CHAT: Joyful Being

A chat with Berri and Ryan from Joyful Being on curating a specific vibe, music, and celebrating the inner child.

Gab: Hello! I guess to begin, could you describe Joyful Being to me – the purpose, the mission, the values behind it? 

Ryan: Joyful Being is our collective, and record label, we prioritize music, art and play. We launched this January, but we’ve been doing other collective collaborations and projects since June of 2022. We host events, parties, we put out DJ sets, we design and make merchandise, we screen print.

But I feel like Joyful Being is emerging as a mix of all of our personalities. It’s all about letting your inner child shine and embracing play.

Berri: Yeah, we were like, “No one’s playing enough.” We need to get silly, kind of get out of our heads a little bit. There’s this idea of creating for the sake of creating.

We definitely have some big ideas, especially when it comes to the record label part of it. We want to collaborate with musicians to help them put music out and start making music ourselves and get into producing. That’s one of our more long term goals. But for now, we’re trying to establish connections by throwing events. We feel like that’s the best way to meet the people who we want to meet and be the people who, you know, we would want to collaborate with. Right?

Gab: So, how did this all start? 

Berri: Oh, boy. What what a tale it is. So, before Joyful Being was Joyful Being, I was running a collective with a friend called “Mad Gal”. We started in college. We were throwing events out of our house, it was very DIY shit. It was cool, it was fun. We were in school in Syracuse, New York, and there was this need for more queer focused everything. Mad Gal definitely had this punk aspect to it that was like, “Fuck you. We’re here. We’re queer. We don’t give a fuck.”

But then we came to Philly. And we were like, “Lets let our guards down – we just want to love.” We rebranded and kind of took a whole new everything.

We also felt like there was space for us here. We saw where we would fit in into the greater Philly party and art scene. We were going out and we’re like, “Damn, where’s this specific vibe that we’re looking for?” We couldn’t fucking find it.

Ryan: So we were like, “Okay, we’ve gotta make it ourselves.”

Gab: I love that, make it happen. So before you came here, did you know about what was going on here? What about Philly drew you to it? 

Ryan: We literally had no idea what was going on.

Berri: We were shooting from the hip.

Gab: That’s the way to do it sometimes, just show up and see where things land.

Berri: I decided to move here with another friend and Ryan was like, “Oh, you’re all moving to Philly?”

Ryan: I had no plans after graduating, let me tag along.

Berri: We had no real idea of what was going on, but we heard it was cool. We heard that there was a cool art scene and cool shit going on.

Ryan: I think we knew we wanted to keep throwing events. And Philly seemed a lot more manageable than New York or other big cities where it’s so oversaturated.

Gab: I like what you said earlier about the desire to create for the sake of creating. It feels a bit more down to earth here. 

Ryan: I mean, we would love to do this full time, you know, make a buck, but we always say, if it ever gets to a point where this is no longer fun and no longer serving us as a fun way to create, then what’s the point?

Gab: Ah, keep it pure, keep it joyful.

Berri: Exactly, exactly.

Gab: So, when you got here and saw what was going on, what was the vision for the vibe that you wanted Joyful Being to be? 

Ryan: Obviously, there’s a big punk scene in Philly. We were living in South so it was punk central – you know, dive bars, punk shows everywhere. Love the vibe, but it was not exactly what we were looking for.

Berri: We’re always describe ourselves as “Erykah Badu gays.”

Ryan: There’s definitely a softer side. So with Joyful Being, we were looking to bring a scene that’s more soft, more playful. Not as serious and hardcore.

Berri: The Philly music scene is intense. It feels like everybody’s on a ten all the time – it’s either punk hardcore or people are playing breakcore, hard techno, deep deep trance music. We were like, “Yo, It’s 10 PM, I’m really chill now, I just smoked so much weed. I just want a vibe that’s calmer but still fun.”

G: Have you gotten into the rave scene here at all? 

Berri: We’ve been to a couple. I love that culture. I love all of it, like, PLUR all the way, but we’re finding ways to meld the rave culture with our style of music. I feel like here, the rave culture is a lot. Sometimes, I’ll be at an event and I’m like, “Damn, I don’t have the energy to sustain this 150 BPM.”

Ryan: A lot of the parties we go to in Philly are so intense. They go so late into the night that you kind of have to be on something to make it. Keeping something accessible without having to use substances is important to us.

Berri: Although, we love substances. Like, come through, take your shit, have a great time. But it’s an every once in a while thing for me, like a rave going until 6 AM? Molly vibes. But that’s a special event.

G: Raves are a whole commitment of a thing. They also can have that sort of intense vibe where people aren’t really dancing necessarily. It’s more of like a nod your head, absorb the music. 

Berri: Please bust a move. I’m begging!

 G: I brought some friends who don’t really go to raves to one and they’re like, “Where’s the movement? Do we just stand there?” 

Berri: We’ve been to so many where we’re either the only ones dancing or first ones dancing. Then everyone else kind of gets into it later into the night.

G: Is there dancing at Joyful Being? 

Ryan: Oh, absolutely. Nobody’s that great of a dancer, but we’ll be out there.

G: What else goes on at a Joyful Being production? 

Ryan: At our launch event, in January, we held it at our house, which is just like big four bedroom house in West Philly with exposed brick walls, exposed wood and everything.

Berri: I always say it reminds me of a dollhouse.

Ryan: Yeah, it’s overly decorated. A little kitschy. Very kitschy.

Ryan: It was a small little house party with people we had met in passing or have developed relationships with. I think it being at our house was really special. Because it was like, “This is who we are. This is literally where we live, where we create. This is us.”

Gab: I feel like everyone loves a house party most of all, but not a lot of people are having them, so to create that warm, intimate feeling is a really cool. 

Berri: I feel like my dream party has the vibe where you can just start talking to someone. The only criteria is that they are within an arm’s length of you, and you can turn them and say, “Yo, what’s up? I like your outfit.” I definitely want it to be a vibe where it’s very communal and people are there with the intention of making friends.

I feel like so often you go out and it can be so insular and kind of clique-y. We don’t want a party where you pull up with your friend group and don’t talk to anybody else. Like, that’s not what we do here.

Gab: It’s interesting. If you think about parties or a bar, it’s a super social setting in that everyone’s socializing there. But it’s also very isolating in that you’re just with your smaller group — so to create a scene where the goal is for people to connect is an interesting thing. 

Ryan: We also love a themed party. It’s just a natural conversation starter to be like, “Oh, that’s your take on the theme.”

Berri: It kind of automatically puts you in community with others. I think my favorite party we had was called “Freak Formal”. We called it a “pink tie event” – it was like, come dress formal but be gay, be weird. Get out there a little bit. That’s also the energy of the party. We’re for the freaks, the people who are a little bit weird. We want people to fully express themselves.

So I feel like that’s also part of the theme aspect of it. We want people to show up and care a little bit. I’ve determined that it’s cool to care. Being blasé is out. It’s dead, it’s out. Be a little extra, get into the queerness of it all.

Gab: That feels very inner child too. When you’re a kid, I feel like you’re less inhibited in whatever you’re doing. This is kind of a cynical thing to say, but you’re not as worn out by society’s judgments and expectations. You’re going back to the mentality that you can have fun and be expressive. 

Berri: Be a bit dorky.

Ryan: It’s like the quote from Coco Chanel, “Always take one thing off before you leave the house” – we’re the exact opposite. We stand in front of the mirror beside our door, putting on more before we leave.

Berri: Trying to get out of the house is like a 15 minute endeavor. It’s like, “I need something else, can I borrow that? Can I wear what you’re wearing?”

Gab: Wait, so does the whole collective live in your home?

Ryan: Yeah, the majority.

Gab: And how many people are in it? 

Berri: Currently, four.

Ryan: Operationally. But then we have people who we love to collaborate with, you could say maybe they’re a member of Joyful Being, but we don’t really operate on a membership type thing. We just like working with people who have a similar vision to us.

Berri: At its core, like who’s running the Instagram, who’s answering emails? It’s me, Ryan, our friend, Nico, and our friend Aidan, who lives in New York.

Gab: How do you feel like your perspectives mesh and where do you feel like they’re more conflicting? 

Ryan: I think since we all went to school together, and have been friends for four or five years, our tastes have developed in similar ways. I feel like we all listened to very similar music but each of us have our own little niches as well.

Gab: I guess with the mediums, you have parties, you have music, and you have art.

Ryan: The holy trinity.

Berri: Yeah, like Ryan’s a very talented crafts person. What would you call it, a woodsmith?

Gab: I love that – how does that fit into Joyful Being?

Ryan: I feel like within Joyful Being we’ve been focusing on music and screen printing and merch. But the four of us are also multidisciplinary people. We create in different ways. So, I’m a DJ. I do a lot of refinishing furniture, re-upholstery.

Berri: It’s fucking sick. Ryan’s great with working with their hands.

Gab: That’s so cool – I want that skill. 

Ryan: We’ve taught ourselves how to screen print. And Beri’s a writer and photographer.

Berri: Nico does advertising and is a creative director. Aidan’s a musician and graphic designer.

Gab: And you do social media stuff. 

Berri: Exactly, yeah. It’s honestly, it’s so funny. Because I remember a couple years ago, I was tripping, I was sitting there with Aiden and Nico. And I was like, I want to create, and I make stuff of my friends – that’s my biggest inspiration. I just want to make stuff of you guys. And they were like, “So, do it bitch!”

Ryan: Put your money where your mouth is!

Berri: What Joyful Being has turned into is really so much of that. It’s finding all of our talents, and finding ways to apply them to this one thing, but it allows us to have individuality. Like, Nico fucking loves simming. She’s a simmer. So we made a Joyful Being sim. And they joined the collective.

Gab: Oh sweet, I think I saw a photo of that on your Instagram.

Berri: Aidan was interested in graphic design, so he makes all of our flyers. It’s just about finding ways to put all of our talents towards this project. It can be hard to create for the sake of creating. But when it’s for something, it makes it a little bit easier to do. So I’m also happy to create the opportunity for my friends.

Gab: There’s also that idea that you become like the five people that you surround yourself with – everyone’s meshing. 

Berri: It’s a hive mind!

Gab: Yeah, the hive mind. But also with friendship, you see parts of your friends that they might not value as much on their own. So you can help pull things out and complement each other. 

How have you found sort of starting from scratch in a new city to be?

Berri: Well, Kwan was actually the person who kind of pushed me in that way. We moved to Philly and we were like, “Okay, we are Mad Gal. This is who we are.” And he was kind of like, “Well, what if you weren’t?”  And I was like, “Okay, okay, okay!”

Gab: Moving from rage to joy. And I love rage, but joy feels more inviting. 

Berri: That’s how we felt, too. “Joyful Being” feels much more true to who we are.

Gab: So, what steps go into planning an event?

Berri: There’s the early stages of conceptualizing. We have a little stockpile of ideas that we pull from. If we have opportunity to throw an event, what past ideas have maybe been shelved that we can re-cycle? And then we start picking visuals. Like, what’s the flyer? What’s the general vibe? One question I always ask is, what time is this party happening?

Ryan: I think it’s very important. It affects everything.

Berri: Is this day daytime chill thing? Or is this like a nighttime rager? Gotta figure that out.

Ryan: Because we pull from so many mediums and inspiration, sometimes the idea for an event will start with, “Oh, what if we had a theme for this?” And then it’s built off of a theme. Or it’s like, “What if we have an art exhibition?” Or, if we’re listening to a lot of one type of music lately, it’s like, “Oh, let’s build an event around this genre of music.”

Gab: That’d be so cool. Like, what would a 90s is pop punk night be? 

Berri: Literally. We want to do something that’s specific. We come up with a ton of ideas that don’t always come to fruition. So we have this crazy little stockpile of ideas that we love, but maybe it wasn’t the right time. So we’re always looking for the opportunity to actually follow through ideas on these ideas we’ve come up with.

Gab: I feel like once you have the seed of an idea, it’s there. And you can come back to it and three years, five years and be like, Oh, that’s why that happened. That’s why I thought that thing!

Ryan: It’s so beautiful – I feel like Beri and I initially throw out the seed of an idea and it gets bounced around to everyone. If we did this, what if we added that? Or, take away that, a little less of that. The finished product is never what I thought it’d be. But I’m always so happy with how it turns out.

Gab: The synergy!

Berri: So much growth comes from the tension disagreeing. One person will have an idea and another might say, “Oh, well, I don’t really like this one aspect. What if it was something else?” And the first person is like, “Oh my fucking god, that was never even on my radar. I love that idea.” And that’s how the growth happens.

Gab: How would you describe the first event you had?

Berri: Our first event here was interesting. You know, you were really figuring it out.

Ryan: I think we had bit off a little more than we could chew for our first event in Philly. We were lucky enough to find a space in South Philly. This seamstress had an open storefront that she hadn’t done anything with yet. So, we were able to curate that space a little bit. We had tattoo artists, were doing stick-n-poke tattoos. Our friend Isaac, who’s a painter, works a lot with spray paint and graffiti art, did a live painting. We did live screen printing. It was like a pretty involved operation.

Berri: It was…for this turnout that we had of 20 people.

Gab: It’s hard to get people to do things sometimes.

Berri: You know, you have to get your feet wet. I think that’s the only way we could have done it is like by diving in.

Gab: How did you find people to invite after you just moved here?

Berri: We were doing it in collaboration with the storefront, kind of cross promoted with their audience. When I really think about, we did the most – we flyered. We went around and pasted all around Philly.

Actually, there was someone who showed up to that event and was like, “I saw the flyer on the street!” Even though it was small event, some really great and true connections were made out of it. And for that, I am grateful.

Gab: One random person that saw the flyer is proof that the flyers do work!

Berri: Exactly. It’ll just pick up.

Gab: That sounds like a great time. There’s the rave scene here, the DIY punk scene here. But I’ve never been to a party where it’s super interactive and there are a lot of moving parts. 

Ryan: We prioritize music, art and play, and we’re always trying to find a way to incorporate that play aspect into everything we do. We are always looking to find ways to make an event interactive and more experiential.

Berri: We want people to get into it, to release their inhibitions.

G: Where have you found inspiration for that? What do you do to spark ideas for new concepts or see things that you’re like, “Oh, this feels “Joyful Being””?

Berri: Everywhere, really. It comes from so many different places. I was really inspired by this artist who does light installations and I was like, “Oh my god, we could throw a party that has a specific type of lighting that interacts in this certain type of way with the space.”

G: I know that inner child is a big part of Joyful Being. Do you have any core memories from childhood where you felt creativity as something that meant a lot to you?

Ryan: I grew up playing classical music. I don’t know if it was so much of a creative outlet or more of an emotional outlet for myself. But, I just remember being able to express a lot of emotion through that. It was definitely part of me being young and queer and so dramatic. I was really into it.

G: You’re brooding, yearning at the piano. Do you feel like that energy is there when you’re DJ-ing? 

Ryan: Definitely – with DJ-ing, I’m gonna be dramatic.

G: That’s so cool, it’s like a childhood medium turned into something new. 

Berri: I think I can say this for both of us — we love taking a song that you haven’t heard in a very long time and re-contextualizing it in a set. And it’s like, “Oh, shit. I haven’t heard this in forever. This is not what I would have expected to hear tonight.”

G: Ooh, yeah. Bringing up those core memories for everyone else.

Berri: When I was developing my sense of style as a DJ, it took a little bit of courage to play like that. I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna play my music and people are gonna think it’s lame or it’s whack.” Having that sense of confidence in it and being like, “Yeah, you haven’t heard this fucking Drake fucking deep cut since you were 14 years old — and yeah, you were probably corny as fuck at 14 – but we’re about to get into it. Tap into that 14 year old bitch who’s singing these lyrics at the top of their lungs.” People end up responding really well. If you’re doing it, they’re gonna follow suit.

Sometimes people don’t know what they want or what they need until you give it to them. So it’s really just a level of confidence in myself, in this music, and in knowing what they need. Being like, “Yeah, we’re gonna get into this right now.” And it’s fucking awesome.

Gab: Invite them in! It sounds contagious. One question from Kwan, what’s the last party or place in Philly you thought had a great vibe?

Ryan: I think my favorite place to go was Terra in Fishtown. The plants, the atmosphere, and the DJs were always good.

Berri: I don’t think we’ve found something as consistent as Terra since they close for the season.

G: This is one other question from Kwan. What does your ideal event smell like?

Berri: Incense. There’s incense burning, it smells fucking yummy. Probably ink – we always talk about wanting to sell merch at events.

Ryan: Merch made there. Either that or a design we’ll print at the event that people can bring something they want printed on. I also love food at an event. I’m gonna get hungry, I’m gonna wanna eat. 

Berri: What food are we smelling?

Ryan: I would love an empanada.

G: Any closing words? 

Ryan: Be gay. Do crime.

Berri: Retweet.

G: That should be on a tee shirt. I would get that tee shirt. 

Berri: Re-iteratinng what I said earlier, it’s cool to care. Have fun with it, don’t take life so seriously.

G: Wait, that gives me an idea for our actual last question. What is your inner child doing on a day off?

Berri: I was thinking of my inner teen. I feel like she is also pulling a lot of ropes. She’s got earbuds in, full fucking blast, no one can tell me shit. She’s just hanging with her friends, smoking weed. Blasting My Chemical Romance.

Ryan: Mine is prancing down the street with iced coffee and a joint in hand. On my way to go buy flowers or something.

G: I love that. I need a day like that, coffee and a joint. Cool, well, I think that covers most of it. Thank you for being involved with this!

Berri: she/her
Ryan: he/they