I’m Elijah Rawk from Phony Ppl, I’m 23 freshly and I was born in Brooklyn, New York. Aja from Phony Ppl, the keyboardist, I met him the first day of high school that was like my first friend ever. He was in a couple bands, this other band called Lunar Station and Phony Ppl. Originally Phony Ppl was Elbee and Aja and they were a band to play Dyme-A-Duzin’s music. From then Ian got added, the other guitar player, and then PJ came and then Matt. And Bari never played bass before, he was the only one out of all of us that didn’t go to school for music. He had to play bass because there was no other bass player so Aja was like my brother will do it. We were horrible as seniors, we cut class every day. Bari’s older than us so he had his own apartment by then and we’d go to his house and smoke and not go to class. We figured it out perfectly… fourth period was when they took attendance for the day so we’d go in for fourth period and leave.
I was in School of Rock as well for all of high school. I joined freshman year and then we were doing All Stars so we did all these tours and went to Germany and stuff, so I didn’t really care about high school as much. All my friends at School of Rock, what was cool to them, was reading and movies and music and in high school we weren’t learning that. So in senior year the dude that made School of Rock built a house out in Long Island, called Studio House and his idea was to build a music college. As the first students we would be the professors. And it was obviously a risky thing but it sounded cool and I was seventeen. So I left after a long argument with my parents and it was a bunch of craziness. At first there were no chaperones at all so it was a bunch of 16-20 year olds in this house, in and out, it wasn’t even a consistent bunch of people and nobody supervising. All of my friends were older than me and they’re all like punked out white kids that are really good at their instruments. And it was weird, it was a bunch of mushrooms and acid and drugs… like three of them would be on mad heroine and I had to watch that. I was like 15 and they’d do heroine all the time and it just sucked, they’d be vomiting all the time. Eventually me and one of their girlfriends had to go super hard to stop that shit, it was crazy. The chaperones didn’t come for a little while.
We would learn how to record and do all that kind of stuff. it was cool we had nobody else, We got to write our own rules
and we started figuring out our own formulas for stuff and the people that were originally there just to smoke and jam they had to leave and we really started to get work done. Real artists would start to come in the house and we would record them and do all this interesting stuff. Studio House eventually got shut down… one day it was up and the next day we got a call and all the electricity was off and they were like it’s over.
At that point I was in Phony Ppl so I just went right over. And we played some shows, we were chilling harder. We were all out of high school and Ian and Tammy went off to college but we were still doing it. We played this show at Colgate University, it was our first show outside the city, Matthew Trammell got it for us – that was his first booking as our manager, and we were opening for Theophilus London and that’s how we met Theo. We played our show and him and Dev Hynes just watched the whole show from the sound check and then we went home and Theo’s manager at the time, Knox, was like we have this Brooklyn Museum show if you want to play it. That was a really fun time and I learned a lot from that whole period and a lot of access and opportunities that I’m still benefiting from right now, but at the same time it was kind of difficult because we really felt compelled... like we grew up with Phony Ppl, those were our boys and we were never giving 100% because we were so distracted and every other week we had to go somewhere else with Theo.
It got to this point where I had to make a decision and Bari had to make a decision and it was either go on tour with Theophilus London or go on tour with Phony Ppl.
And I eventually chose the Phony’s and Bari chose Theo. Then we kind of kicked the other three members out, it was six of us now. And we had to write stuff but didn’t feel like we could write music anymore because Dymez was on like every song we wrote. So we just started all over.
That was 2013 that we started to write a new album and we were like if this album and this year doesn’t work out for us we all have to reconsider what we’re doing. We started writing it and we got this call from Matt’s friend Adrien and he invited us to play at his friend’s birthday. So we went up to Montauk, had a fun time and we told Adrien where we were at, like we just kicked these guys out. He was like what are you trying to do? Are you trying to get signed? And we said no, we didn’t want to deal with anyone so we told him that and he loved it for some reason so he was like Why don’t you guys just make it here? And he has everything! So we did. Our management, Plain Pat and Kas, had nothing to do because we had nothing out; we needed it mixed, we didn’t have it mastered and we had no budget for the entire album and we just surprised them. Ben from Rubber Tracks loved what the album was so far and he would let us come to the Converse studio after it was closed and run stuff through the board. And this other dude, Zac from our publishing company, was like I’ll mix it for you guys.
All of a sudden we had all these resources from people that really helped us, just off the strength of believing in it. And then we put it out in January and it was awesome.
When the band went from nine to six it felt empty and now it feels super right, the spacing is right and traveling and just communicating. I think ‘I Wish I Was a Chair’ was one of the biggest moments for Phony Ppl. That song, for some reason still to this day, hits girls real hard, maybe guys too. But every show we play the entire crowd sings it so it’s got to be the biggest song, our managers literally told us we can’t not play it.
FF – Do you consider yourself a freshman, sophomore or senior in your field?
ER – I consider myself a sophomore. I’m a little bit past the freshman stage of being a musician and performer because a lot of experience in the last couple of years. But I have a lot of growing to do and I want to get way better as a guitarist, musician, performer and expressionist. I need to practice more and I need to be more disciplined with creating routinely. I like Kanye’s story where he made five beats every day for a summer and I just need to be on that kind of grind. I grew up a lot on rock music, and being in the School of Rock, I just loved 80’s punk rock shit like Misfits and Minor Threat and Dead Kennedy’s and Bad Brains and that kind of stuff so
I’ve been making a secret punk album in my bedroom.
When I was a kid and I first started wanting to play music and performing live, it was always way more about traveling than it was about money. I want my band to be one of the few artists/bands that have longevity. I want a career like Prince’s or Earth, Wind and Fire’s, where you can’t even hate on it, it’s just a legacy and like an art exhibit that you either get or you don’t get. I don’t think even right now that Phony Ppl is in a place where people can say they hate it… you either get it or you don’t get it. And
I just want it to continue like that and I want to continue to affect people in these different places,
with these different people rather than hella money in my account… I’d die way happier I feel. Even to get that kind of money or to just be in that wealth percentage you have to do some pretty heavy shit to get there, some shit that’s probably going to leave you on the other side not the same. I definitely want to be the same as I am right now, smiling and playing PS4.
as told to: Olivia Seally // video: Olivia Seally