Forecastle 2017 is right around the corner. We’re celebrating with 40 Days of Forecastle, covering the festival from all angles — playlists, artist interviews, city guides, behind-the-scenes stories, and a whole lot more. WFPK’s 40 Days of Forecastle is made possible by Kiel Thomson Company and Spalding University.
K. Flay is headed to Forecastle this year on the heels of her chart-topping sophomore LP Every Where Is Some Where, which we recently chatted with her about.
Congratulations on the new album, Every Where is Some Where.
Yeah, that is exciting! It’s been a cool process for me too, because sometimes you work on a record and have to wait two years for a lot of the stuff to come out. For me, this record, there was one song I finished two days before the mixing deadline. Everything is very of the moment and I’m still in this headspace, which is cool for me.
You have one song on here called The President Has a Sex Tape.
Yep, that’s the one! I was putting out a record and I had no idea what these songs were gonna be about nine months ago. I feel that in the US, we were in a very different kind of collective headspace and you can never predict these massive shifts. I was putting out this record in the first quarter of this presidency and felt that it was a good time to say something. The song definitely traces to Donald Trump. I feel that I wouldn’t have come up with that lyric had it not been for him. But I don’t think it’s about his presidency, rather than the age that we live in where nothing is sacred anymore, and maybe that happened a long time ago and I just didn’t know. And with the amount of technology and transparency we have it just feels like these institutions we regarded and revered, there’s too much, and we know too much, and we have too much access. And that’s not to say that I think we should live in the dark and be duped by the government, but sometimes I just don’t even want to know. I just wanna be shielded and protected from certain things and I think we’re past that point.
They’ve come up with a word for the fatigue that we have because of the political news.
It causes people to age prematurely and not sleep at night.
I believe that!
That goes along with a part that you were talking about in a wider scope of what this album is about. There’s a line you said that I really centered in on, about the places that shape us, and in turn, how we shape those places in our minds as human beings. Which again there is a jump off point with the president song, but could you go into that a little further on what that might mean for this record?
I’m pretty fascinated by how we are all narrating a story, the objective facts of anyone’s life are seen in different ways by everybody, and we kind of have the individual power. One of the ways I’ve personally created my story – in my own mind at least – is by trying to take the things that happen and make my own meaning out of them, and not feel that that meaning is dictated by somebody else or I’m acquiescing to a kind of a group decision. Every time I feel grief, vulnerable, or sad, or whatever the case may be, I try to remind myself that yes it is my right that I get to experience those things and it’s important to exist in those dark places and to understand and explore them; but I also believe that I have the power to go outside of myself to make the situation whatever I want. I can take an extreme disappointment or betrayal and turn that into a way to fortify myself and a way to strengthen my core and my values, and to re-direct my life or whatever I want to do. I have the ability to do that, and there’s something really powerful about that. I think particularly whether it’s in a political sense, personal sense, or professional sense you feel that you don’t have power, you at least have the power to write the story in your own mind. That may be a small power. It’s actually funny, have you ever read The Handmaid’s Tale?
My wife has read it and told me all about it.
It’s one of my all-time favorite books, Margaret Atwood is the author. I read it many, many years ago and read it many, many times. I got my band to read it on this tour like a little book club, which is cute, but, the thing about it, without giving anything away, it is about the power of narration, and I couldn’t help think about it in relation to our current context. There are the swirling forces in our government societal chaos, but you still have you. I try to take the approach to every song like I’m starting from this place. How do I make meaning out of that place? And how do I sort of individually assert that meaning for me?
I’ll also point out-before we move on from that – it couldn’t have been better timed with the TV series, which is the most unfortunate thing about the entire part of it all of these things that you’re saying that arrives right now with all of this.
Totally! You know the flip of it, too, is that you have that power as a person, but if a bunch of people are exercising that power it becomes this thing, a thing that is real and becomes tangible. So, I think there is a hopeful flip side to it. Often if you need to understand what you’re fighting for just in life in general, even in a relationship, you have your first fight and think ‘oh my god, I might lose this person’, so I think you have to have that loss to understand what you have.
Does the title-because of the way you separate the words, or maybe as just aesthetic – have anything to do with that? Because when I read it ‘Every WHERE is Some WHERE,’ almost seems to make it more direct and specific.
I think you’re totally on point! I really wanted to focus on the word: ‘where’, in my mind there are two elements to that title, and its actually something I had written down on a post-it on my computer maybe eight months ago. I was on the road, maybe Germany, and I write down little ideas, phrases, words, and such, and I’m on tour thinking, ‘You know, it’s crazy!’ On one hand, you can go all over the world, and every bar is just some bar. You could be in New York city and feel like you’re in the center of the world, or in the outskirts of Omaha feeling like you’re somewhere new. Every place is just some place, people are doing the same thing, wanting to find love and find happiness, go out and party a little bit. Everywhere you go people are just people and there is something really kind of comforting and beautiful about that.
On the flip side – a sensation I have constantly – when I’m on tour I’ll be out at let’s say an intersection. For me it’s just another intersection, but for somebody else that intersection has meaning, something happened there, I guess that would be the italicized sum for everybody. A place is THE place or it’s one of the places, so it felt like it captured that sense of things being important but also arbitrary, but also kind of malleable.
On the business side, you started on a major label for the most part, then you headed to an indie label, and now you find yourself in a sort of compromised version of that, is that right?
Yeah, I would say a more idealized version, at least for me. I got found really early in my career and I would still, and still am, figuring out my identity, not only as a person, but a musician and artist, and I think I learned from that experience a lot of the things I didn’t like about this big, corporate infrastructure. It didn’t suit me as a developing artist. It wasn’t quite the right home for that. When I went independent and started my own label and put out my last record, then I found the flip side of seeing ‘oh, these are some things I could really use help with’. You are out there on your own. It really is blood, sweat, and tears when you’re running everything. I started to really have an appreciation for these parts of a bigger home or structure to have to help with.
It is a lot of work and can be confusing to navigate sometimes. That being said, I was still planning to put out my new material independently, but it just so happened that Dan (Imagine Dragons) heard the demo I had been working on. He had been wanting to bring an artist into the Interscope fold under an imprint. It offered me this really unique opportunity where I had created protection, because Dan was sort of my buffer. Essentially he said, ‘I’m a fan of what you do.”
His goal wasn’t a financial goal, it wasn’t an ego goal, it was to help an artist that he believed in. I got to experience the creativity and autonomy that comes with being independent but having the recourses of a major label, which from the standpoint of radio especially, that is such a difficult world to break into if you’re an independent artist.
What you’ve accomplished while you were an indie with the Life of a Dog album and being able to bring that to the table with all of this, that probably puts you so far ahead of where most artists would be at this point in their career, to have those utilities at your arsenal.
You look back on and can piece it together in reverse, but I do think you’re right. Putting out a record in that way taught me so much. It gave this real appreciation for help. I think artists can get into a situation where they view their label partner as an adversary at times, and that can happen with any business relationship, of course, but I think I really entered this partnership very clear-eyed and realistic, as well as excited. I felt like my set expectations was pretty in tune with what was gonna happen, where the first time around I had no idea.