K.Flay is having quite the summer. The Los Angeles pop-rock artist (née Kristine Flaherty) feted the release of her latest LP Solutions on July 12 via Interscope / Night Street Records. The triumphant set is steeped in emotional catharsis at its core, and finds the singer relishing in her role as an out-and-proud queer woman, spreading a gospel of inclusion and self-love.
On LP standout “Sister,” the singer details the importance of finding a chosen family in the LGBTQ+ community, a process showcased in the clip’s video, directed by Clara Aranovich. “Talk about our secrets ’til the morning comes / Then you let me try on all your clothes,” she croons. “I wanna be your sister / I wanna be your friend / I wanna be your sister / ‘Til the end, ’til the end.”
Following the new album’s release, the pop newcomer joined Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter‘s inaugural Pride Summit on Aug. 8 in West Hollywood, where she appeared on the queer emerging artists panel alongside Daya, Bayli, Parson James and Shea Diamond. Hosted by Terra Lopez, the chat featured reflections from each artist about the complexities of navigating the music industry while staying true to themselves as well as the greater LGBTQ+ community.
“My music has kind of lived in the alternative rock space, so I think maybe there were less conceptions that this would have an affect on my career,” K.Flay said at the time. “I had been dating my girlfriend for a year very seriously and it felt odd as an artist who’s very authentic in my online persona and in my songwriting to not express that huge part of my life. There’s just an openness that pervades everything that has been exciting and unexpected.”
To further toast Billboard’s Summer of Pride, K.Flay put together a Pride-themed playlist highlighting the tracks that first informed her own eclectic pop-rock sound, including cuts by Ratatat, Tegan & Sara, Outkast and more.
“This is the music I was listening to when I first started making my own music,” K.Flay tells Billboard. “So I hope it gives a sense of where I came from, and what I invariably return to. Whenever I get stuck, musically, I go back to this.”
Give the playlist a spin and also check out K.Flay’s reflections on some of its sonic highlights below.
Ratatat, “Seventeen Years”
“I probably wrote half of my college essays while listening to the first Ratatat record. I had never heard anything like it, and in a lot of ways, I’d never been really truly fundamentally excited by instrumental music before. The guitars felt like vocalists to me.”
Liz Phair, “Fuck and Run”
“I’ve talked about Liz’s first record (‘Exile In Guyville’) a lot in the past, but it’s worth mentioning here that I think it so precisely captures the angst of being a young woman. At least it did for me. I actually covered this song at the beginning of my music life. You can find it somewhere on the internet I think.”
Justice vs. Simian, “We Are Your Friends”
“Oh man this was my jam. I mean. It was a lot of people’s jams. But I loved how it sounded so grungy and so dance-y at the same time. I think I’ve always been drawn to things that don’t feel too polished. That still feel rough around the edges.”
Tegan & Sara, “Walking With A Ghost”
“This was one of the first songs I sampled when I was starting to make beats and learning how to use Pro Tools. That guitar part at the beginning is so bright and evocative and I remember feeling like ‘I want to put this cool thing in my song!’ (By the way, that song never came out).”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Phenomena”
“I remember hearing this song for the first time in my friend Lauren’s Infiniti. I was in college and I thought Karen O was the coolest person ever, which I still think.”
“Learning the words to this song was a moment that sticks out in my mind. I think because I sang along to it in a big group of people, and everyone was like, ‘Wow Kristine you can rap really fast.’ And that kind of encouraged me to push myself rhythmically as I made music, knowing I had that dexterity.”
For more on K.Flay — including tour dates through the fall — head here.