We’re used to seeing our favorite musicians, emcees, and DJs in the dark of the club. In an ongoing effort to see these artists in a different light, the light of day, we caught up with SOL REPUBLIC Savior of Sound K.Flay in Oakland for this installment of “Breakfast with DJs”.
When K.Flay and I meet, she is singing under her breath. Her 2015 is off to a great start. Coffee with me is a stop on the way to finishing other errands before she leaves for a three-week European tour. This will be her first time playing Europe as a two-piece with drummer, Nicholas Suhr, whose drumming lends an additional dynamism to the live show. In addition to this tour, K.Flay has other projects in the works to support her 2014 crowd funded album, Life as a Dog, which hit the #14 spot on the Billboard Rap Charts.
On this cloudy day, we discuss how singing more on this album, feels more vulnerable than rapping and the shared American cultural heritage of hip-hop.
Cole Coffee, in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood.
What was on the menu?
K.Flay ordered an iced chai and I had a cafe au lait.
Who are the individuals that you respect most in your field and why?
It’s largely the people who evolve and surprise me while remaining true to a broader vision. I look at Karen O and am overwhelmed by her talent and fearlessness. I remember seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in 2006-ish and thinking she was insurmountably incredible. Also, not technically ‘in my field’ (although she probably could make an album and everyone would buy it), but I love Amy Poehler.
In your collaboration w/ MC Lars “Other People’s Property”, you rap:
“Racial politics every time I spit
Am I a colonist or am I legit?
Is it appreciation, or appropriation?
What kind of statement are we making?”
You ask the questions, but don’t answer them. So, appreciation or appropriation?
Appreciation. Hip hop is replete with cultural legacy and context — as an artist it’s my responsibility to understand that. Appreciation is an outgrowth of a sense of continuity, nuance, conflict, all of those things. I think that kind of appreciation is essential in all creative disciplines. I started writing songs because I was genuinely creeped out by what was on the radio at the time. I’ve always tried to make music that authentically reflects my experience.
Along those same lines, where do you get inspiration for your songs?
The inspiration is emotional. I write when I’m feeling something that’s in the top 5% or bottom 20% of what I could possibly feel.
What was the most surprising thing you’ve encountered as a touring musician?
What’s interesting is that people everywhere have the same problems, the same doubts, the same heartache. It’s cool meeting people all over the world and seeing that. Not that I want people to be sad, but it makes everything feel more connected and less terrifying.
How is it playing in other cities, versus playing a “hometown” show in the Bay Area?
Hometown shows are like bigger versions of house parties. They’re awesome in a very personal I’m-drinking-beer-on-your-couch way. Playing in other cities can be liberating. When you don’t know anyone in the crowd, there’s no precedent for what you can or should do.
Your recent tour’s merch for your well-received self-released/crowd-funded album,Life as a Dog, included a mad libs-style zine designed by local illustrator, Helen Tseng. What was the inspiration for that?
Helen is the shit. The inspiration came from me being in New York and feeling empowered to do the weirdest things I wanted. As I started working on demos for Life as a Dog, I began to put a lot of faith in the idea that writing begets writing. So I was writing a lot.
What are your tools of the trade?
Software-wise, I run Pro Tools 10, Logic 9 & Ableton 9. Pro Tools for all of my audio recording and editing. Logic for the bulk of my programming. Ableton for the live show. Hardware-wise, it’s Maschine, MPK mini, Novation Launchkey and a bunch of other controllers I’ve accumulated along the way.
What music do you currently have on deck?
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Run the Jewels, The Acid, and Nicki Minaj.
What are you most looking forward to in 2015?
Actually everything, even the sad days.
About the author: Based in SF, Mai deeply obsesses about music, fashion, art and social justice. Chances are high she’s photographed someone you know for her seven year old street style site, fashioni.st. More info than necessary can be found about her, here: about.me/mai.