K.Flay, as a die-cut silhouette, flickers between monochromatic extremes. Click. On the next channel, a pixelated K.Flay violently whips her hair and scatters into a thousand re-grouping particles. Click. Now, a shrunken K.Flay, distorted and blurry, emerges from the solitary confinement of a television set, as rebellious and indomitable as ever. It’s an appropriate visual for an artist best known for defying the creativity-killing compulsion to color within the lines. For genre-bending K.Flay, compartmentalization is suffocation. Definition equals destruction.
“Make Me Fade” is one of the darkest tracks on K.Flay’s Life As A Dog, her debut album that shot up to no. 14 on the Billboard Rap Chart and to no. 2 on the Heatseekers Chart this past summer. At first listen, “Make Me Fade” sounds like a begrudging love song to addiction, it’s lethargic beat constantly battling self-destruction in a sonic mirroring of its defeatist lyrics. But for K.Flay (aka Kristine Flaherty), one meaning is never enough: “I actively wanted to make it not just about [substance abuse], and to be about this idea of waiting for a person. So much that we seek out in life -and this could be a relationship, it could be heroin- we kind of seek out in order to distance ourselves from reality. We want to be comfortably numb in whatever circumstance allows us to be that way.” In effect, we want to be in two places at once: with ourselves and away from ourselves.
K.Flay is fascinated by duality. Her lyrics are riddled with homonyms. The title of her album could just as easily be an ode to the subjugated or a celebration of the viciously independent, and she’d assure you either interpretation is correct. Even the bodysuit-wearing specter of static in the video carries a double-meaning: for a perpetually hustling performer like K.Flay, becoming static (a synonym for idle in this case) is a seductive and dangerous threat to her forward momentum.
When developing the music video with director Ben Fee (who previously collaborated on K.Flay’s “Rawks”), duality was placed front and center: “We were talking about this idea of connecting two different realities: the physical world and something that was manipulated, broken down and disintegrated.”
For visual inspiration, she and Fee started with the artwork from the single: a simple photo of K.Flay dressed in black and concealed within a white sheet (see below). “We really wanted to do something largely monochromatic, stark and very high contrast, that also had that energy and the feel of moving sheets and moving bodies.” Then, using only a hacked Xbox Kinect and the help of a couple computer gurus, they began building the digital double-world of “Make Me Fade”. That ever-present duality reveals itself again in Fee’s layering of visual effects that at once feel both modern and primitive. The video recalls pioneering works of computer generated characters, from the likes of Max Headroom, Tron and Lawnmower Man, where the objective was never to blend their realities seamlessly into our own, but rather highlight their otherworldly differences.
It’s a fitting style for K.Flay, who has grown comfortable standing out from the crowd. This indie ethos permeates the video, and it’s something she’s deservedly proud about. “Having that DIY core to how it was made, that feels really good.”
Catch K.Flay on tour:
10/23 – Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel
10/24 – Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
10/25 – Atlanta, GA – Drunken Unicorn
10/26 – Nashville, TN – 12th and Porter
10/27 – Asheville, NC – The Mill Room
10/30 – Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
10/31 – Dallas, TX – Club Dada
11/1 – Austin, TX – The Mohawk
11/6 – San Francisco, CA – Brick & Mortar
Find K.Flay on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook
In addition to premiering this video, Nerdist had the great pleasure of interviewing K.Flay. From head-banging techniques to mid-century book publishers, no topic made it out alive. Come back tomorrow (Friday 24th) for Part II of our exclusive K.Flay coverage!