Funk, soul and jazz-influenced hip hop has been on a steep rise in the last few years, as artists like Anderson .Paak, GoldLink, Kendrick Lamar, Jorja Smith, Noname and H.E.R. have burst their way into the mainstream and made horn-infused rap, strong basslines, tinkling pianos and jazzy vocals all the more consumable to the masses.
Phony Ppl are one of the bands instrumental to this groovy movement and ahead of their first visit to Australia this July, we thought we'd break down all the things that make this Brooklyn five-piece so awesome.
The band have flown under the radar for years in fact - forming in 2008, the band have already released six studio albums, most recently 2018's m’z-ik. The 11-track record fused R&B, jazz, classic rock and hip hop together seamlessly, led by the energy and spirit of the entire band and buoyed by singer Elbee Thrie's warm vocals. The other five albums were all digital-only releases, found only if you plumb the depths of the internet.
Thrie and keys players Aja Grant met in middle school and wrote their first song together at 16. Practicing in drummer Matt Byas' basement where his dad would come down bearing James Brown and Bill Withers records for the young musicians to listen to, in a Rolling Stone interview, Grant says, "Going to Matthew’s house was such a getaway for us, because his parents would let us play music until 2 o’clock in the morning. We’d get high and jam for mad long."
Almost the entire band came with tertiary musical qualifications from famous institutions like Julliard, the Manhattan School Of Music and the School Of Rock - only bassist Bari Bass joined the band without a background in music, but you would hardly know it now.
The band have also performed with Fetty Wap and Erykah Badu, and toured with Kali Uchis - individually they've worked with the likes of Odd Future, Vic Mensa and Mac Miller - but the band really cut their teeth playing residencies and gigs at small dive bars in New York City. They've come a long way from those tiny stages though - this summer the boys will be playing festivals like Fuji Rock, Summerstage, Lovebox Festival and of course, Splendour In The Grass.
They also have headline shows in Melbourne (July 23rd) and Sydney (July 24th), so close your eyes, pour yourself a drink and get familiar with Phony Ppl's amazing catalogue.