For a group of teens who are just out of high school, nine-piece band Phony Ppl make music that feels wise beyond its years. They self-describe their sound as ‘Brooklyn Soul,’ an acoustic swirl of jazz, R&B and hip-hop that feels unique in an age of young musicians fixed on laptop screens. With a group that includes a bassist, composer, guitarist, saxophonist and more, the mentality of the bedroom producer or solo star doesn’t exist when they practice at Casa de la Phony, their home studio. Their debut album Phonyland, which the band released in January, took years to make because they were concerned with establishing personal chemistry. “It wasn’t even three years making the music … it was three years building a strong bond with my family members, my brothers,” vocalist Dyme-A-Duzin explains over the phone. “It’s not ‘Phony Ppl the nine person group,’ it’s ‘Phony Ppl a physical body’ … we had to become one to pull out some really intelligent, intellectual music for people to really vibe too. What you got to know about Phony Ppl is that we are a camp.”
With nine different people in a band, having a sense of mutual respect and understanding is just as important as musical talent. “You have nine different ideas, so everybody has their opinions. Sometimes we don’t agree with somebody else’s opinion in the band, but, we all work through it,” Phone Ppl drummer, DJ and producer MaffYuu says. With some songs on Phonyland recorded with all nine members playing together at once, patience is crucial, but ultimately it makes the end product all the more satisfying. “My personal favorite track on the album is ‘Whamz.com,’ Maff says. “We did it over and over to get it right, and it finally came out to be one of Phony Ppl’s best songs.” Their lead single “4 the First Time” was constructed the same way, melding together the rough-around-the-edges riffs of live jazz with swooning R&B hooks and frictionless rap verses. The track “Good?” opens with a methodical synth, but is balanced by a delicate keyboard progression on the hook, musically and lyrically highlighting the bands malleability and appreciation of feedback.
Besides studio prowess and patience, Phony Ppl also had an opportunity elevate their live set, opening shows for Theophilus London on his Tour de Roses. They’ve also consumed live performances all along the way. “We go to live band shows like rock, hip-hop, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, Flying Lotus, Thundercat,” Dyme says. “We pick and choose little things that they do in their live performances … we try to incorporate sampling and the electronic parts, but we also like to stay true to our roots in terms of our instrumentals.” Just like in the studio, sometimes the band members disagree on the best way to incorporate their talents into the live show. “We have this song called ‘Footsteps,’ and at the end there is a grand outro and I wanted to take it to the next level at the live show and get PJ (rapper) to do a split, it would make the show much more live, and he’s like, ‘Nah I don’t want to do it,’” Dyme laughs. “So we are still trying to get PJ to do a split, and I hope this goes on the internet to make him do it.” Done and done.