‘Between The Stars’: Flyleaf’s Kristen May discusses infectious new album

Since their eponymous, self-titled debut album in 2005, Flyleaf has consistently dominated the active, alternative and mainstream rock charts.

With the arrival of new vocalist Kristen May, Flyleaf’s new album Between The Stars [release date: Sept 16] is certain to continue this trend.

Produced by Don Gilmore (Pearl Jam, Linkin Park, and Avril Lavigne), the band’s fourth studio album delivers twelve original, hooked-laden tracks deeply rooted in guitar-based rock.

But more than an alternative album, Between The Stars takes you on a sonic journey. One that tastefully fuses a heavy, hypnotic landscape with infectious pop melody.

With Between The Stars, the members of Flyleaf tell stories from the past few years of their lives. And they’ve got a lot to say.

Flyleaf is: Kristen May (vocals), Sameer Bhatacharya (guitars), Jared Hartmann (guitars), Pat Seals (bass) and James Culpepper (drums).

I recently caught up with May to ask her about the new album, her musical upbringing and how a best-selling book turned blockbuster film ignited the album’s first single.

What was the song writing process like for this album?

Sometimes it might just be a riff that Jared has that starts a song that we'll put melodies to. Other times, it might be a song that’s already written. Sameer pretty much had City Kids finished and Pat pretty much had Blue Roses complete going into the studio. The thing I love about working with these guys is that there are so many writers in the band with so many different ideas. Every song has its own unique story. I felt so comfortable going in and the more that we wrote together, the more inspired I became.

What can you tell me about the song, Set Me On Fire?

That song began because of the book, Divergent. I had heard that Veronica Roth [author] was a big fan of Flyleaf and had gotten inspiration from a few of the songs while she was working on it. So I thought the book would make for an interesting read. I found that I could really relate to the character of Tris. She was experiencing all of these new things for the very first time. She's fearful but dives right in because she longs for something to make her feel alive. I felt that same rush when I joined Flyleaf and it reignited my zest for life. The line, "Set Me On Fire" is about how you feel when you have a passion that lives inside you. It’s a song about feeling alive and feeling the power that life can give you.

How about the song, Magnetic?

I already had the phrase “magnetic” going in. There was something about it that sparked something in me. Then Pat started playing the riff which started the song. Lyrically, it’s about being apart from someone but still feeling the magnetism with them.

What was it like working with Don Gilmore?

It was awesome. As a vocalist, a lot depends on the vibe of the experience and having a free flowing environment. Don really found a way for me to feel natural in the studio. He had a laid back, easy going feel that really made me feel comfortable. He let us be creative but also had great ideas. It was a very collaborative experience.

Can you tell me a little about your musical upbringing?

I was always a lover of music and grew up around it. My dad played guitar and drums and my mom sang and I would sing in choirs. But it wasn't until I was 17 and got a guitar that I really started becoming passionate about songwriting. I don’t feel like I chose music. Music chose me. All of a sudden, I started writing for a few years and then I was in a band. Then I was in my next band and then I went on tour. Music is something that I’m very passionate about. When I'm singing, it's the one time where I really feel like my heart and soul are speaking.

Who were some of you influences?

The first writers who made me start thinking about songs were Joni Mitchell and Carole King. I really found myself paying attention to their lyrics. When I got my own guitar and started playing it along with piano, Fiona Apple and Sarah McLaughlin became really influential to me. Then I got into bands like Coldplay, Radiohead and U2.

How did you connect with Flyleaf?

My band, Vedera had been together for about seven years and decided to break up. I started working at a coffee shop in Kansas City - writing on weekends and trying to figure out what I was going to do next. Unbeknownst to me, at that same time Lacey had decided to leave Flyleaf. [Lacey Sturm amicably left the band in 2012]. I remember getting a call from my agent who had spoken to the band and they asked me if I'd be interested in coming in to play. At first, it was just going to be for radio shows to see what would happen. Slowly and organically, it grew from there.

Now that the album is complete, what are you most looking forward to?

I'm really proud of the album and can't wait for people to listen to the songs. I want to hear about how they relate to it, the road trips they go on when they're listening to it and how they connect to the songs. Along with that, I can't wait to play these songs live. I love touring and I love the fans. When you’re on stage performing and feeling their energy, the songs take on a new life and vibe.