We linked with Rapper K Flay while on tour to speak Ivy League, Columbine and of course her AMMO.
What’s your AMMO?
I find my ammo in the extremes, both of experience & emotion. It’s when I’m intensely introspective or content or overwhelmed or exuberant that I feel the urge to create. What’s nice is that different kinds of extremes inspire different kinds of creativity. When I’m energized, I make beats. When I’m lying on the floor feeling sorry for myself, I write lyrics.
Did you always know you wanted to be a musician? Did you have a definitive moment or has it always been your direction?
I didn’t know I wanted to be a musician for a long time. Growing up, I was very serious about school – it wasn’t until college that I even started to rap or entertain the possibility of being a semi legitimate musician. It’s been a really bizarre journey & I’m not sure there was a definitive moment when I knew THIS IS IT, but there’ve been little victories along the way that have pushed me forward. I’m sort of like that girl in the movies who finally realizes she’s in love with her best friend. But in my case, that friend is making music.
Why Stanford? What was that experience like?
I can’t say enough about Stanford & what an incredible place it was to live & study for four years. I actually decided to go there on a bit of a whim, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. A lot of people think of Stanford as a techie school, but there’s a really vibrant arts community, one that supported me when I first started out.
So Ivy Leaguer to indie rap icon… what is that transition like?
Well, I’m probably more of an indie rap random person than indie rap icon, buuut it’s actually been a smooth transition. As a solo artist & a control freak, I’m basically running my own company. I used to stay up all night writing papers – now I stay up all night mixing tracks & making weird cover art.
What did your parents/family think about it?
They were surprised at first – as was pretty much everyone – but they’ve been so insanely supportive along the way. My mom & my stepdad come to every hometown show, even if it’s in a drug den at 2am.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
I never know how to answer this question, since I’ve been operating under this mentality of ‘this is what I’m doing – a backup plan will somehow lead to failure.’ But I was talking to my friend the other day about how rad it would be to work in publishing as an editor. So maybe I’d be doing that. Or maybe I’d be in graduate school.
You said you are influenced by many different genres of music…. How would you characterize what you do?
I’m not totally sure how to characterize it, as the project’s still evolving in a major way. But at the core, it’s a mix of hip hop, indie rock, & electronic music. I sort of don’t know what I’m doing, so there aren’t many rules I set for myself. I just do what seems right at the moment.
What was the hardest part (for you) of breaking into the music business?
Probably booking shows. It’s that catch-22 when you’re starting out – people don’t want to book you until you’ve got a good local following, but you can’t establish a local following until you’ve played a bunch of shows. Over time, though, you get little opportunities here & there that help to carve a path.
So you basically take over the whole music making process. You produce beats, you rap, you sing and play guitar, keyboards, and drums. What is your creative process like? (i.e. do you makes beats first, then do lyrics, vice versa)
I usually start with a basic instrumental loop – 16 bars of drums & a melodic riff – and then vibe out for a bit until I’ve got a concept for the track. After that, the lyrics and beat co-evolve.
You have accomplished so much, but do you ever feel beaten down? What do you do to keep the creative juices flowing when times are hard?
I think everyone can feel a bit beaten down, especially when they’re pouring most of their time and energy into a single pursuit. That kind of focus is as exhausting as it is invigorating. But, at my low points, I try to remember why I love making music in the first place & all the people who’ve put a bit of faith into me along the way. I also remember how much I like having a job where it’s normal to be awake at 4am.
Trying to make it in such a tough industry must be pretty scary leap of faith. What suggestions do you have for people who are afraid to follow their dreams/take the plunge?
Venturing outside of your comfort zone is the way to become a better version of yourself, I think. So if you want to be cooler and weirder than you are now, take a risk and become a post-modern sculptor.
Any good books lately?
Yeah! I read this really interesting – albeit heavy – account of the Columbine shooting, called ‘Columbine.’ It’s an analysis of what happened, how the media inaccurately reframed the attack, & what drove the boys to their actions. Crazy shit.
Who’s on your radar?
Lately, I’ve been pretty excited about Purity Ring, The Joy Formidable, & a buddy of mine from the UK who goes by Redlight. He’s about to blow up.
What’s next for K.Flay?
I’m currently in the midst of a summer tour across the U.S. in support of my last EP, ‘Eyes Shut.’ After that, I’ll be locked in the studio recording my full length, eating only yogurt-covered pretzels and strawberry fruit snacks.
For more from K.Flay go to, www.kflay.com.