Illphonics | Bending Genres and Breaking Molds

prof_illphonics_sm.jpg"Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey" —Cynthia Ozick







I am convinced that people are creatures of habit. How often do we find ourselves gravitating to the same few restaurants, watching the same few television channels, and hanging out with the same people you’ve known since school? We find comfort in the familiar, and often times experiment with change in small, comfortable doses. Even in the world of music, where experimenting with different styles and sounds can be relatively painless, many of us continue to listen to a select few artists or genres. Don’t believe me? Then go to your shelves and compare the number of rock or hip-hop CDs to the number of classical CDs in your collection. For many of you, the comparison will be more than a bit one sided.

Enter Illphonics, a diverse six-piece group that draws from a wide variety of influences, infusing their sound with everything from hip-hop and rock to melodic riffing reminiscent of blues or jazz. "There are so many genres that we tap into," says Kevin Koehler, guitarist for Illphonics. "It depends on how we feel when we go into the basement," adds drummer Chaz "CB" Brew. "It’s just stuff we want to do. We feel good about it."


Together with Keith "Bizkits" Moore on keyboards, Tom Carpenter on guitar, Simon "Spanky" Chervitz playing bass, and lyricist Larry "Fallout" Morris, Illphonics synthesizes their many influences into a single sound, one that is as unique as it is relatable. A performance at Webster Groves’ Natural Fact Deli January 5 attracted an equally diverse crowd, and long-haired rockers stood side by side with hip-hop aficionados sporting white tees. The band kicked off their 12-song set with "It’s Nothing to Me." Their intensity was immediately apparent as Morris attacked the microphone, his infectious energy leaking into the crowd members closest to the stage. His delivery complemented a poppy keyboard line and a heavy rock-inspired riff, while the thump of the bass and drums hammered home the band’s desire to see the audience reacting. "We’re a very crowd-oriented band," explains Morris.

The forcefulness of their delivery never let up as the band powered their way through their setlist in a little over an hour. "Let Them Horns Blow," "Leave ’em Bloody," and "Hit the Ground Running" elicited an enthusiastic crowd response, and "To the Moon" showcased Illphonics’ ability to create more intricate and subdued melodies. "Verbal Blitzkrieg," their last song of the night, ended with the air punctuated by applause and whistles as the audience fully embraced the band’s distinctive sound.

Despite several setbacks, including a major car accident that hospitalized a member of the band, Illphonics’ purpose-driven music has not suffered, thanks in large part to a relentless writing style that involves constant tweaking and modification. Several members have extensive experience working in the audio production field, enhancing their ability to be original and explorative. "We know what drives the band. We know what makes us who we are," says Larry. "We know how everything should sound. It’s just getting enough gigs and getting enough money to get [equipment]."

While Illphonics aspires for national recognition, their message to the St. Louis music community is simple. "Support local music," says Moore. "It takes a lot of courage to get up there and play your own music." In a city with more than its fair share of cover bands and people strumming jazz standards, it takes courage on the part of the listener to break out of the familiar, to explore new sonic territory. However, many pleasant surprises can be found with even a cursory glance into St. Louis’s original if sometimes divisive music scene. Illphonics proves that there are bands in this city willing to break the mold. Are you listening? | Joshua Vise

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