Tell me about how iLLPHONiCS got started? How long have you been playing together? What brought you together in the first place?  

 Larry: A couple of us grew up together, but iLLPHONiCS didn’t get started until we were all together at college. It kind of started with our keyboardist, Keith, and our guitarist, Kevin; they were both doing separate musical projects that they wanted me [Larry aka MC Fallout] to emcee on. Kevin and I met each other in college through the audio program, and the projects merged into one project over time. Initially, the name was Fallout and Friends, but after we kept playing together and forming our own identity, we changed the name to iLLPHONiCs—that was probably around 2006-2007. And then by about 2008, we were opening for The Roots as iLLPHONiCS.

 

How did you come up with the name of the band?

Larry: There’s an interesting story behind that actually. We had a friend who was a lawyer who said that we might want to consider changing our name. A lot of people thought the name “Fallout and Friends” sounded like a kid’s special on PBS.  We liked the name iLLPHONiCS because—you know—we’re sick, we’re ill.

Kevin: We knew we wanted to do something with “Phonics” in the name. The band did form through the audio program, so we wanted that to be part of the aesthetic of the group. It’s funny how many bands had that same idea, haha!

Larry: It’s cool though. Now when people hear our brand of hip-hop they label it as the “iLLPHONiCS sounds.” You know, ‘cause we’re not quite like The Roots or any other hip-hop band; we have our own thing. So it kind of helps with the branding of our name.

 

Illphonics has such a unique sound. If you had to, what would you classify your music as? Where do you draw inspiration from to come up with your unique sound? What kind of musical backgrounds are involved?

 Kevin: We definitely consider our music to be primarily rooted in hip-hop. We like to keep it short and say that we’re “hip-hop fusion.” It’s certainly anchored in the lyricism of Larry’s words, but musically, it’s all over the place. Since we’ve been playing for so long, we all kind of know what we can add to a song to make it work no matter what style it is.

Larry: I know a lot of hip-hop groups that start with a hip-hop song in mind. With us, we may have a jazz feel in mind or an RnB feel in mind, and then I’ll go in and incorporate what I do into what the band does. I’m one of those emcees that would prefer to make it work with what the band has going on. And that’s something that makes us really different—it doesn’t matter what the chords might be or what the genre might be—we’re such diverse music listeners that we never want any iLLPHONiCS songs to sound the same.

 

So when you get booked for gigs, what kind of acts do you end up playing with?

 Kevin: It’s all over the place!

Larry: And I would say that 95 percent of the time, we do pretty well no matter what situation we’re thrown into. We have a diverse enough sound that we can do well with anyone. Actually, sometimes we get more acceptance from genres outside of hip-hop.

Kevin: I think in the course of our career, we’ve probably played more with rock bands than hip-hop acts.

 

And how about your crowd? Is it more hip-hop fans than anyone else?

 Larry: Most of our crowds are people who graduated from college relatively recently. Our female fan base is really starting to grow, which is awesome. And our shows bring in all different colors. Honestly, some of our biggest fans are middle class, well-to-do white people. And then we’ll turn around and do a show, and there will be kids from more urban areas. We can all attest to it: our fans are very, very diverse.

 

What have you guys been working lately?

 Kevin: We’re working on a batch of about 15-20 songs. We will start going into the studio in the next couple of months to record a new album. Of course, it’ll be musically diverse—some faster ones, some slower ones, some louder ones, some quieter ones. And we just signed a contract with The Record Machine, so that’s a REALLY big deal for us. That’s huge. I mean, with or without a contract, we’re always going to try and write the best music we can; but now that we have support, we’re going to work twice as hard to make sure that it’s the best we can do.

Larry: As we’ve grown as a band—I used to be kind of the focal point because I’m the vocals—but we’ve grown as a band, every member of the band is stepping up. When we first started, most of the songs were my ideas, but now the guys will give me their unique elements and I’ll make songs out of that. You know, when people look at iLLPHONiCS, it’s not just an emcee with a band— it’s just a band. We all work together to see what works, what doesn’t work, and this album that we’re getting ready to put out is the best representation of where we’re at as a band.

 

I’m really curious who some of your influences are. Where do you guys turn for inspiration?

 Larry: It’s funny because people ask me about our last album. And they ask me what kind of hip-hop I was listening to when we created that album. And I always tell them that I wasn’t listening to hip-hop at all; I was listening to jazz! At any given moment, anything can be inspirational because everyone in the group has very strong feelings about the music they’re listening to. I think that’s the key to our diversity. We all have our favorites, but even though we listen to a lot of different music, people may be surprised at what we’re listening to sometimes.

Kevin: I really love anything that has a distinct sound or a sound that’s new to me. It may feature an instrument that I’ve never heard before. For example, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of old world folk music, and a lot it is so random, but it all connects to the core idea that music is part of the collective human spirit. I try to bring that same thinking to iLLPHONiCS.

 

What does the future have in store for Illphonics–both short term and long term? What do you hope the future holds?

 Larry: I think our biggest goal right now is to get to a point where we can go around and play for folks all over the country. We’re a live band. We have our albums, but we’re trying to grow as a live band. To understand iLLPHONiCS is to see us live. It doesn’t matter who we’re opening for or who we’re playing with, we get on stage and make our presence known. We’re just trying to get out on the road, and bring our music to the people. I think in this age of social media and stuff, we’re sort of losing that element of seeing a band live and understanding exactly what makes a band great. We love our city, but we’re definitely trying to get out on the road.

 

Do yourself a favor and take some time getting to know iLLPHONiCS. Visit the iLLPHONiCS Soundcloud or Bandcamp page to stream and purchase all of the band’s music including its last self-titled LP, a free single, and a couple of EPs, Reality: Check and iLLUSiON. Be on the lookout for more iLLPHONiCS music coming soon!

Connect with iLLPHONiCS by visiting its FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, and its Official Website.

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