich an, als würden diese Dinge ohne Grund politisiert werden, sogar der Klimawandel.

Anstelle diese Themen nun mit punkiger “Fuck Off”-Attitüde zu behandeln und so eventuell einige Leute von sich zu stoßen, setzt K. Flay bewusst auf die positive Darstellung der ihr wichtigen Themen. Von dieser erfrischenden Neuausrichtung profitiert nicht nur die Musikerin selbst, sondern auch die Setlist: “Die Konzerte haben jetzt natürlich Höhen und Tiefen”, wo beispielsweise “Black Wave” nach den anfänglichen drei neuen Songs den düsteren Part einleiten solle und “Good News” als endgültiger Start für die Moshpits in der Mitte des Sets platziert sei – zwei selbsterklärte Highlights der Sängerin, die nur zwei Stunden nach diesem Gespräch genau die prophezeite Wirkung entfalten (Bericht zur Show).

Außerdem – in der grundlegendsten aller Problematiken würden wir uns schließlich alle gleichermaßen wiederfinden: Wie soll man (über-)leben? Denn anstelle auf ihrem Album dem Konstrukt des Titels “Solutions” akribisch nachzugehen, war der Musikerin im Vorfeld vor allem bewusst geworden, dass es für die meisten Situationen viele Möglichkeiten gibt, sich ihnen zu stellen.

Das ist ein Teil der Mentalität des Albums: Es gibt nicht die eine Lösung.

Welche Reinkarnation wartet nun nach Indie-Rap und Synth-Pop auf die Fans? Da verlässt sich K. Flay ganz auf ihr Bauchgefühl, denn dieses hatte sie bislang schon in ganz unerwartete Richtungen geleitet. Erst kürzlich habe sie einen Riff-Song geschrieben, doch auch einem Country-Album wäre sie nicht abgeneigt. “Ich denke, für mich ist die Erzählstimme der rote Faden.” Doch bevor sich die Musikerin im Januar für diesen nächsten Schritt ins Studio begibt, freut sie sich auf ihre erste Show in Graz, den Besuch einer Kindheitsfreundin in Prag und ihren frisch geborenen Neffen. Denn wenn Flaherty eine wichtige Lehre aus dem Albumprozess zu “Solutions” mitgenommen hat, dann ist es, wie wichtig es ist, auf sich selbst zu achten – davon können sich einige Künstler*innen eine Scheibe abschneiden!

Und so hört sich das an:

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minutenmusik: Are you already looking forward to the concert in a church? I mean that’s a very special venue.

K. Flay: Totally! I mean this is already our second concert in a church on this tour. We played at a church in Glasgow in the UK. But yeah, this is super sick. This is even a bigger church.

minutenmusik: Do you plan to play some other songs, like religious ones?

K. Flay: No, I don’t think so (laughing). I feel bad saying “fuck” in there. It’s like “Is this okay”? But it’s awesome.

minutenmusik: I don’t even know if they use it for “church”-reasons.

K. Flay: There is a pastor! We met. And there’s like a youth group down there, so I do think they use it for religious reasons.

minutenmusik: Your first two albums were way darker than “Solutions”, both concerning sounds and lyrics. You said that you felt kind of stressed out after the last tour and that the album was getting lighter because of that since you felt so down. And I wondered if you do something different that this tour doesn’t get as bad for you and your feelings?

K. Flay: Totally. I think it’s a few things. I think a big part of it is carving time and space within the touring schedule, to have little breaks. It was just a lot. To me the beauty of touring is that you are fully embedded, that you get into the rhythm. That rhythm is very soothing, it’s almost like a normal job. But I think it’s important to have breaks from that where you are back writing music, kind of regenerating creativity and then expressing it. I think in the last album cycle, there just wasn’t enough regeneration. So far we’ve just had moments like this and some days off. Just going to the studio and recording, just these little moments to reengage with the spirit of this, I think that’s really important. And just being aware now of the warning signs like when I’m starting to get into a darker place or a less curious place about the world and what’s happening. So just being productive in that sense.

minutenmusik: Yeah I guess it’s important to know where your feelings are when being on tour.

K. Flay: Totally! And you know the other part is too, it’s almost been a year now, that every show I do completely sober. Not even a beer or anything like that. It helps me to really stay focused on the point of it and be present and really enjoy the show and I think that experience, the sober-show-experience is actually profound. It effects the trickle down.

minutenmusik: Do you remember one certain situation where you thought “I want to do a change of style” or was It just a process over the months?

K. Flay: Well I think it was partially a process and partially kind of a compensation of conversations I’ve been having. I was like beginning to talk to producers I work with and started flashing out ideas. And the frontier of this record is just some positivity. I feel like that’s something that’s different for me, like a challenge. It felt kind of scary. Honestly, it’s scary to get up there and be positive. It’s very easy to serve to fault, to cynicism. And there’s of course an important role for cynicism and it’s important that we all have some of that. But yeah, I think it really was the conversations I’ve had. You know like collaborators, like “alright, let’s lean into this”.

minutenmusik: So do you think the collaborations with some legends like Mike Shinoda or Tom Morello had some influence on the sound too?

K. Flay: I would say less on the sound but maybe more on the spirit. What I find interesting is that both of them, that the huge bands they were part of no longer exist in those formations and yet those two people are so passionate about their music, love to make it, really have no other agenda than being creative. And I think that that spirit to me feels very hopeful that kind of doing something because you love it and not because of your ego or fame or whatever. So being around them, I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time with both of them, did help me to feel comfortable adopting that more positive standpoint.

minutenmusik: Do you think this lighter sound had an impact on your time in the studio as well? And now on tour do you feel better too?

K: Flay: I think what’s interesting on tour is the show has natural peaks and valleys that it kind of didn’t before, it felt like fully dark on some level. Not that there were no fun songs or happy songs but there is a light heartedness to some of them on the record. Like we do a song called “Good News” which is just in the middle of the set and I can feel in the bridge, there’s this moment of silence and I feel physical relief. And I didn’t realize I would feel this way, but it’s really nice and It just made the show fly by.

minutenmusik: So do you also feel different in your older songs because you know the newer songs will lighten up your feelings?

K. Flay.: Yeah totally, there’s a contrast. The first three songs we play are all kind of fun and then we hit a song called “Black Wave”, which is sort of intense. And that song’s like “Fuck yeah, here we go”. It creates tension in a way that is really cool. And I think I’m really enjoying it.

minutenmusik: I think it’s really nice that you have that mixture of the two very different sounds. One song on your album is called “Sister” and you’ve said about sisterhood that you want to include both men and women in this term. But still I want to know what do you think is the role of feminism in society in general and in the music industry in special? Because I think that’s still a huge topic for female musicians.

K. Flay: Sure, you know feminism to me is like part of a larger, egalitarian perspective on the world for human beings and one of the basic ways that humans are divided is by gender of course. The interesting thing about misogyny is it permeates everything, it’s in the whole world but in a lot of ways I think music… bizarrely like in the creative world there’s a kind of freedom I felt in contrast to some female friends of me who work in corporate jobs. I’ve personally had a lot of opportunity and a lot of latitude and a lot of people respect me and show their care for what I’m doing. It’s certainly a part of something that I do, a part of who I am and hopefully the message I’m transmitting to people, but I think on some level it’s very imperative that allies and in this case it would be men, are outspoken about it too. You know, feminism has a certain connotation for some people but to me feminism is just the believe that all humans are equal. That feels like an easy thing to understand. Sometimes it feels like these things are being politicised, for no reason. Even global warming. Climate change used not to be a political issue. Everybody agreed, the earth is heating up, let’s do something about it. And then it got politicised and became this thing that divided us when really it’s just our common goal.

minutenmusik: I think people don’t like that we have to talk about some things that they have to change in their every day lives so I guess that’s the problem in there. But surely, everyone is equal and that should include everybody. On contrast, “Bad Vibes” and “This Baby Don’t Cry” are very positive and are centered around self-love and acceptance and I wondered if that were reactions to the music industry because these are things our society hasn’t been thinking of in the last few centuries.

K. Flay: Totally, what I think more than anything what I was struck by and what I was realized when I was becoming an adult is that all the things that make you feel alienated or weird or people kind of exclude you for as a young person make you a cool and valuable adult. And I think when you’re 12 years old it’s hard to even imagine that, like “Oh my interest in this weird thing is going to be my career and people going to respect me for it later and it’s going to make me this exciting and creative person”. That was the spirit that was underlying these songs. “This Baby Don’t Cry” was just a celebration of being sensitive. To me my sensitivity is my super-power. And to a lot of people sensitive is a gift and a real asset to the world.

minutenmusik: I think it’s really sad that society shows it as if sensitivity would be something bad. Because everybody is sensitive in a way, but they don’t want to show it.

K. Flay: Yeah, of course!

minutenmusik: On your tourplaylist on Spotify, there are some very rocky songs from bands like Plague Vendor, Rage against the Machine or Weezer and I wondered if you thought about doing some rock stuff in the future?

K. Flay: I’ve been working on some new material in the mean time and some collaborations, some of which is definitely more on the rock side, I started out kind of in an indie-hiphop-world, sort of went into the more alternative rock space, kind of came back into this, whatever the hell this is and I think I won’t be back in total recording mode until January, I’ll take some weeks in January to really record, but I’m open to everything. And I always fundamentally, and this goes back to your earlier question. Yes, “Solutions” was, the tone was impacted by conversations I had, but more than everything, it was just how I felt every day. I wanted to make music that felt like that. Now that I made music that felt like that, maybe my pendulum is swinging back. I just wrote this riff-song the other day and I was like “Fuck yeah, this feels good.”

minutenmusik: Yeah why not? That’s what’s nice about creativity, if you don’t have any boundaries.

K. Flay. Totally. And I actually feel like I’m at the point where I’m so all over the place, that there really is no rule. At first it was like an impediment, like “We don’t get what you do” and now it’s just like so confusing that it’s like “Fuck it man, just do whatever you want”. I feel like honestly if I did a country album, people would be like “Whatever, that’s okay”.

minutenmusik: If the songs are great, it’s not that bad.

K. Flay: Totally and I think the narrative voice to me is the through-line. I’m excited about it.

minutenmusik: About the title “Solutions”: Can you imagine any situation in your world or in your private life where you really would like to find a solution for but you didn’t find one yet?

K. Flay: Oh, hell yeah. You know I think there is no solution for this, but I think this big question for all of us: “How to live?” Just how to like get up every day, do it, get through, hopefully find someone that you love that you can partner up with, if you want to raise a family do that, if you don’t don’t do that. And that’s part of my mindset for the record: There is no one solution. There’s a lot of ways to do it right. The big thing for me over the last year and a half is especially a greater openness to the idea that there are many solutions. And certain problems do have specific solutions like if we talk about the environment, there’s certain things that we got to do. But when it comes to human relationships and how we structure our lives, there’s so many answers to that. It’s kind of beautiful, it’s really deliberating once you realize that.

minutenmusik: True, it’s kind of stressful for oneself if one only looks for one solution for every problem there is.

K. Flay. Totally!

minutenmusik: Your social media accounts, especially on Instagram, are full with funny jokes and stuff. Do you think that many musicians or famous people lack? That they tend to make everything so professional?

K. Flay.: Well as anyone of my crew can tell you, I’m not a cool or mysterious person. And I don’t think most musicians are, I think they kind of just want to act like that. I think that’s something kind of safe about that. I think what’s fun about social media, because it’s sometimes such a pain in the ass, is to play around with it and not take it too seriously. It is just the fucking internet. As evidence to this: the president of the United States basically just fucks around on the internet and it has no consequences, it’s a good example for the rest of us.

minutenmusik: We can do whatever we want!

K. Flay: (laughing) We can do whatever we want! For me that’s what makes social media a fun thing. And it shows my personality too, ‘cause a lot of times, people have only heard my music and think like I’m dark all the time and really serious and bummed out. In reality I get that out when I write songs. So that mostly the rest of the time I can be pretty irreverent and happy.

minutenmusik: Perfect, I mean I would love if more musicians had social media accounts like that. What song are you looking forward to the most today?

K. Flay: Honestly, “Good News”, that’s my favourite part of the set, ‘cause it’s right in the middle and like I said a transitionary moment. It feels like this thing that everybody feels right now, like no matter what’s going on in your life: We could all use some good news. It just feels kind of nice to sing that.

minutenmusik: What are you looking forward to the most while being on tour and afterwards when you come back home?

K. Flay: Well on this tour, we already went to Brussel, so there’s only a couple more new cities we’re going to. So, we did Brussel, which was awesome, we’re also playing in Graz in Austria, which I’ve never been to, so I’m excited for that. You know, one of the best parts of this job is you can go places. And of course, Cologne’s beautiful, but we’ve been here for a few times and I’ve been here for promo and run around town and run across the river and all that. So I’m really looking forward to that. And one of my childhood friends is coming over for some dates from the states, she will be with me in Prague. And I’m just looking forward to the shows every night, I got injured the other day. I’m actually kind of approaching it from a, ‘cause I can’t really move my head in the way I normally do with my crazy headbanging, so I’m looking forward to the challenge, of how to perform and how to show energy without injuring my face.

And when I get home, we have like another week of shows in the US, I’m also looking forward to that and I just had a nephew, he was born a couple of weeks ago, so I’m excited to visit him and meet him, not just on face time. And spend some time with my family.

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