Indie hip-hop Chicagoan to open for Passion Pit, shares thoughts on influences


K. Flay will open for Passion Pit at the NIU Convocation Center on Oct. 21. The indie hip-hop Chicago native K. Flay has performed and opened for many other acts in her young career as a musician.

By Jerene-Elise Nall

The Campus Consciousness Tour, which aims to raise awareness throughout colleges nationwide about the importance of respecting the environment, is coming to NIU’s Convocation Center on Oct. 21.

While current buzz band Passion Pit will be headlining, the support will come in part from Chicago native K. Flay, a vivacious strain of indie hip-hop that has to be heard to be believed.

K. Flay, also known as Kristine Flaherty, told the Northern Star all about how she keeps her music organic, because to K. Flay, there’s nothing like the real thing.

Northern Star: What kind of music do you listen to yourself? What kind of stuff would you throw on if you were just hanging out, doing whatever?

K. Flay: I definitely listen to hip-hop these past few weeks, I’ve just been listening to A Tribe Called Quest a lot, they’re definitely one of my favorite groups of all time. More new stuff that I listen to, I like a lot of music that has an eccentric, strong female voice to it, whether that’s something in the indie rock world, like Emily Haines and Metric, or even something like Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot. I don’t know, you ever listened to Robyn? She does sort of electronic R&B, but she’s got this really kind of unique, interesting, vibrant presence. I’m just drawn to music that has a lot of personality. I’ve been into Die Antwoord, they’re this South African rap group– I’m not quite sure what to make of them yet. Yellow Wolf, who’s pretty sick as well. Just anything with its own unique flavor.

NS: Would you say that those are the types of groups that have influenced you, or would you say that there are others as well?

KF: I think what influences me the most is anytime I hear music that feels like it comes from an authentic place and represents a genuine set of components in a musician’s or songwriter’s life. To me, that’s what connects me to music, and that’s what I’m trying to do as well. You know, represent my experience. There’s a myriad of ways to do that. I think when people have that strong presence, it really inspires me.

NS: You’ve toured with the likes of Snoop Dogg. How was that for you?

KF: This past spring, I had the opportunity to open up for a bunch of different artists, some people who are pretty legit. To me, what was cool about that was seeing the infrastructure at that level of operation. Because right now, I’m just kind of rolling by myself. I’m just this solo, traveller-adventurer woman. So it’s cool for me to see, as things progress hopefully, how that sort of thing is run. For people at that level, it’s just this seamless machine. It’s really cool to see that.

NS: You grew up in Chicago. Would you say that that’s influenced you? The Chicago music scene has always been this great conglomerate of all these unique artists.

KF: What’s interesting for me about that is that I didn’t actually start making music until I was out in California for college. So, it’s kind of funny, because Chicago obviously has this super rich history of blues and rock, and nowadays there’s all this really cool hip-hop coming out, but I was kind of divorced from that.

When I came out for college, I was in the San Francisco Bay area for school, and the music scene there is really electic, and kind of funky. It’s got a really great hip-hop scene there as well. When I got out there, I just felt like the forces aligned and I ended up starting to produce music, influenced by the artistic freedom that exists in the Bay Area.

NS: Do you have anything you’d like to say to artists just starting out?

KF: Yeah, I think for me there were really two keys in pushing my career forward. When I started making music in college, my main focus was school and music was kind of a release at that point. A stress release, something fun.

But once I graduated and got serious about it, the two most important things were: one (and I’m still doing this in extreme ways), always try to learn more about how the music is created and how to make it better. For me, I use a lot of computer software to record, and I make all my beats using either sampling or original instruments.

So, just being open to learning more about how to make that better and to become more proficient. And the second part is taking any and every opportunity to play live. I think, especially today because there’s so much music out there, if you can’t hold your own in a live setting, people aren’t going to be drawn to your music in the same way.

It really has formed the way that I write songs– playing a lot of live shows and seeing what goes over well and what doesn’t. And I think the experience of playing to your three friends when nobody else shows up is a good thing to go through.

You talk to any musician, they’ll talk about that process of getting a live show together. That’s my main piece of advice– get out there as much as you can, and work as hard as you can to develop your craft. I still have insane amounts of things to learn, but that’s what’s been pushing me forward so far.

To purchase her new EP, visit For tickets to see K. Flay with Passion Pit, visit