#ViralPirateRadio: iLLPHONiCS

A five-piece band generally consists of a drummer, bass player, guitarist, lead singer and maybe someone on the keys. The combination changes from group to group, but the formula remains the same: members + other members = band.

That’s not the case with iLLPHONiCS.

This experimental five-piece is more than a band, it’s an identity. Each member of the group brings to the table their own unique experiences, musical tastes, outlook on life and groove. Their powers combined synthesize a sound that’s jazzy, soulful and raw. They’re groovy and make you want to dance, but also think — a rare combination not generally found in the musical wild.

That’s why we’re very pleased to bring you our latest edition of #ViralPirateRadio featuring the very shagadelic iLLPHONiCS! Be sure to check out their exclusively curated Spotify playlist after the drop, complete with their reasons as to why each track was selected!

Happy New Year, mates! Hope you’re hitting 2017 in stride. How did the band celebrate to ring in the new year?

 Happy New Year to y’all as well! We celebrated by playing a show with our friends Mathias & the Pirates at the Thaxton Speakeasy in St. Louis.

Right on! So, how does the band feel about the reception of 2016’s Gone With The Trends and what can you tell us about new material that you’re working on?

 We’ve gotten some amazing critical praise, which has been extremely humbling. It ended up on some “Year-End” lists. As it is a complete album work, we do feel like some listeners have been a little slow to fully grasp the album’s concept, which is really only possible by listening all the way through. We actually just got out of the studio, where we were working on some new music for the new year. We took a different approach to these new songs by working with an up-and-coming Los Angeles based producer/engineer (and long time friend of the band) Zach Steele. Get ready, because these new tracks are live!

As fairly-new signees to The Record Machine, how have things been flowing with the band since partnering with the label? How does the label work to empower the band?

 Things have been great; we’ve experienced a steady string of bigger and bigger wins since partnering with The Record Machine in 2015. Our label rep, Alex, has worked closely with us since then, and when someone outside of the band shows the kind of dedication as if he were IN the band, it reaffirms all the reasons we started doing this in the first place. The music video for “96to99” is a perfect compliment to the song’s subject matter.

Tell us a little bit about the experience of creating the video and what challenges you encountered while trying to visually represent the song.

 Almost all of the members of iLLPHONiCS came of age in that timeframe, so the music of that period was very influential for the musicians we are today. Creating the video was actually a really fun and easy experience because of the nostalgia of it all. Brock Russell directed it and took our vision to the next level. He’s a big part of the final product being so awesome.

What’s the hip-hop scene like in St. Louis? What type of influence does St Louis add to the sound of the band?

 St. Louis, historically, is a port city, so as America developed we’ve always been the location of cutting edge developments in blues, jazz, and rock n’ roll. We take inspiration from hometown heroes like Miles Davis and Chuck Berry to push ahead with new ideas about what a band can sound like.

What did you learn from your festival experiences in 2016, and what does the road have in store for y’all in 2017?

 We learned that all it takes is getting in front of newer and bigger audiences to reach our next stage of development. That’s what we aim to do in 2017, with more out-of-town tour dates than we’ve ever had on the books.

Give us a glimpse into your songwriting process — how do the five of you lay it down and communicate your message?

 Recently, it has been very fluid. Someone will just start playing something improvised or something they’ve been fooling with on their own. Another one of us joins in, Larry and Lena start coming up with lyrical ideas and melodies, and then once we have the basic structure, all the other little parts start falling into place.

What are some countries and cities you’re most itching to check out, whether it be on tour or for personal recreation?

 New York City is a place we’ve been itching to get to for a while. We have plans to hit New Orleans this year, which is a culturally significant place. Abroad we feel our sound would get through to folks in European countries like Germany and those in the UK, as they’ve shown us a lot of love for “96to99.”

If you could choose one artist from history to have a writing session with: who would it be, and why?

 Probably Freddie Mercury. That man was a virtuoso, not only as a vocalist and pianist, but also as a composer. His work is an inspiration to many in the band.

Got any advice for a young crew of kids looking to start a funky band of their own?

 It’s all about the groove, so don’t overthink it. Just do whatever makes you want to get up and dance. If you’re having fun, then other people will want to interact with your creations as well.

That’s all for this edition of #ViralPirateRadio, folks! Massive thanks to iLLPHONiCS for having a chat with us and for creating the rad playlist featured below. Be sure to follow the group on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud and on their website to stay up to date with their latest tour information, ongoing projects and more. And, as promised, stream their exclusively curated playlist below.

After the drop part deux! A few of the group’s members delved into why each song on the playlist was selected, providing us with yet more insight into the thoughts and musical tastes of the group. It’s a must-read for all music fans!

Larry “Fallout” Morris (Emcee)

Photo cred: Unique Online Mag

1. Slave – Watching You

So many fantastic Funk players have come out of Ohio. From Bootsy Collins on down. One city, Dayton, Ohio, stood out for its acts. Dayton birthed Heatwave, Lakeside, The Ohio Players, and Zapp. Dayton Funk has been so influential on the sound of modern music, and many people don’t even know it. If you like the new Bruno Mars, you need to study this because you can hear it all through his music. I love all the acts I mentioned, but one band in particular from Dayton called Slave has always been at the top of my list, and this song is why.

2. Migos – Bad and Boujee

Growing up for me Rap was about diversity. Conscious Rap, Gangster Rap, and Crunk Rap all were in my collection. Down South, East coast, and West I love it all. I’m a fan of Migos. From the way they ride the beat to the way they ad-lib they influenced a whole generation of new rappers. The song is fun and I enjoy working out to it.

3. Pat Metheny – The Way Up: Part Two

Everyone close to me knows how much I love Pat Metheny but his 2006 release “The Way Up” is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. In fact, it was my main musical inspiration while writing our 2013 self-titled release. What makes this album so great is it’s an hour and an eight-minute song full of dynamics and brilliant improvisation from Pat Metheny and his group of musical virtuosos. It’s like a movie in music form with all the emotions you’d expect to get from a great film. I consider this album not only one of my top five favorite Jazz albums, but it also is one of my favorite albums, period.

Kevin (Guitar)

Photo cred: Unique Online Mag

4. Jim James – “Here in Spirit”

The lyrics are very timely. The chorus says “If you don’t speak out, we can’t hear it.” Those are words we all need to hear right now. No one should feel their voice is insignificant. One of the best albums of 2016, in my opinion.

5. Kendrick Lamar – “untitled 06 | 06.30.2014”

untitled.unmastered proved that Kendrick’s genius comes very easily and that he can dabble in whatever genre he wants. This song, which has a South American bossa vibe, features Cee-Lo Green on the chorus.

6. Newcleus – Jam on It

One of the all time bass lines in my opinion. This is a song that you can’t help but groove to whenever you hear it.

7. Herbie Hancock – Stars in Your Eyes

Awesome fusion track from the early 80’s with a super strong hook not to mention Herbie is one of the best to ever do it.

Lena Charlie (Vocalist)

8. Nina Simone – Feeling Good

The warmth of Nina’s voice coupled with the horns are what caught my attention the first time I heard this song back in high school. My vocal music instructor at the time played her music often and led me to research more about her life and contribution to the art of songwriting and making great music. Her alto tone was (and still is) amazing and she definitely used her voice as an instrument, giving life to many genres of music during her time.

9. Ibeyi – River

Their sound is so eclectic! They sing in English and the Nigerian language Yoruba with such grace. From the first note, I easily embraced their sound. This song is so freeing as some of the lyrics are ” Carry away my dead leaves, Let me baptize my soul with the help of your waters, Sink my pains and complains, Let the river take them, river drown them”. It’s one of my daily spins/ morning songs.

Keith (Keyboard/Vocals)

Photo cred: Unique Online Mag

10. Robert Glasper Experiment – I Stand Alone [feat.Common & Patrick Stump]

Black Radio & Black Radio 2 have been my favorite albums for quite awhile. Robert went out and got a bunch of well known R&B artists and put them on Jazz songs and they’re so smooth. Both albums blend Jazz, R&B, and some Hip-Hop, all genres I really love. I remember being on the bus a lot by myself while going to work and songs like “I Stand Alone” featuring Common would resonate deeply with me.