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Gangster never felt so good

Èva Morin | Fulcrum Contributor

FOUNDED ON A 16-year-long friendship between Tynan “Tragic” Phelan and Jonny “Rockwell” Desilva, Ottawa-based hip-hop group Philly Moves is gearing up for the release of their latest album, How To Drink Yourself Famous. 

“This album is a new direction for us,” says Phelan. “This is definitely our most eclectic music yet.”

Influenced by old-school hip-hop bands such as Gangstar, De La Soul, and Wu Tang Clan, and by the lyrical stylings of Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly, Philly Moves’ distinct sound is easily recognizable in a genre often limited by electronically produced beats and uninspired lyrics.

“I think our diverse music taste gives us a unique sound,” explains Phelan. “A lot of times artists try to be unique and it comes off as too different and doesn’t appeal to anybody. I think we’ve managed to have a distinct sound but still appeal to a lot of people.”

Their use of classical instruments, such as the piano and acoustic guitar, replaced sampling used in their early recordings, a technique recognized as illegal without the proper copyright licensing.

“Our manager suggested that we start using more live instruments, which is something we hadn’t really thought of,” says Phelan.

Despite the drastic change in musicality, Philly Moves proved able to release songs true to their genuine sound.

“The live instruments opened up a lot more doors on live performances as well,” adds Phelan.

While there’s no doubt the group’s sound sets them apart from most hip-hop groups, their positive and generally tame lyrics also add a distinctive element to their overall appeal.

“We’ve always thought of ourselves as being positive, without being corny,” explains Phelan. “We’re generally happy people, and I think that comes through in our music. We want to make people smile, dance, and have a good time.”

The likability of Philly Moves comes mostly from their projected image of down-to-earth and simple-living musicians.

“The message that comes up in our songs is not a conscious effort—it’s just who we are as artists and who we are as people. I think the fact that we’re being ourselves is really appealing to listeners,” says Phelan. “We’re making songs that we enjoy listening to and, thankfully, it just so happens that other people like them too.”

While charmingly modest, the members of Philly Moves are no strangers to recognition and accolades as Ottawa’s Metro News and Faces Magazine recently crowned them “Ottawa’s Favorite Live Act.” But, for Philly Moves it’s their fan base that gives them the most satisfaction.

“The best part is the interaction with fans,” explains Phelan. “Seeing results after all the hard work put into it is really rewarding.”

With the upcoming release of How To Drink Yourself Famous on Jan. 21, there is no doubt 2012 could very well be the year of Philly Moves.

Grab yourself a copy of How To Drink Yourself Famous on iTunes or at live shows, and be sure to catch Philly Moves at Winterfest on Jan. 20 at Ritual (137 Besserer St.) and Jan. 21 at Carleton University.