Turning over the log… Kikimora, Birmingham’s new record label, champions the ‘busy grass roots’ creative creatures of the second city

Words & pics by Ed King

Kikimora is a new Birmingham born record label, set up to champion the wonderfully weird and eclectic musical mesh the city of a thousand trades can produce.

Launched by Rosie Tee and Emily Doyle, both established musicians on the Birmingham scene – one a first honours Birmingham Conservatoire graduate and the other a rock and roller who plays in some of Birmingham’s edgiest bands – the fledgling imprint has ambitions to nurture a new artistic collective in the second city.

And with one mini festival in Manchester already under their belt, a gig at an 1800’s pump house in Lichfield on 7 October – In the Bellows (click here for details) – and an existing network featuring some seriously creative creatives, they’ve already got some skin in the game.

Oh, and they like mushrooms (not the late September psychedelics, at least not to our knowledge) – featuring fungi on their logo and inviting Birmingham Review into the dappled shade of Moseley Bog for an interview. Either that, or it’s a mafia hit.

“We are both really interested in the idea of building an eco-system,” explains Emily, as she scuffs up the undergrowth searching for spores, “and in a forest, mushrooms are the glue that hold everything together and link everything up.”

“It’s like the mycelium,” confirms Rosie, “like it’s really small, but it will branch out. Because at the moment, as an arts scene, it’s just challenging. And we’re going to have to pull our resources much more than we have done.

“Birmingham, especially, has got this… it’s almost like you can turn over a log and see this really busy grass roots and DIY scene underneath, but I kind of want to permanently turn over the log so it’s more widely recognised.”

Despite housing the UK’s second largest metropolitan populous, with over 1.1m people living in the city, it can be hard to get a hundred people in a room in Birmingham.

National promoters consistently skip the second city on their UK tours, citing difficulties selling tickets as the main reason for the cut. And if anyone reading this has ever tried to promote a gig in the heart of the Midlands… well, you’ll have some sense of solidarity. But what will Kikimora bring to steady this already shaky creative industry table?

“We want to make events that are more immersive and an experience,” tells Emily, “with visuals, with a really eclectic line up; events where you might see one thing on the bill that you’re like ‘that’s my bag, that’s up my alley’ – say, an electronica act – but then there this weird experimental jazz act also on and you don’t know that’s up your alley… yet.”

Rosie continues: “For the music we’re into, you look at band’s gig list and you see them rocking up at the same venues and similarly always miss Birmingham. Emily travelled to Cardiff the other day to see a band that would never come to Birmingham, but we’d like to bring them to the city.

“And we want to be more than just promoters, we really want to platform the music. Like I said about turning the log over earlier, we’re all really busy creative people doing really exciting stuff and working on our own thing, and we’re thinking ‘is there a way to pull that together?’ I think a label is a great way to do that, because you’re putting an official link between different bands.”

It worked for Giles Petterson, so why not. And ever since the heavy metal and rave scenes, Birmingham has not really punched its weight when breaking new genres. Perhaps the time for Kikimora has come.

“There’s some absolutely incredible music coming out of Birmingham,” continues Rosie, picking her way through the fauna – Emily is busy investigating an overturned log. “And when people look at labels and promoters from other cities, they can piece together the collective around it all. That is happening in other pockets of Birmingham, but we just want to do that for us – to get those bands in and get Birmingham recognised.”

The golden fleece, one that many an inspired Brum based artist and promoter have sought to hang on their wall. But how will Kikimora make the changes they want to see and the city to embrace?

“It’s to do with press, it’s to do with radio, and just mouth to mouth and artist to artist,” explains Rosie, “saying to a band from Manchester, ‘come and gig with us in Birmingham and maybe we’ll come up and gig with you in Manchester.’ That kind of gig swapping; it’s a DIY way of doing things, but it works.”

“It’s going to be a case of just running at it and seeing what happens,” adds Emily, distracted by a large white mushroom surrounded by moss. “I don’t think we claim to have a magic solution… it’s idealistic, but the energy is there for it.”

Passion and vigour are great and will get you so far. So far. But at the end of the day, a label needs product – and even with unshakable aims and ambitions, if there’s nothing to stick on Spotify then it’s not going to work. Or sell. What can the eager to be educated public put on their Kikimora Christmas list?

“The first release will be Rosie Tee,” tells Rosie, “and the new EP I’m working on at the moment, Night Creature. As we’re new and self-funded, we thought it makes sense – from a strategic point of view – to release something first I was going to put out anyway. And this is a good opportunity to marry the start of this label with a release we’re already sitting on.

“But one of the easiest things we can offer up in the early days is DJ sets; Emily is far more seasoned than I am, but it’s something I’ve wanted to get into in a really long time. As a music lover, its good being able to share findings – and it’s a good way to work out what this ‘Kikimora sound’ is.”

“It’s curating on the fly a bit,” adds Emily. “Oh, look at these…” And we stop to examine more mushrooms, this time nestled on the fallen branch of a tree that did not survive the last of Birmingham’s visiting storms.

Cutting across the path, it has become something beyond what it once was – and something else has, for now at least, made the detritus and debris it’s home. There’s another metaphor in there somewhere.

But whilst Kikimora may be idealistic, their word, both women behind the new label are established enough to know the pragmatism needed to make a dream a reality. And they’re not alone, with the ‘network’ they refer to including sought after and exciting Birmingham bands and artists.

“We’ve got so many ideas within our own network at the minute, I feel like we’d need to get through those first,” continues Rosie – as I push for the release schedules of year two, three, four…

“And in order to give all these things the time and energy they deserve, we’ll need to space these things out. I think that’s an important thing to say, that we’re not in any rush. We’re not going anywhere – so, we’re just going take as much time as we need on these things.”

Sounds like a plan, many races are lost because they simply start out being run too fast. And neither Rosie Tee nor Emily Doyle will be leaving the Brum bubble anytime soon.

“At the end of the day,” concludes Emily, as we make out way back out of the wilderness, “we’re doing this because it’s something we really love and want to see happen.”

Kikimora are promoting In the Bellows at the Sandfields Pumping Station in Lichfield on 7 October, in collaboration with Lichfield Arts – presenting Me Lost Me, Zyggurat, Alys Rain.

Tickets are priced at £15. For more event information and links to online sales, visit: www.lichfieldarts.org.uk/in-the-bellows

For more on Kikimora follow them on Instagram at: www.instagram.com/kikimorarecords