Behind the Scenes: Phony PPL
After their photo shoot for our Men's Fall Catalog, we caught up with some of the guys from Phony PPL to talk snacks, sound systems, and lawsuits.
Interview by Jon Folmar
Photos by Jason Nocito
So, how many of you dudes are there?
Elbee Thrie: That’s a tough question. There are nine of us on stage.
Matthew Byas: But then there’s the whole mob. Like other artists we fuck with, the extended family. Dudes from around the hood.
Give me a rundown on who does what in the group.
Elbee: There’s Dymez, PJ and I on vocals, and I play keys. Grizzy drums, produces, and mixes. We mixed Phonyland and nothinG Special together. Elijah Rawk plays guitar and produces. Ian plays guitar. Temi plays sax. Aja Grant plays keys and he arranges the songs and stuff. Bari Bass plays the ukulele.
Matthew Byas: Bari Ukulele.
Sheriff PJ: I’m the bully. I beat rappers up.
Tell me how you all met.
Elbee Thrie: Damn. This question never gets the answer it deserves. One day we’ll actually make like a documentary about how we all met or something. We have to.
Matthew Byas: Basically we just came together over time throughout different schools. A lot of us came up in Brower Park, just mobbing and then coming to my crib or Elbee’s crib and making music.
How many of you would it take to beat me up? Just remember that if you do, I will sue.
Sheriff PJ: Nah, we wouldn’t beat you up. We wouldn’t want that lawsuit. Our lawyer’s good though! He’s nice!
Matthew Byas: Word. Shout to our lawyer Steven.
What’s on your rider when you perform? Nine dudes must need a lot of snacks.
Matthew Byas: Jameson and Red Bull for the turn up. Comps in general—some champagne, chicken sandwiches or hot wings. Ajani gets us whatever we need. Ajani is the comps master.
Elbee Thrie: Skittles. Arizonas!
Describe your songwriting process. Does everyone have a specific job or does the approach differ each time?
Elbee Thrie: Songs come from us jamming, or somebody coming in with a beat. The music first, then lyrics, or vice versa—it’s never the same.
What do you consider the ideal environment in which to enjoy Phony PPL music?
Elbee Thrie: Anywhere, just chilling. As long as you’re vibing out, spark an L, do whatever. We make music for any situation.
What inspires your sound? Who did you listen to growing up?
Elbee Thrie: We all listen to different stuff. I grew up on a lot of ‘70s funk and R&B. A lot of new shit too. Amy Winehouse, J Dilla, Tribe. Our influences are obvious.
Matthew Byas: My dad put me on to mad records; I still get mad records from him. Mad random shit you can’t find anywhere, like classic breaks and samples. Aja studied symphonies in school. Elijah grew up on classic rock. It’s all over the place. That’s why our shit is so complex but simple.
Are you guys all native new Yorkers? What do you do for fun when you’re not in the studio?
Matthew Byas: We’re all native to Brooklyn. We don’t party a lot, we’re always working. Honestly, we’re mostly at the Casa De La Phony chilling or working. Sometimes Elijah, PJ, Ajani and I go on Glossventures. We go see Chace at Prohibit, mob in the LES, and go chill in Community 54.
Tell me about the photo shoot for UO’s Men’s Fall Catalog.
Elbee Thrie: It was mad fun! The clothes were all dope. Jason Nocito was cool. It was cool to bring that to the Casa, to bring that to Bed-Stuy. The video is hard too.
Now let’s get down to business. Does that giant sound system in the photos actually work?
Matthew Byas: Hell yeah it works. My father DJ Jazzy Jay built those. That’s that park jam in the Bronx shit. That’s why we put it on our album cover—it’s real. Everything we put out is real. People listen to music now more than ever but people our age have never even seen speakers that size, let alone heard them. We play music out them all of the time, you can hear it around the corner.