Q&A by Selim Selim

Phony Ppl Talk Travelling Without Movement

@phonyppl

For over 11 years now the eclectic quintet Phony Ppl, have been spreading their sound across all corners of the globe. From Brooklyn NYC, the crew have grown up in culturally rich environment, providing them with an inclusive outlook to life and travel. To each of them travel not only means exploration and exposure to different cultures, but how it drives home a respect for people and their stories that provide all with the best opportunity to grow. We spoke to them about all things travel and the Brooklyn that they hope doesn't get overturned by the rise in boutique stores and coffee shops.

Elijah Rawk (lead guitar), Aja Grant (keyboard), Elbee Thrie (vocals), Matt Byas (drums), Bari Bass (bass guitar).

What does travel mean to you?

Elijah: Travel for me means exposure to different people, lifestyles, food and art. They're all something different that you can resonate and take back with you.

Barry: I attribute travel with exploration - when you walk into a new place you go to the corner and analyse the room so you can understand it. It's the same with travel. You take it all in whatever the setting and it's an important part of feeling as if you're somewhere other than home.

Matt: Respect. It's about respecting the people and place you're going to visit. Brooklyn, London, Japan or wherever - learn the environment and respect the people and their stories

Elbee: To me, it's about giving yourself an opportunity to grow and develop beyond what you thought you originally could foresee. You grow with every new culture you take in. Despite New York being a melting pot with so many cultures, it has been a place that we generally know what it has to offer, because we're all Brooklyn born and bred. It's why I love travelling - I know imma taste some food I never tasted, smell some new smells, hear some new accents and meet new people. Travelling opens all your senses.

Very hard. Has this development you've taken from travel affected your music?

Matt: For sure. We got to work with Anarchy this past January in Japan. On an inspiration level though I saw how the whole of Japan was so tall, technology driven and constantly growing. I definitely went home and thought man I got some tall, cool ass Tokyo looking beats in my head that I could make. You'll find inspiration for music wherever you go man you just gotta make sure you're looking at the right things and taking notes.

Elbee: We also have two songs that are being written - one in Russian and one in French. Both songs started before our bodies were in those countries but people from Russia and France introduced us to their cultures and languages. It was us travelling without movement.

Best place music has taken you?

Elbee: We just did Paris! They were singing the words to us. Felt like we were at a show of our own show - it was wild.

Barri: South Korea was crazy.

Matt: Oh, man. That was our biggest meet and greet of all time. The venue cap was 1500 and after the show, every single person shifted from the stands onto the meet and greet line. It felt like we were at an NBA press conference - taking pictures and making us sign everything.

Barri: We signed someone's report card. We signed skin too... a lot of skin.

Matt: Word. I'm sitting with you guys right now, but it feels like I'm still in South Korea at that moment in time.

Elijah: We got given that spicy parody ramen as a gift.

Matt: ... I ate that shit.

How has your local neighbourhood and Brooklyn's music scene overall changed since Phony Ppl first started in 2008?

Elijah: Musically, I have a lot more faith than I did when we first formed. It was Tumblr popular heavy. It was more about being in the scene for the sake of being in scene rather than improving your quality of output. Over the years, New York lost its crown and nitty gritty as people started to contend with it more.

Aja: People are attracted to New York for certain reasons then come in and complain about the same things that first bought them there until natives like us don’t even feel comfortable living in the same area. It's more than just the music.

Elijah: Then they go to LA afterwards and experience the same thing...

Matt: Just with better weather.

Elbee: NY is being built, but collapsing at a faster rate. The corner store that you loved to go to is getting knocked down for a coffee shop with new owners who aren’t from here... which is cool. But when every bodega is being replaced by a coffee shop you gotta take a step back and think about what's happening. We're away from NY for a month now and there is no doubt that a place we love will get knocked down for a new joint by the time we get back.

Who's out there in New York combatting this or supporting a certain culture/movement?

Matt: My guys started Nothin Special and embody the right way of moving into a foreign neighbourhood. They're from Japan and initially came out on student visas to live in the Lower East Side. They took from being in the train stations, walking around Brooklyn, mixing with the people and then translating that inspiration into their clothing. They’re not from NY, but they came in and respected what was happening and going on. They are definitely a part of Brooklyn clothing culture.

Aja: Headed up by Gio, Standing on the Corner is a crew that keep it to the roots of New York. They're innovating and at the same time bringing it back to where it all started or to a point where it wasn't as gentrified as it is now. Gio's also doing things for prison reform. I appreciate him for that - they're all dope.


Finally... what are your travel essentials?

Elbee: Fronto leaf and our Akai MPC. It's a drum machine with a battery that lasts for a few hours so we can make anything anywhere we go.

Aja: My switch and portable charger. I'm playing Stardew Valley. I like to build shit

Matt: Switch as well. For the record, if anyone wants to see me in Smash - you will lose.

Barry: iPad Pro - another bit of technology. I like to draw so I get my apple pencil and go ham with it.

Elijah: Wireless headphones and my unisex side satchel - it ain't a purse!

Check Phony Ppl's Guide to Brooklyn here

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