News Column

The Foreign Exchange flying high with latest album

June 20, 2014

By Kevin C. Johnson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

June 20--It may be tough for the Foreign Exchange to live up to its last St. Louis concert, a 2011 gig at 2720 Cherokee.

The soul duo performs Friday night at Plush in support of its "Love in Flying Colors" album.

The Foreign Exchange's Phonte (vocals) and Nicolay (production) remember vividly that stop on the "Authenticity" tour and rank the packed show among the best on that trek.

During that show, in perhaps its most memorable moment, the crowd broke into an all-out Electric Slide routine, which couldn't have gone better if it had been planned.

"I think it was during 'Take Off the Blues' when everybody started doing the Electric Slide," Phonte says. "I said, 'This is a black event. It's real black in here,' That was one of my favorite stops on that run. It might have been top three."

Phonte says that visit was his first time performing in St. Louis, and he wasn't sure what to expect. But he calls the show an eye-opening experience.

"You never know how much love you get until you get somewhere," he says. "Nobody saw that coming."

Nicolay says to expect a completely retooled show when the Foreign Exchange, accompanied by a full band, plays Plush.

"There's lots of new music, and in general there's a new band when it comes to certain positions," says Nicolay. "I hope it's the same kind of party atmosphere as before."

Since its 2004 debut, "Connected," the Grammy-nominated act has been an underground hit with fans, existing just outside of what would be considered mainstream success.

"I won't deny there has been frustration, though I've come to like the underdog position," says Nicolay. "In all reality, those are really just vanity things. I really only care that our catalog is a five-star catalog. I don't care that we may not have been on (Jimmy) Fallon or won actual awards. But I know what we've built up in terms of music is worth its weight in gold."

For Phonte, it's more about longevity.

"As an artist, you have to make the most of your youth while you have it," he says. "It's really the work you do in the first 30 years of your life that will sustain you for the next 40 years of your life. The longer it takes for people to catch up, the better the paycheck when they do catch up."

"Love in Flying Colors" follows 2010's "Authenticity" album. Phonte says on the new album he wanted to explore brighter sounds. He felt "Authenticity" featured the act in a darker mode.

"That was kind of a dreary, rainy-day album," he says. "I wanted this to be a sunny album, to explore some things of more positivity, something more upbeat and more joyous."

The duo believes the album doesn't represent turning the page but rather starting an entirely new book.

A lot of new influences seeped into the band's sound this time including '90s influences. "I guess now the '90s are considered throwback," Phonte says. "It's crazy to think the '90s were 20 years ago.

"Get ready for the best show you will see this year in terms of what you get versus what you paid. Ain't nobody beating us."


What The Foreign Exchange, Nappy DJ Needles, hosted by Corey Black -- When 8 p.m. Friday -- Where Plush, 3224 Locust Street -- How much $20 -- More info

Kevin C. Johnson is the popular music critic and nightlife reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at kevincjohnson and add him on Facebook at kevincjohnsonstl.


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Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

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