Phony Ppl, Real Talk: An Interview with the New York Collective + Video & Free Download
By Sound Check
November 11, 2011
According to the calendar it’s harvest time. All the hard work put in over the summer months shows itself as a bounty of good things to share with loved ones. I guess this applies to vegetables, but I’m talking about music. Bands put in countless summer sessions, tour in the most blazing of months and we in turn, get to enjoy the harvest of the beat. Phony Ppl are the 8 piece funk-hop R&B rock boys I was introduced to this summer. I dug them immediately and would play their Youtube videos at parties with an incessant and nagging “check these guys out.” Until the entire party paid attention. And now the harvest, the awesome video for “possessed” and a debut album on the way as a reward for their musical labor during the summer months. I got a chance to ask the boys a few questions about how they started, where they’re going, and what it means to reap what you sow musically.
Contributor: Alexandria Gamlin
Who are the real people behind Phony Ppl? How’d you guys come together?
PJ: It’s a fuckin’ mob.
Dymez: My name is Donnovan Blocker aka Dyme-A-Duzin and I’m from Brooklyn, NY, and I’m from Phony Ppl.
Elbee Thrie: My name is Robert Booker aka Elbee Thrie.
PJ: Sherriff PJ aka Moose the Millionaire, Brooklyn, Brower side, Phony Ppl, I do that rapping shit, swank.
Ian: I’m Ian Bakerman.
Matthew: I’m Matthew Byas, aka Maffyuu Phony, I play the drums, woo!!
Aja: I’m Aja Grant, I play the keys, and that’s about it. Some folks aren’t here, we got our brothers Bari Bass and Elijah Rawk. Bari plays bass and Elijah Rawk plays guitar, and they’re currently on tour with Theophilus London, they’ve been gone for about a month now, and they’re coming back tomorrow. We also got Temi who’s our sax player, he’s at at school at Morehouse right now.
Elbee: How did we come together… it was a long path, but, it was all through schools over about four years. It started in junior high school when I met Aja, and we formed this together. Going on to high school, I met Dymez, Ian, Maffyuu, and that’s how they got down. Sherriff PJ became a part of the band—
PJ: By force.
Elbee: [Laughter] Right, by hood. We lived in the same hood. I had all these musician friends and I just knew I wanted to jam, I wanted to have fun. I invited them all over on the same day, it was my birthday actually, June 9th, and we all started playing music and it felt good. Everybody came through and picked up an instrument, plugged into an amp, and magic happened for the first time.
What’s up with the name Phony Ppl?
Aja: Honestly, it was a rushed idea. The day we made it, Dymez had a show and he wanted a band. Elbee and I had made a beat and we were going to do it live. Dymez was like “Y’all need a name for yourselves; it can’t just be Aja and Rob.” We was going through Myspace, looking at old bands, Odyssey, psychedelic stuff, and Rob was just like “Yo, Phony Ppl” and I was like “Whatever, man.” [Laughter] That’s how we got it.
Does song writing with a large band make for an easier or more difficult writing process?
Elbee: There’s a few operations. Is it difficult with the size of the band? No, we have great chemistry. At the end of the day, we respect everyone’s ideas and opinions. Since we work together well, the ideas that come about—and there’s a gazillion of them, per second—we all know how we can come into play with the final products. It makes our chemistry good. It’s not harder with more people, it’s better actually, with these people.
Most of the songwriting and composing is done by Aja Grant, myself, Dymez, Bari Bass and Maffyuu also. That’s just the core of songs. But everyone contributes something.
You guys are creating a very cool thing bringing full instrumentals to hip hop. It’s fresh, appreciated and well done! What do you think is missing in the music world? Is Phony Ppl on a mission to fill that void?
Dymez: I think that Phony Ppl, more than trying to fill a void, is just doing what we love to do. We love different types of music, and we are inspired by different types of music. When we get on those instruments and play our shows, it’s basically just us, not even caring about what’s out…
Maffyuu: From Earth, Wind & Fire, to the newest Odd Future.
Elbee: Even before that, Fats Waller, Fats Domino, Elvin Jones.
Maffyuu: Past that! Beethoven, Bach…
Who is your music for? Is your genre crossing meant to be universal or to satisfy a specific subculture. Do you think you can do both?
Maffyuu: Yeah I think we could do both. When we make our music, it’s not for any specific people, we just do it for ourselves, just for the feeling. Really, older people like our music the most, people in their thirties and forties. We have a strong young fan base [also], but old heads be coming up to us like, “yo. I like what y’all are doing.”
Elbee: “For” is the wrong word. Our music isn’t for any specific group, but it touches everyone in one way or another.
I love people who love their own music. What’s your favorite Phony Ppl song?
Elbee: Yeah, definitely, my favorite right now is “Whamsz.”
What’s the most memorable thing you guys have experienced together as a band?
Dymez: We had a crazy performance at the Paper Swan Loft. It probably wasn’t the best environment to have a show. It was a small apartment in Williamsburg, and there was about 300 people in one apartment. We do this chant in our set like “Ain’t no party like a Phony Ppl party cuz a Phony Ppl party don’t stop!” And then the whole crowd started jumping, and the floor was moving. The whole floor, up and down. We felt like we were gonna crash through the floor. We found out later that the ceiling cracked underneath us, and the apartment below us called the cops and they broke up the show.
Maffyuu: For me personally, the first show we ever did at Murrow was like “Oh shit.” It was our first live show, that shit was buck. It was the first time all of us performed together. It was mad unorganized. I remember I did a whole drum solo, and then we all went into this song called “Yellow Glasses II” together. It was chemistry because we didn’t plan it out at all, but we all changed at the same time. That’s when I was like “Damn, these my motherfuckin’ niggas.”
If you guys could play the gig of your dreams, who else would rock the stage with you?
Elbee: How many people? Are we headlining? If we’re headlining I’d probably want to see other people more than us. I wouldn’t want to headline.
Maffyuu: I would want Flying Lotus to play [aside: OOHH!]. I would want Miguel Atwood Ferguson to play [aside: OOOH!!!]. I want Radiohead to do a short thing. And then, two more people…
Maffyuu: Ooh hell yeah. Jamiroquai?
Aja: Fleet Foxes?
Ian: You can’t say Fleet Foxes.
Aja: How you gonna tell me what I can’t say? This is our show!
Maffyuu: What do y’all think about the folks from the other side of the coast? Motherfuckin’ Odd Future and then us.
Aja: Hell yeah, Odd Future.
Maffyuu: Okay, motherfuckin’ Flying Lotus, Miguel Atwood Furguson, mad jazzy to start off the night, the ill DJ set that’s poppin’. Then motherfuckin’ Radiohead to like really fuck people’s heads up, then Odd Future to just go crazy, then us. That’s fucking BUCK.
What’s the best part about being one of the Phony Ppl?
Maffyuu: Just being with all my niggas all the time.
Elbee: Word, it’s a brotherhood. Everything is so relaxing and chill. We rehearse every Friday, and I look forward to Fridays because I know we’re just gonna come and chill out and play great music.
When can we expect some new material? are you coming to a city near me anytime soon?
Elbee: New material can be expected this winter. We’re coming out with a release called PhonyLand. And wherever you at, we’re coming.
They act like brothers, they sound like brothers, and the brotherly love they have for one another is very apparent in the music. Real talk, we need more phonies out there.
Are you feeling the Phony Ppl or do you think more than 4 people on stage at once is too many? Hit us in the comments and on twitter at @afropunk.