Among the many guests on Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello’s 2018 solo album The Atlas Underground, alt. pop singer/rapper K. Flay (that’s Kristine Meredith Flaherty to her mum and dad) stood out: her smoky, seductive vocals and killer rhymes made the Portishead-meets-Led Zeppelin groove of Lucky One a highlight of the set.
As an MTV-loving teen growing up in Wilmette, Illinois, when pop-punk, hip-hop and nu metal were very much part of mainstream culture, Flaherty was taught how to play guitar by her dad, and she retained a fondness for hooky riffs after signing to RCA Records in 2012, with The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett co-producing her single We Hate Everyone. In 2018 her dark, atmospheric Blood In The Cut single was nominated in the Grammy Awards’ Best Rock Song category alongside tracks by Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Foo Fighters and Nothing More, with Dave Grohl’s band ultimately triumphing with Run. All of which is our rather circuitous way of saying she’s not just another factory-produced pop star.
Which, truthfully, you could have discovered for yourself by listening to what K. Flay has done with The Offspring’s Self Esteem, Green Day’s Brain Stew and Limp Bizkit’s Break Stuff on her new EP, Don't Judge a Song By Its Cover. In a video series where it appears she’s returned to her teenage bedroom, the singer has transformed these lairy rock club bangers into something altogether more emotional, locating a tenderness and fragility in the lyrics usually masked by distorted riffs.
“I wanted to put these three songs in a totally new context and really expose the vulnerability of the lyrics,” she says. “Each cover is a reimagining of a ’90s rock hit that was heavy, aggressive and male-fronted. But when you break them down, they are SUPER EMOTIONAL. So this is me celebrating an era that’s had a huge influence on my career, and kind of excavating the emotionality I found in these iconic songs.”
See what you think…
K. Flay’s three track Don't Judge a Song By Its Cover EP is out now.