Exchange Rates 

Searching for authenticity with the Foreign Exchange.

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NOTE: The location of this event has been changed.

The story of the Foreign Exchange begins like many of the police procedural television programs in syndication: The members met on the Internet.

Rapper and singer Phonte (formerly of Little Brother) and producer Nicolay (formerly of Holland) began exchanging files via instant messenger in 2002 and completed their first album "Connected," before meeting in person. Since then, Nicolay has moved to North Carolina and the duo received a Grammy nomination for "Daykeeper," a song from their sophomore album, "Leave it All Behind." Their third album "Authenticity" dropped in October.

Their music has been described as a mix of R&B, electronica and hip-hop. While it lacks the hard edge and organic feel of the retro soul sounds popular with the hipsters, it's just as authentic and passionate. Phonte and Nicolay recently spoke, from separate places (of course), about their music, their goals and their latest video, "The Last Fall," which ends with an abduction and murder. Someone call the detectives.

Style: How would you describe the Foreign Exchange sound?

Phonte: I would describe it as a mixture of all the music, a lot of the music that we grew up on, all of our favorite genres, but kind of filtered through me and [Nicolay's] personal lens. You know what I mean? That's the best way I can describe it.

Are there any musical duos that you would compare yourselves to?

Phonte: I'd say, Zero 7, definitely. Air, is definitely another one. 4hero. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, just from a production and songwriting standpoint, what we try to do as a team. Thats about all. ... Uh ... the System! Mike Murphy and David Frank -- "Don't Disturb This Groove."

What was it like transferring the music from how it sounds on the record to something that is played by a live band?

Nicolay: It's been really cool. It really makes you appreciate the songs even more, at least with myself. I'm definitely a studio guy, in a sense that, that's where I truly know I'm at home, but I love playing live, because you get that instant reaction from people, you know, that you obviously don't find in the studio. It's really a challenge to interpret the material in a way that really works live, in a live show, but I really like doing that.

Could you talk about your new video a bit?

Nicolay: Well, something that I personally enjoy is just the wide variety of reactions. It's already the most talked about video that we've ever released and for that reason alone I think it's a resounding success. It's really for me, very interesting to do something that pushes certain boundaries or kind of pushes certain envelopes. I think that that really kind of starts like a very interesting dialogue, like a discussion about it. So yeah, it's created a lot of buzz already. We're really excited about that obviously.

How does [the video] relate to the content of the song?

Phonte: It could be just an interpretation of it. Every video is not a literal acting out of the song lyrics. I think that is just kind of boring. You can play a song for 10 different people and they can walk away with 10 different interpretations. The video for "The Last Fall" is just one interpretation of that song. It's just one way you could read it.

What are some of your goals as a group?

Nicolay: Well I think that one thing that has recently been a goal of ours is to do a score or a soundtrack for a movie. That's really something that we're working on to do next. Outside of everything else that we do, that is really something that the Foreign Exchange would be perfect duo for. Our music is cinematic as is, so I think that would be something I could really see us doing well. And I think just playing as much as we can and getting in front of as many people as we can and letting them hear our music and hopefully reach more people than we have before.

What other projects are you working on?

Nicolay: We are working on releasing a live CD-DVD and that's a live acoustic album that we recorded with the band in front of a small audience. That's the first time that we've ever released any kind of sort of like official live recording. Phonte will be able to tell you about his upcoming album.

Phonte My album is coming out Sept. 13. It's called "Charity Starts at Home" and it will be my first true solo album.

What can people expect when you come to Richmond?

Phonte: Just a lot fun ... our goal is, you know, to make people feel better walking out then they did when they came in. That's our goal ... to have people lose their troubles for a little while.

The Foreign Exchange has been moved to Mofauzy's Lounge, May 22.
1814 E. Main Street
Doors open at 7 p.m.
$18 in advance $20 at the door.


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