K.Flay on “Raw Raw” and Her Return to the Stage | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, February 28th, 2024  

K.Flay on “Raw Raw” and Her Return to the Stage

A Raw Reckoning

May 10, 2023 Photography by Jennifer Pearl
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Kristine Flaherty entered last year with the release of her fourth full-length record as K.Flay, Inside Voices/Outside Voices, combining her two latest EPs. Flaherty spent much of the year on the go, touring and prepping new music before she was met with an unexpected seismic shift that fall. She had completely lost all hearing in her right ear due to a fluke viral infection.

The next months were a barrage of doctor visits and physical therapy, with Flaherty faced with constant tinnitus, vertigo, unsteadiness, and sensory issues. Quite literally, her equilibrium had shifted irrevocably. The loss was even more devastating for its unexpected nature. Flaherty was in peak physical shape ahead of her fall tour. Two weeks earlier, she had even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. As she recovered and began adjusting to this new status quo, she was soon faced with another pressing question: What comes next?

Under the Radar caught up with Flaherty at The Gathering, days after the release of her latest single, “Raw Raw,” and just before her headlining show at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas. The concert was also her first live performance since her hearing loss. She describes the experience as an intense mix of apprehension and excitement. She took the stage later that night and brought forth an electrifying live presence, leaning into her music’s heavy alt rock-tinged bite. She seemingly had not missed a step. Yet, months earlier the future seemed far less certain.

“I think the biggest thing for me was, it gave me an opt-out,” Flaherty explains. “My manager, said to me, ‘Hey, I don’t know how this is all gonna play out, but if we need to pivot and you do something different, or we don’t play live shows, I’m here. I support you. We’ll figure it out together.’ So it was one of those rare moments where you can leave and everyone will understand.”

Yet, when the momentum broke and Flaherty slowed down and thought about where she wanted to go, she chose to dive headlong back into music. She began recording anew and began prepping for her return to touring. “We choose things at the beginning,” she says, “but we don’t always have the opportunity to choose them in the middle. So I feel like I got this unique opportunity to choose it in the middle of it, and it just lit a fire under my ass.”

It’s easy to hear that hunger and excitement in her latest track, “Raw Raw.” It’s a chaotic return from Flaherty, filled with roaring buzzsaw aesthetics and stabbing intensity as she explores vulnerability through a harsh new lens. “I think it’s interesting that we associate vulnerability with softness and tenderness,” she says. “But when you’re in the midst of truly being vulnerable, it’s really scary, and it can be painful because you, you’re exposing yourself.”

Though the song was originally about the uncomfortable vulnerability of falling in love, it quickly began taking on a new meaning with Flaherty’s hearing loss. “Me as a person, in every way, I just felt raw,” she says. With my hearing, I would walk out onto the street and I can’t locate sound anymore. So when you only have one ear, you go outside and it’s crazy, it’s like I’m in an insane asylum. I would go outside before I was more used to it and just feel like I’m an alien. Like I dropped down onto Earth. So there was this other feeling of rawness. There’s a heaviness, there’s tension, and there’s an intensity to it. And I think it’s largely because I feel intense.”

That same intensity extends to the video, which sees Flaherty tangled in a labyrinthian trap, filled with the grit, grime, and claustrophobia of a Saw film. She says, “I think with the video we wanted to create a sense of there being of no escape…Because I think when there’s a significant loss, there is the capacity to feel trapped within that. Of course, there is a way out. I think there are many ways out. But we wanted to highlight that kind of claustrophobia and fear, along with a little bit of camp.”

However, despite the upheaval and uncertainty, Flaherty says she’s more confident in her new material than ever. She seemed reinvigorated onstage and has spent the past several months prepping for her co-headling tour with alt rock rising star grandson. Meanwhile, she has more music on the way after “Raw Raw.” She describes her forthcoming music as “the whole process of a reckoning.” “I think I’ve really been pushing myself lyrically, conceptually, and sonically, trying to make what I feel like is like future-oriented rock music…I hope what I’m doing is something that’s different and feels utterly fresh and utterly like me. I think that’s all I can try to do.”

That reckoning and the resultant time away from music has been a constant challenge for Flaherty, but she also sees it as an opportunity, a reset that leaves her creative horizons wide open. “I think what it did in many ways is it kind of put me back in the headspace of a beginner,” she explains. Yeah, I only got one ear, so I’m just gonna follow these instincts. I’m gonna follow what’s exciting to me, and I’m not gonna overthink it. I think that’s one of the wonderful things when you begin to be creative and begin to write songs, you don’t even know enough to judge what you’re doing, you know? You’re just so new to everything, and I think that that absence of self-judgment while you’re creating is such a blessing. And I felt like that was given back to me.”


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