The members of Phony Ppl teem with energy as they walk into ESSENCE’s Brooklyn office. They’re jovial and just the jolt you need in the middle of the day. The fun-loving Brooklyn-based group consists of five members who met in high school: lead vocalist Elbee Thrie, bassist Bari Bass, percussionist Matthew Byas, guitarist Elijah Rawk, and keyboardist Aja Grant.
The group has been making music together since 2008. Releasing two albums: 2015’s Yesterday’s Tomorrow and their sophomore album, mō’zā-ik. Earlier this year, they dropped hit single “Fkn Around,” featuring Megan Thee Stallion, an infectious funk-infused single about infidelity accompanied by a video that sees the group and the Houston rapper having a party at a car wash. The group is excited about the success of the single but admit they were a little apprehensive about releasing it.
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“Before the song with Megan came out, we did a Tiny Desk version,” Grant told Essence. “And I was a little iffy about doing the Tiny Desk version because I was like, ‘Damn, we have this.’ We recorded that song last year. I was like, ‘Man, everybody’s going to hear this version first and they might like this version first.’ You know?” Despite the group’s concerns, their version of “Fkn Around” spread across the internet rapidly.
The single is just a taste of what’s to come from the band, who’s working on a new album after non-stop touring—this interview took place before the coronavirus left us quarantined in our homes. The group is eager to explore new topics, genres, and “occasions.” As they talk about the project and their process, the band gets candid about how that process also includes thinking about the business aspect of rolling out an album.
“It’s been more insight and understanding on the creative side and business side. When we were starting, it was all awareness of creativity and zero awareness of the business. Now, we can start to see a bridge between both sides and you know, have a wider scope.”
“And our goals just get bigger every time,” Byas adds. They seem to have hit the mark every time.
And as their goals grow, so does their success and their fanbase. The band has a dedicated audience, some of whom have been with Phony Ppl every step of the way. “It’s cool because you have people who are on the journey with you, we’re on the journey together,” Bass said. “It’s really nice to have such dedicated, hardcore people behind us.”