We had the good fortune of connecting with Krysti Joméi and Jonny DeStefano and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Krysti / Jonny, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Jonny and I (Krysti) were born artists. Like many creatives, it’s not something we chose. It chose us. It’s our DNA, our souls and the lens through which we do everything in life. We met in 2013 via Denver’s DIY / comedy / speakeasy space, the Deer Pile. Jonny founded the venue in 2011 and I hopped on to help manage it. Our friendship was sparked by the discovery that we both had a love for tangible and analog formats of art: vinyl, radio, film, books, magazines, comics, View-Masters, cereal boxes, musical instruments, etc. We also had a deep-rooted punk ideology from our earlier years that forever shaped us, that: do-it-yourself-‘cause-no-else-will / rebellion against the status quo / art is resistance, and a fun mentality that made it hard for us to accept traditional style jobs. Being lifelong gig economy creative workers, we were itching to set out on a journey based on no one else’s schedule or vision but our own. And most importantly, to create something that would contribute to and document our fellow creatives in real time, and amplify the voices of those who were literally building the counterculture in our city, state and beyond. Magazines deeply shaped us as kids and our love for them carried over into our early 20s where we both had experience contributing to and creating our own print publications. Fast forward to the last decade and we suddenly found ourselves faced with popular culture telling us that “print is dead.” To us — and many others — this was a myth, and a dangerous one at that. Not only were we screened out and Googled out and longing for the tactile human experience, we also adhered to the idea that print is essential to preserving free speech, thoughts and ideas, especially through all forms of art. In the void left by the internet, we decided to stem the tide and make print our new venue. We didn’t want money to inform our choices but rather we wanted to make soulful and artful choices and trust that the money would follow. We wanted the end product, Birdy, to be a collectible piece of art, in and of itself. And most importantly, we wanted to make it free so that anyone could have access to it. So in 2013, Jonny and I reached out to our first designer Michael David King who soon introduced us to our ongoing partner and community connecter Kayvan S.T. Khalatbari. And with nine months of planning, designing and convincing artists, writers and businesses to jump on board, we launched Birdy with $2,000 and one month of content and never looked back.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Birdy is different from other magazines because we never followed the traditional publication route in either content or business. From the get-go, we made a pack to never sell the front or back cover (which includes wrap-arounds ads or plastic-wrapped issues with external ad paraphernalia). By industry standards, this is absurd and foolish because we’re missing out on potentially thousands of dollars of ad revenue. But we held fast, because our mission is to showcase and uplift artists first and foremost. That’s what Birdy is all about. And the businesses who jump on board with us, want the same thing, they want to contribute to and be a part of the enfranchisement of artists. You’ll also notice no cover lines, just art and our title. We got so much flak for this in the beginning from others telling us that no one will understand what the magazine is about. But that was our whole point. The cover speaks for itself and the only way to know what’s inside is to dive in. Our idea proved successful as we soon saw multiple publications in Denver and Colorado follow suit. With that, listen to your gut when it comes to your own work or business, because it’s usually right. Birdy was also made to be a human magazine. To be open and accessible to whoever wants to pick it up. We don’t have a particular niche or theme like many pubs out there. You don’t have to be able to read or understand English to appreciate what’s inside. There’s something for everyone. Some people pick up Birdy merely for the art — to cut pieces out to hang on their walls or use as collage materials; others savor the stories and interviews and written content; some utilize it as an educational tool to teach their students or children; others open it as guide to get to know Colorado local business, music or happenings, and many simply collect them. It’s not a one-size-fits-all publications, but rather a unique experience for each individual while also promoting our interconnectedness in our experience on this planet during this time. As artists first we actually had to teach ourselves all aspects of business along the way. To say it was challenging is an understatement. Those first few years were brutal — working harder not smarter, day in and day out, grinding long nights and weekends to barely put food on our table or pay our rent. But it was our fighting spirit and teachability and a solid support system that helped us make it through. A big part of Birdy’s manifesto is “the way out is through,” because with anything in life, we’ve learned that you can’t have the good by dodging the bad or the ugly. You have to find a way through the hard times. That’s what following your dreams is all about. It’s comforting to know that so many people we admire have had to struggle and persist to get to where they are. Overnight success can happen in this day and age, but things that last almost always involve a long foundation-building process. And we couldn’t be prouder to have built the foundation that we did because we’ve never missed a month, with currently 88 issues and counting. Our biggest words of advice for embarking on your own journey as a business owner whether you work by yourself or with others is to educate yourself. Read everything you can. Observe those around you. Learn about your own strengths and weaknesses. Be love-based not fear-based. Find a business or life coach who can help you get through those roadblocks or tough times so you can see silver linings or even the clear blue sky. Whenever you put yourself out there, you will unavoidably face criticism or jealousy or bullies. But don’t take the bait. Develop a thick skin and stay the course. Getting too high or too low can be dangerous. So get to know your emotions, your insecurities, your triggers on a very deep level. This is as much a self journey as it is one in business. What we want the world to take away from Birdy is the inspiration to be you, regardless of what anyone or anything tells you. You only have one life so live it without apology. Surround yourself with people who support you and who are just as excited as you are about your dreams. Take risks and make mistakes. Dare to fly and soar high.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Pack your bag and start driving. Find a beautiful spot, make a fire (when it’s safe and you’re able to) and get lost for a couple of days. We find inspiration in nature and unplugging. It’s what resets us, keeps us sane. Inspires us to keep going and to keep creating. And it’s easy in Colorado because you’re surrounded by infinite mountains, national forests, rivers and streams. Some of our favorite CO places for hiking and camping are Evergreen, Conifer, Bailey, Breckenridge, Twin Lakes, Golden, Estes and Telluride. But really, do a quick internet search and your choices are limitless. Just make sure to check that mountain weather because you don’t want to be stuck on top when a storm rolls in.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Birdy simply wouldn’t be without the hundreds of creatives and multiple businesses and organizations that have supported us over the past eight years. Though there are too many individuals to name here, but we’d love to give special recognition to a few who have had a long-lasting impact on our publication. Birdy Designer Julianna Beckert — Julianna came on board in August 2019. Completing the Birdy triforce with Jonny and I, her striking design work and unconventional art skyrocketed Birdy into another aesthetic dimension. Plus, her hysterical humor and sweet-as-sugar heart makes Birdy so much more fun to produce each month. We’re so lucky to have this inspiring, self-made, iron-strength of a woman on our team. Birdy Web Designer Cristin Colvin — Cristin is an unstoppable force. Her knowledge and passion for digital creativity is truly inspiring to us. She designed an entirely new site for Birdy from scratch and launched it right at the beginning of Covid. This single-handedly evolved Birdy, moving us into a new world of limitless potential. We’re forever grateful to have this super intelligent, cat-loving, opera metal singing, generous woman in our tribe. Mark Mothersbaugh — Words still can’t describe what it’s like to print Mark’s art each and every month. Or to randomly receive emails from him: fun shots of him in Mutato sporting Birdy-wear or him with his friends like Jack White, Fred Armisen, Mike Mitchell or DEVO reading Birdy. His childlike spirit is contagious and his belief in us lifts us up more than anything. As lifelong fans of this super artist, it’s one of the greatest honors of our lives to be able to call him a house artist, and most importantly a friend. Finally, without the years of commitment from our writers, artists and friends who help us sling Birdys — Mariano Oreamuno, Brian Polk, Hana Zittel, Joel Tagert, Tyler Gross, Dylan Fowler, Tai Bickham, Beatie Wolfe, DS Thornburg to name just a VERY few — we straight up wouldn’t have an issue to print each and every month. And without the businesses and people who have backed us and believed in our vision and mission — Kayvan S.T. Khalatbari, Terrapin Care Station, Sexy Pizza, MCA Denver, Meow Wolf, NFuzed, Mutiny Information Cafe, Denver Real Estate Professionals, Toxoplasma Arts, Joshua Viola of Hex Publishers, Mr. Lucky’s Fine Sandwiches / Existential Slices, Clear Cannabis, Flatirons Political Art, Radio Rethink and so many others over the years — Birdy simply wouldn’t be.
Photo of Krysti & Jonny DJing by Glenn Ross 1) Issue 087, March 2021, Front Cover By Peter Kornowski, “Crash Landing” 2) My LA: Fred Armisen By Beatie Wolfe | Photo By Ross Harris, Published Issue 085, January 2021 3) Feline-In-Chief Boo Radley with Issue 053, May2018, Front Cover By Mark Mothersbaugh, “Last Day At Abbey Road” 4) “Log 114” By Godric | Photos By Dalvin Nichols, Issue 087, March 2021 5) Cut Chemist, Interview By John Schaefer | Photos Courtesy of Cut Chemist, Published Issue 052, April 2018 6) Issue 080, August 2020, Front Cover by Amy Guidry, “Ethereal” 7) “Jack White ventures out of Nashville and drops by Sunset Strip — Mutato — with his crew, inspecting Birdy magazines from the last year.” – Mark Mothersbaugh 8) “Day In The Life” by Birdy