A metro Detroit record label and recording studio want to spotlight the next emerging artist.
Starting today, the Bird Fight Records and JK (Not Kidding) Studios team of John Katona, Tom Mihalis, Christian Ohly and Taylor Penn are launching a new contest to produce a single or an EP for one indie artist or band.
Interested artists or bands from any genre can enter the contest through Feb. 28. To be considered, entrants can submit audio demos/recordings that best demonstrate their musicality and artistry.
“Submissions can be any type of audio,” said Katona, producer-engineer for Bird Fight Records and owner of JK (Not Kidding) Studios. “It’s more about the songwriting than it is about production. We’ll take it from wherever it is to a fully produced song.”
The winning artist or band will have their material produced by JK (Not Kidding) Studios and released via Bird Fight Records. They also will receive marketing and video production support as part of the winning package.
“The people in Michigan and Detroit are so talented,” said Penn, graphic designer and social media manager for Bird Fight Records. “There are so many incredible artists around … we don’t want them to go unrecognized.”
Beyond the Studio
The contest serves as the latest project for Bird Fight Records and JK (Not Kidding) Studios, which have built an impressive roster of live session videos and audio recordings from burgeoning Michigan music acts.
To date, Bird Fight Records has recorded and released more than 40 live session videos via JK (Not Kidding) Studios and racked up thousands of views through their fast-growing YouTube channel. Featured artists include Matthew Milia, Jeff Pianki, Hala, Remnose, Pia, Our Attic and others.
“It’s just been great to be a part of the projects of the artists who come in, and every time they blow my mind,” said Mihalis, producer-engineer for Bird Fight Records and JK (Not Kidding) Studios. “Watching these people come in, do amazing performances and be really great people … it just makes it so much better.”
JK (Not Kidding Studios) also has recorded and produced nearly a dozen albums and EPs for The Indigo Curve, Dog & Panther, Ryan Trager, Ohly and other acts. Located inside Katona’s Shelby Township home, the elaborate studio dually functions as an audio and video recording space for artists.
“I always knew I was gonna do it. It was partially planned and then amped up,” said Katona, whose house was rebuilt internally from 2020 to 2021.
During his home’s reconstruction, Katona started recording live session videos with Ohly for their Bird Fight electronic duo as well as Ohly’s indie folk project. The collaborators decided to record and share their own videos to supplement the release of their Bird Fight EP, Hugshake, which dropped last year.
“The songs just felt old, and I didn’t know what to do with them and thought, ‘Well, how do we release and market these?’ We decided to do live versions of these songs because I had started playing with analog synthesizers,” Katona said.
“And then we decided to make videos of it. We just did it with a phone, and we made videos for each of the songs. It felt better and more relevant after we did that. Then Christian (Ohly) was like, ‘Can we do one for the Ohly project?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure,’ and we did that one also. Then we both thought, ‘Why don’t we do this for other bands?’”
Together, Katona and Ohly started contacting artists about recording live session videos and acquired higher-grade cameras. Then, they invited Mihalis to serve as an audio engineer/co-producer and Penn to oversee graphic design and social media for Bird Fight Records.
More Live Sessions
With an official Bird Fight Records team in place, their initial videos quickly escalated with Ohly’s “Light” in December 2020 and then morphed into additional videos for Jackamo, Noah de Leon and Greater Alexander.
“I’ve seen a lot of studio videos where it’s just the band playing their song in a studio, and we’ve purposely tried to get away from that and have take-away shows like La Blogothèque,” Katona said. “Theirs are very elaborate, and I wanted to create audio and video. It’s the collision of that and cool arrangements, too.”
Over the next year, Bird Fight Records recorded and released a series of compelling live session videos, which also indirectly document the final reconstruction phases of Katona’s house. At the time, he added a wall to his open lower-level floor plan and included different aesthetics ideal for recording videos.
“I had a designer help me pick out colors, light fixtures and tile, and we purposely picked colors that would look good on camera, and that was the same thing with the lighting choices. We wanted to have bright lights and then mood lights. We wanted to create a vibe for sessions,” Katona said.
Katona’s two-story house also functions as an accessible and inclusive recording space for all artists. It features an elevator as well as open areas for easier navigation and mobility.
“When I bought my house, I always intended to have a music space … and it was designed for accessibility, which I’m really proud of and happy with,” said Katona, who uses a wheelchair after experiencing a life-changing injury in high school.
Today, the Bird Fight Records team releases a new video every Tuesday at noon via Instagram and Facebook. Their latest video spotlights Teddy Roberts performing an intimate acoustic version of his 2020 single, “Anywhere But Here,” and kicks off an entire new year filled with additional audio and video growth.
“We’re shooting for five records under the Bird Fight Records label,” Mihalis said. “As for the videos, if we’re shooting for at least one or two sessions a month, then that would allow us to release at least one video a week. We just want to continue to grow the audio and the video and produce and write better songs.”
Interested in a Bird Fight Records live video session? Fill out the submission form.