When we spoke with Flyleaf’s lead vocalist Kristen May and lead guitarist Sameer Bhattacharya this past month, they were just beginning a short tour on Revolver’s “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” tour. The tour started in April and ended the first week of May, but hit 16 cities in that short time.
Sitting on their tour bus, myself, May and Bhattacharya hashed out all the newest (and some past) Flyleaf happenings.
As to how Flyleaf ended up headlining the Revolver tour, May explained that she’d made the calendar of the “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” issue, and that Flyleaf has in a sense partnered with Revolver magazine, “I mean Flyleaf has had a relationship with Revolver for a long time, and actually when I joined the band, I did two interviews with them and they were cool and they supported us in this change when I joined. Yeah, so they did this calendar ‘Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock’ or whatever. So I guess I made the calendar and then I’m not sure how they decided that we would headline it but obviously it’s worked out.”
We all know former lead vocalist Lacey Sturm left Flyleaf in 2012. While May has had some pretty big shoes to fill, it’s time to move ahead.
May was previously with the Kansas City-based rock band Vedera. The band’s drummer and bass player decided to leave the band around the same time Sturm left Flyleaf. After Vedera disbanded May and her husband (who played guitar for Vedera) took a break. As May explained it, “You know we probably could have continued on but there’s just something that told us we needed to take a break too and do other things and so I took about a year and a half off and was just writing music, working at a coffee shop.”
Around the time May was on break Flyleaf was looking for singers to audition. “My booking agent at that time was friends with their manager and she said, ‘Hey, you should have Kristen come out.’ And so they were like, ‘Sure,’ and I traveled up there where they lived about one hour outside of Austin, Texas and just did my best.”
Lots of Vedera fans, who loved May in Vedera wonder why she didn’t just pursue her solo efforts. Flyleaf is definitely different than the work she did while with Vedera. May wants her Vedera fans to know this: “I love that there are Vedera fans out there that are wondering about that. So yeah, I was writing music for about a year and a half after Vedera. But I actually went through quite a period of writer’s block and so I started co-writing with certain people. So I co-wrote with people from the punk world, the folk world, the country world, all these different people, and more like dancey kind of stuff. And so I just felt like I didn’t have a direction and so I knew that it wasn’t time to create a solo album yet cause when I do put it out, which I will put out a solo album, when I do it’s gotta be all of me, it’s gotta be from the heart and it’s gotta be so pure for me to put just my name out there on that, cause there’s only me to blame when it’s over. That said, I just didn’t really have a direction of where I was going, and Flyleaf, honestly when I got the the call I was like ‘What? This is weird.’ I wasn’t expecting it. Honestly I didn’t even know if I wanted to be in a rock band again and Vedera was obviously a little bit softer and whatever not the same genre but, something about it sparked my interest. I wasn’t a Flyleaf fan. Not like I was against Flyleaf. No one tipped me off to ‘Hey, listen to Flyleaf.’ And so when I was asked to audition I thought, ‘Oh, I’m gonna listen to this and see what I think.’ And I was honestly blown away by the passion and the raw quality and the edginess and just everything about their music. I thought it was really beautiful and interesting and scary in a way for me to join but something that I felt that I needed and so I just knew I was supposed to do it. I can’t answer it more than that. It was something I’m supposed to do. And so I did it.”
Since May stepped in when Flyleaf had already produced numerous albums without her, how does she take ownership of old material? The band has an interesting approach which supports May’s personal connection to the music. “Well the guys are really cool with you know kind of seeing which songs I relate to,” says May. “You know like they’ll say if it doesn’t make sense to you, you know we won’t do it. You know if it doesn’t feel like it’s from the heart or something you could sing. So for me I really try to choose songs that I enjoy and that I really understand and that do make sense to me but honestly a lot of Flyleaf songs I connect to. I think they are written about things that we all go through and we all have angst in our lives, we all have ups and downs in our relationships and we all have these troubles in our relationships and just being a human in this crazy world so I actually relate to a lot of the material so it really wasn’t that hard, but yeah with that said, it’s certainly easier to sing songs that I wrote but I just have to continue bringing myself to that point of like, ‘Okay, sing this like you did write it.’ You know and it’s easy when there’s fans in the crowd and they’re just singing it right with me and I’m connecting with them and it’s like this transcend experience.”
Flyleaf released their fourth studio album Between The Stars on September 16, 2014 via Loud & Proud Records. It was the first album released with May as the lead vocalist. It sold 8,200 copies in the United States in the first week of its release, landing it at No. 33 on The Billboard 200 chart. With May at the helm now as lead vocalist, what was her involvement with the newest record? May says, “I mean I’m a songwriter first. I love songwriting. So yeah, I brought in some songs, we all did. You know it was very collaborative. We wrote music early on together when I joined. Actually even before I officially joined. So yeah a good amount of the material was written by me and all the guys.” As May says playing music, writing music and touring for 15 years has prepared for the work a band SHOULD ideally undergo in producing an album. As she says, “Yeah, I mean in a rock band here’s the thing. You wanna bring in this product that’s not totally, it’s like played out, you know you bring it, you let everybody kind of massage it and then it becomes ultimately something that everybody in the band can believe in because you’re a band.” And Bhattacharya couldn’t agree more, telling us his songs don’t become a Flyleaf song until everyone in the band puts some work into it. “I don’t believe it can be the best it can be until everyone kind of sinks their fingers into and as a songwriter you have to be open to that which is very difficult something that you get emotionally connected to, to be able to step back, and let that just to be ripped apart and turned into something else. You know, you have to leave your ego at the door when you join a band.” No egos here! But yet admittedly each band member may have their own “babies” which are fairly finished when they arrive at Flyleaf’s door. May says, “I remember when Sameer brought in Platonic, it was pretty much finished. You know and he even did stuff at his home where he did the drums and he did the bass and he did everything basically so there was a great skeleton and when I wrote Head Underwater I kind of had…a kind of specific vision of how I wanted it to be, so there are certain songs that are a little bit more your babies.”
So this tour ends, and then what’s next for Flyleaf? May says expect to hear them on more radio shows supporting their single Thread, and look for a late summer/early fall tour!
You can check out Thread here:
For more about Flyleaf, visit: