Featured Artist: Belly Kids
There is something many mid-recession university graduates face. Some degrees offer a streamlined career path to the corporate elite and a lucky few have the right family connections to gain quick employment, but most go from walking across the stage with a diploma to sleeping in their parents’ spareroom, unsure why they got a degree at all. Unable to find a career in a creative industry, Michael Coley grew tired of seeing friends land his dream jobs while he waited at home. “All my friends were running off, writing for magazines and nationals, doing PR on these hip events. I was at home, feasting on cheap noodles, writing CVs to work admin at a dentist. So I thought ‘enough is enough, just do it yourself, dude.’”
And that’s what Michael did. A mix of wacky ideas and talented people, London’s Belly Kids produces things children of the 90s want, bringing together artists for projects like the viral hit “Thrill Murray,” an illustrated coloring book featuring Bill Murray’s peak cinematic moments and “Kurt and the Gang,” a sticker book homage to grunge’s main martyr. With plenty of new projects in the works and an exhibition for “Kurt and the Gang” coming up in January, Michael proves that there’s more than one path to success. He’s is just waiting for Bill Murray’s accolades.
BANGSTYLE: How did Belly Kids begin? What were you doing before?
Michael Coley: I’ve always been into seeing bands, buying records and reading zines. You see a guy creeping around stalls at shows, that was me. So Belly Kids just seemed the obvious extension, a platform where I can release the books and records I love.
When I finished University I found it tough finding a real life job in a creativity industry. All my friends were running off, writing for magazines and nationals, doing PR on these hip events. I was at home, feasting on cheap noodles, writing CVs to work admin at a dentist. So I thought “enough is enough, just do it yourself dude.”
BANGSTYLE: What is Belly Kids?
Michael Coley: At Belly Kids, we release a whole bunch of books, tapes, prints and junk. If we think it’s awesome, we’ll do our best to put it out. I started by putting on shows, releasing tapes and generally talking about bands and illustrators. I guess it’s naturally grown into a label which encompasses all different artists and art. I once got called a “punk publisher,” gotta say that made me smile a bit.
BANGSTYLE: Tell us about the Bill Murray coloring book, Thrill Murray. Can you explain the whole process, from idea to product?
Michael Coley: Well, it all started with pizza and rum (frankly, the normal beginning to any of my ideas). I was visiting friends and we got talking about Bill Murray, the idea just grew and grew until I couldn’t keep it down any more. I got in touch with lots of illustrators online, some friends offline and the reaction was super positive. From that it came together really eaily. I’m still overwhelmed with the reaction.
BANGSTYLE: Has Bill Murray had any reaction to it?
Michael Coley: If he has, it’s been all too silent and to himself. I really want to get one into his hands but my every effort has failed, pretty miserably. Call this a public service broadcast, a call out to Bill and his people – get in touch dudes! I have a colouring book for you – and a bottle of Absinthe.
BANGSTYLE: You worked with a bunch of cool bands for The Mona Pizza recipe book. How did you get them involved?
Michael Coley: Some of the bands I knew, however loosely and some I just speculatively got in touch with. The whole idea of food and cooking was one which really resonated and I was surprised how quickly I started taking in recipes. I’m a huge foodie, so making the recipes as they came in was a real treat.
Now I’m interviewing bands about food over on the Mint Magazine blog.
BANGSTYLE: You obviously really love pizza in general. What are your favorite spots in London?
Michael Coley: Ah, I do love pizza so much. The sourdough pizza’s at Franco Manca are seriously delicious. Pizza East in Shoreditch is a good time, slightly more of a restraunt atmosphere (buy the Mac ‘n Cheese). Crate Brewery in Hackney is too damn good.
BANGSTYLE: How did you come up with the idea for Kurt and the Gang? Why a sticker book?
Michael Coley: Doing the colouring book was so much fun. All the time, in the back of my head, I had an idea of a project working around Kurt Cobain as a central figure. I have always been a huge Nirvana fan and, for me, they acted as a springboard into a whole scene of great bands.
After a colouring book, a sticker book seemed entirely logical. I’m in a world of 90s throwback!
BANGSTYLE: Tell us about the upcoming exhibition for Kurt and the Gang in London.
Michael Coley: The opening night will be Thursday, January 10th, at KK OUTLET in East London. It’s a great gallery, I’m extremely happy to be putting something together for them. There will be pictures from the book on show with a few extra extended Kurt and the Gang scenes. Come on down. (RSVP HERE)
BANGSTYLE: There seems to be a really strong DIY art scene in London. What is it about this city that inspired you to start your own collective?
Michael Coley: There is a really vibrant scene around at the moment, everyone is super friendly and open to new people pitching up and joining in. Plenty of independent shops, venues and galleries are hanging art for free and selling prints for reasonable prices. It’s really accessible. I would like to mention Beach on Cheshire Street, off Brick lane. It’s putting on a bunch of great shows, selling incredible prints and zines.
BANGSTYLE: What’s next for Belly Kids?
Michael Coley: SO MUCH!!
2013 is going to be a super busy period for us. On my mind right now is a series of graphic novels based around Egyptian Myths. Really blood thirsty and rapid tales. Of course I’m adding the Belly Kids spin on it all. Check out Suzi Kemp, Tom Edwards, Nick Alston, Murray Somerville, Bridget Meyne and Timothy Hunt – get excited!