Someone who shows us all that weaving together hypnotizing dance floor narratives and woolen sweaters can go hand in hand… True to form, Melbourne’s rising star Kia delivers a mind-altering mix experience.

Astral sounds perfectly suited for docking space stations.. Although a relative newcomer to the DJ realm, Kia delves into the deeper offsprings of techno, wonky curveball action and bass heavy rhythms with the confidence and complexity of a longstanding tastemaker. She has been catching listeners with her open-minded approach and almost meditative selections. Turning heads with sublime mixes for the likes of Patterns of Perception, Nous’klaer Audio and Truants, where she manages to create complex storylines with intricate sound design. 

Currently finishing her last semester at uni, Kia ventured into the role of record label owner, a couple months ago, with the launch of Animalia. A close-to-home platform that functions as a stepping stone for her talented music aficionados. Keen to hear what’s to come, we caught up to chat about her newly founded imprint, Aussie-Amsterdam connection and recent developments, next to her creating an immersive mix that perfectly reflects her current state of mind. Float away!

Hey Kia, it’s a pleasure having you involved in the series! How’s life in Melbourne? Last we spoke you were busy finishing your last semester at uni.. how’s that coming along, was the semester disrupted with the lockdowns?

Thanks so much for having me! Life in Melbourne is pretty uneventful at the moment to be honest. We’re in lockdown again so everybody is just trying to stay occupied as best they can. I spent the first half of the year writing a mini thesis for the end of my degree and now I’m interning full time at a social enterprise that provides entrepreneurship opportunities for migrant & refugee women. That’s taking most of my time up at the moment and it’s really fulfilling. It’s nice to be putting my time and energy into something so positive and important. In my spare time I’ve been making music with my partner iota, and doing lots of planning for Animalia things. I’ve also been going on daily jogs and listening to party mixes, because it feels like the most appropriate context to be listening to them right now whilst there’s no gigs haha.

You recently launched your own record label called Animalia. Can you tell us about the process from its initial inspiration to the realization of its first physical record. Did you experience challenging moments during the process? Have there been some learning curve moments, so to speak?

For the first few years, I wasn’t taking DJing very seriously, but as it sort of unfolded and I began playing gigs regularly, my mixes & sets were full of unreleased tracks by friends. My idea behind Animalia was just a way of being able to give back to them, and get their music the attention it deserves. My vision for the label is to keep it close to home, and to provide an international platform for the  local scene. I was fortunate enough to be offered lots of advice from a few friends who have their own experience with label doings, and I had my sister work on the graphics so the whole thing has been a family affair. I was also lucky enough to sort distribution through Clone which has been great because it’s given me the ability to open up the record easily to an international market – and I feel like the Animalia sound is somewhat more “European” in its’ traits than Australian (in saying that I think the boys from the first release are carving their own unique sound). 

I’ve already learnt so much about what it means to run a label and I think the most important thing I’ve taken out of it so far is how important it is to articulate my vision for Animalia’s sound and aesthetic to the artists I’m working with. I’ve always found it quite difficult to provide genuine feedback and constructive criticism to demos. Now that I’m in this position where I have total authority over what music I choose to release, I’ve had to force myself to really to the music and to translate that into direct feedback. For me, it has sort of helped me develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the music being released on Animalia. I feel like the more I learn about producing music myself, the easier it will be to give helpful feedback to artists too.

All of the artists I’ve worked with thus far have been an absolute pleasure and I feel really lucky to be collaborating with them.  I’m learning so much from them. As someone who second guesses everything I do and put out musically, I’ve also had to trust my gut instinct with all label related decisions. The Animalia ‘vibe’ is such a direct reflection of my own taste (i.e. the colourful graphics) so I was unsure of how it would be received,  but the response has been so heartwarming. The music speaks for itself. It’s really exciting seeing the boys from the first release flourish and grow as artists and I’m excited to continue providing a platform for my friends to share their music.

With the debut release making such a solid splash, what do you have in store for the label’s second outing? Will the V.A. format be a frequently returning format moving forward? And you mentioned that your close friend Laura Apelt is working on some sick video visuals for the follow-up.. Can you tell us more about that?

My goal for the first release was to introduce the main pool of artists that the label will feature (Menage, Dashiell, Eugene Pascal, iota & Sam & Jack Brickel). I’ve got plans to do a solo release for each of them, but also another, bigger VA planned as an extension of the first release. The second release is in production now and I’ll be making an announcement in a couple of weeks. It’s a solo EP but features some familiar names from the first record. I’m also extremely excited for the third release which is an extremely talented local duo that is new to Animalia.

Laura is a good friend of mine from Melbourne and she’s provided the visual backdrop at a few parties/clubs I played at over the summer. She was in charge of the visuals for a party I played back in November with Simo Cell, and she created the coolest personalised visuals that played during my set. It’s been nice to extend the support for my friends beyond the music and also to the visual aspects of the label (having my sister Tara do the graphics, and Laura work on these visuals). The great thing about working with friends is they know my personality well so they are able to translate that into their work for Animalia. Laura has created some really nice visuals for the second release that I think are a nice blend of her own style and the Animalia style. I’ll be debuting them on the Animalia instagram soon.

It seems you have established a solid connection to the Dutch scene over the last year or so. Performing at De School, receiving love from the Nous’klaer crew, releasing your first track on Traumgarten, next to Clone taking care of the distribution for Animalia. How did those connections come about? And how have you experienced our hometown whilst visiting?

Honestly the way it all played out felt like a total fluke, but as I said earlier, I think the style of music I play, and the music I am putting out under Animalia fits quite well into the European scene, and particularly the Dutch scene. After making a few mixes for local collectives, I was reached out to by Sjoerd Oberman via Soundcloud, and he asked me to make a mix for the Nous’Klaer Audio series. From there, I guess that’s how some people in the Netherlands may have heard my music. I wasn’t really taking DJing very seriously at this point, just playing at friends parties, and suddenly I had a few bookings in the Netherlands. It was very surreal.

Going from playing warm up sets at quiet Melbourne clubs to playing a few parties in Amsterdam and The Hague was definitely the turning point for me in taking myself seriously as a DJ. I still felt pretty out of my league whilst I was there though to be honest. At first I was quite overwhelmed, but I left with a full heart. I had such a nice time when I was in Amsterdam and made so many lovely friends there. It’s really nice to connect with people simply through a mutual passion for the same type of music. I was actually planning on moving to Amsterdam this year for a while but obviously this didn’t happen due to Covid. I’m hoping it can happen next year though! I feel like I have unfinished business there.

As just mentioned, your first studio creation has recently been released as part of Traumgarten’s excellent fundraiser compilation. Can you tell us about your venture into production? And can you tell us a bit more about the track in question?

Yes – Lounes who runs Traumgarten is one of the friends I made last year. I played a b2b2b with Lounes and Stefan at their ADE Ambient event last year (which was so beautiful). I am constantly in awe of the passion and heart he puts into his projects and the Traumgarten compilation was no exception. Lounes reached out to Jack (iota) and I and asked if we wanted to contribute, and at that point in time I was only really playing around on Ableton. I took it as a good opportunity to learn more, and it helped to have something to work towards. I’ve really been enjoying the downtempo/dnb realm of music recently, and it’s a genre that, stylistically, jack and I meet in the middle with. The music I play is typically more euphoric and deep, whilst Jack style is darker and more minimal, so I think our song “Weird Melon” was a pretty good blend of both of our tastes.

It’s quite special being able to work with and learn from my partner, because not only is it cool to see where we can meet in the middle with our styles, but we are able to be totally honest with each other throughout the process. We are working on a few more things and are going to try and work towards an EP eventually. Once I take my training wheels off with it, I’m also keen to do some solo stuff too.

In your recent interview with Truants, you talked about the fact that your mixes reflect a distinct state of your current environment and life. With that, can you tell us about your current state of mind and how it translates into the mix you’ve compiled for us?

They definitely do. I was actually thinking about this today as I recorded the mix because to me the mix feels a little looser stylistically, less planned, and quite emotional at times. I’ve been feeling pretty all over the place throughout Melbourne’s second lockdown period.. Sometimes I feel positive about things and at other times very uncertain and negative.. I think the cloudiness of the mix is reflective of that. The second half of the mix which gets a little faster and more upbeat is most certainly a reflection of what I absolutely wish I was doing right now, which is enjoying good music with friends and playing gigs… a concept that feels very foreign and far away right now! There’s also some forthcoming Animalia tunes sprinkled throughout the mix 🙂 

I tend to develop really vivid nostalgia for music I listen to/play during certain periods, so I’m curious to see what it will be like listening back to mixes I made in 2020 in a year or two. Such a strange time for everyone but I’m so grateful to have musical projects to pull me through!