CHICAGO (WIVB) — You can’t stop K.Flay.
Bringing an in-your-face blend of dark, heavy pop mashed with fuzz-driven alt-rock, the “Blood In The Cut” and “High Enough” singer is on the verge of dropping her fifth studio album, something she’s grateful to be able to do after completely losing hearing in her right ear about a year ago.
“Sudden and random, which are two adjectives you never like to hear when you go to the doctor’s office,” K.Flay says, describing what happened.
She had just got back to Los Angeles. In the weeks before, K.Flay, whose real name is Kristine Flaherty, was in Tanzania climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, literally and figuratively on top of the world.
But with the sudden, earth-shattering loss, Flaherty still saw the bright side, and she used it.
“I was able to have a sense of humor about it pretty much day two. One of my best friends was like, ‘Dude, you got like five days where the most interesting thing about you was that you climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.'”
Her balance was off, she could no longer locate sound, she’s got constant tinnitus in one ear, and no matter what she tried, Flaherty’s hearing wasn’t coming back. With the sudden deafness, she had a legitimate reason to just stop and pursue other ventures.
One thing was for sure though, she wasn’t done making music. In fact, she wanted to dive even deeper into her art.
“It’s never mattered more to me. The stakes got higher again. As the novelty wears off, which of course it does over time, how do I create higher and higher stakes, and so, the hearing loss provided an unexpected rise in stakes.”
It makes sense that she loves living in L.A., calling it “a city of dreamers.”
“You kind of wake up and you’re like ‘Every day could change my life.’ That’s kind of a cool mentality.”
Now there for roughly the past six years, in a place she didn’t expect to enjoy as much as she does, she’s one of those dreamers.
“I think it’s exciting,” she says. “There are a lot of people who are trying to do something weird and trying to do something creative, and grew up, maybe a little ‘outcast-y,’ or a little different and came to this place. There’s something, to me, very hopeful and very beautiful about being in a city with all those dreamers.”
With the bar raised even higher, Flaherty set out to make her next studio record, Mono, which is due out Sept. 15. The title is a nod to not only her state of hearing, but the solitary aspects of being human.
“Not in a depressing way, but in the sense that we’re inside these bodies and minds, and that’s what it is to be human. We can thrash against that, or we can sit with it.”
For more reasons than one, it’s a new kind of album for K.Flay; it tells a story with interludes. Flaherty says the “very strange consequence of the sudden deafness” was that she feels “like a born-again musician.”
“It’s so cheesy, but music kind of healed me psychologically and spiritually with the sudden deafness,” she says.
The intensity of K.Flay’s music translates to the stage. She doesn’t like to feel strapped down or held back. Flaherty compared a recent performance she witnessed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where a first-chair violinist moved about while performing a solo from John Williams’ score for Schindler’s List.
“There was so much communicated in just, the spontaneous movements of her body,” Flaherty said of the Williams-conducted concert.
As part of a three-piece on stage, a setup she’s had since roughly 2019, Flaherty is all about energy, and giving the same kind of effort to any crowd, whether it be 300 people or 5,000.
“One thing that happens, no matter what job you do in life, no matter what your profession is, is that the novelty wears off,” Flaherty says. So, phoning it in is not an option.
Part of Flaherty’s presence comes from staying sober. A few years ago, she completely quit drinking, and years before that, she stopped drinking before shows. It can calm one’s nerves, sure, but for Flaherty, it held her back from building a deeper connection with the audience and expressing the same kind of energy.
“To me, if we all try and we all care in our respective pursuits, that makes for a pretty beautiful and exciting world.”
She’s played the KeyBank Center, too, on a tour with Imagine Dragons, but intimate venues are her favorite kind.
“We’ve had some really special nights at the Town Ballroom,” Flaherty says of the Buffalo Theatre District venue, a popular spot for numerous bands coming into town.
And the Buffalo crowds are some that stick out in her mind. Flaherty shared a story of a family with adult children that came to one of those Town Ballroom shows. She remembers the dad of the group and his “amazing” homemade fan shirt.
Finding the family after the show, they took pictures together. People like that are emblematic of the crowds Flaherty draws in Buffalo, people she describes as “genuine” and “passionate.”
As someone from another Great Lakes state, there are things about Buffalo that remind her of home.
“I grew up in Chicago, which is not as cold as Buffalo,” Flaherty says. “I think when you live in a place where there’s really difficult weather conditions for part of the year, it creates a certain type of community. People coalesce around the shared struggle and hardship of that. I think that’s a very beautiful thing.”
We are the City of Good Neighbors, after all.
A little over a week ahead of her show with the Arkells at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, Flaherty, a two-time Grammy nominee, says she feels “more grounded in this experience and more present for the experience than ever before.”
Fans know they’re going to get a good show, and Flaherty says they’ll even be treated to some never-before-heard songs, as well. Ticket information for the Aug. 12 concert can be found here.
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