Running a music business in the non-existent live event industry of the past years wasn’t the most fulfilling job. But for some, Covid might have been the perfect moment to start one. In 2020 Australian DJ Kia started the playful and light-hearted label Animalia, inspired by some dancefloor moments of Het Muzieklokaal in De School. We look back at the refreshing Animalia hosting of Breakfast Club and the conversation we had with the 25-year-old DJ afterwards.
Breakfast Club wouldn’t be Breakfast Club if it wasn’t for inviting an upcoming, relatively unknown Australian label to host an inspiring and chill day at their first Summer in the City party at Bret. During this event series, which was scattered over different locations in Amsterdam, Breakfast Club once again showed what it is good at: curating bold yet accessible line-ups that provide room for discovering the unknown and upcoming corners of underground club music.
It felt refreshing and even quite a relief to absorb the sounds of niche DJs that are not so often booked, even though this might sound cocky… It was a trend that later continued in the evening at Doka, with the iconic set of DJ Koolt; a gem of a DJ yet again quite unknown within the Dutch clubbing scene.
An Animalia hosting in Amsterdam offers the perfect occasion to dive deeper into the Australian sound and scene where the label finds itself. The Dutch really have their eyes on the Australian progressive tech sound, Animalia owner Kia tells me when we are having a drink at a local bar a couple days after her Breakfast Club hosting. She is chatty and cheerful and once in a while completely distracted by the cat chilling next to us in the café who apparently looks exactly like her own cats at home.
Kia got her first serious bookings here in The Netherlands, after she got discovered through SoundCloud by Nous’klaer label owner Sjoerd Oberman. During this time Oberman and a few other friends suggested she should start a label of her own, out of admiration for her taste, and after hearing unreleased songs she shared from friends back home. ‘That sounded cool, but I had no idea how to do that and I didn’t have the facilities either. But, when I got home and Covid started, the idea was still wandering in my head, and I was thinking of using it as a lowkey summer project. My sister, who is a graphic designer, offered to design the logo, which made it seem even more doable.’
"It’s interesting how my personality manifested itself into Animalia"
‘I don’t know what the exact moment was that I decided to start the label, but my friends Eugene, Dash and Sam who make up Ménage kept sending me their music. I was obsessed with it as I’d never heard music that was that close to my taste. I played a lot of it in Amsterdam, and quite a few people asked me to send it, because they thought it was unique. This admiration was something I felt on the dancefloor as well. There's this one song by Eugene from Ménage that I played at De School and I really noticed the dancefloor lit when I played it in that context.'
After those first signs of appreciation, Kia acted upon words. Animalia One was released in June 2020 and was the home of trippy, spacey productions by Ménage, Dashiell, Sam Brickel and Jack Brickel. The release acted as an introduction of their trademark sound, which finds itself in the familiar Australian progressive tech-house and trance (but a little more trippy and deep), a sound the Australians call ‘bush techno’.
Kia didn’t want to stick to one genre per se with her label. The OK EG release leans more toward electro and techno with a deep majestic sound, while the last compilation album contained a mixture of everything: electro, tech-house, techno and dnb inspired sounds were all represented. One upcoming release even leans to an Animalia interpretation of psytrance, Kia reveals. ‘The music on Animalia has to reflect my taste, which constantly changes, but is mainly deep and quite melodic. I’d describe Ménage’s sound as ‘cinematic’; playful and happy techno. The music matches the colourful design of the label, which I chose because I didn’t want Animalia to be the next techno label with a dark design. Besides, the label artwork reflects my personality, which is important to me.’
"Being welcoming and open is the main goal"
The spontaneous release process is barely controlled or curated, resulting in a versatile output of the releases. ‘I reach out to people to make EP’s but whoever finishes first, gets released, regardless of the genre and as long as I like it. The same goes for the Animix mix series which doesn’t have a tight schedule either. I also don’t change that much when artists send me their music. I pick the artists that I trust, and the result is almost always good, but always different from preceding releases. It again makes the overall sound of Animalia hard to pin down.’
‘The whole process is maybe a bit chaotic, but so am I. Even the way I dress is messy. I dress like a baby, the colours don’t match and I layer odd combinations. It’s interesting actually how this manifested itself into Animalia. Just by being myself and making something to represent my own taste, and not worrying about what other people want.’
As an extension of the label, Kia organizes the Animalia parties where a mix of friends and guests play. These events but also the label made her aware of the position it gives her in the music industry, she explains. ‘When I started DJing, I was dealing with a big imposter syndrome, as I didn’t feel like I deserved the attention I received amid the calibre of other artists in the scene. I felt intimidated by all the female DJs. However, I have had warm encounters with some of them, which changed my perspective on things. When I met Aurora Halal a few years ago I felt really shy and nervous, but she was warm and nice to me in a genuine way. It made me realise how important a non-gatekeeping attitude is.’
This is the reason she pushes and supports young upcoming artists on her label and events. Besides that, she pursues a friendly vibe around Animalia, doing away with trendy and cool appearances that often seem to dominate the scenes these days; something she felt intimidated by herself a few years ago. ‘Being welcoming and open is the main goal,’ Kia concludes smiling.
Running Animalia in her own characteristic way, with fewer rules and more room for creativity resulted in an organic way of leading her business, which from the start never really felt to her like a real ‘business project’ with herself as a ‘businesswoman’. She sees it as a creative music and art project and after four Animalia releases, this project is being extended further with the launch of the ambient and down-tempo sub-label Cirrus end of this year.
The first release on Cirrus is being produced at the moment and will be a record by an alias of one of the Ménage members. Kia describes the sound on it as ‘non-club, or non-functional dance music’. Dreamy, long non-linear soundscapes are almost seeing daylight. Keep yourself updated about Cirrus here.