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Dynamic Duo

Indie soul group Foreign Exchange on being independent and bringing the noise.


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Seasons change. That's how indie soul duo Foreign Exchange, rapper and singer Phonte Coleman and Dutch musician and produver Nicolay, explains the shift in sound and lyrical content on its fourth album, "Love In Flying Colors." Leaving the warm and melancholy mood of its last release, "Authenticity" behind, the duo continues with its mix of R&B and electronica, but with a more optimistic tone and some live instrumentation.

Richmond has always provided a receptive audience for the Raleigh, N.C.-based outfit, even when things got a little loud at their show last year, outside in Shockoe Bottom. Despite their new upbeat approach, don't expect them to turn it down when they return at the Canal Club later this week.

The show also features local talent, including Tuesday Verses host Lorna L-Boogie, Verses staff member R. Simms from online station and DJ Sayeed of the University of Richmond radio show "The Bum Rush Crew." Also performing is local hip-hop artist Radio B, who recently dropped a project called "Whole Foods" featuring a who's who of Richmond hip-hop culture.

Style: Were you guys aware there was a change to noise ordinance passed after your last show in Richmond?

Coleman: Oh wow. Wow. We literally shut it down [laughs]. That's fucked up, man.

Your latest album has a lighter tone. I was wondering if you could speak to how the lyrical content and music has changed?

Coleman: Well, I think very much for me, as the lyrical half of the songwriting equation, "Authenticity" was just a very dark record for me. I was just in a lot of turmoil, really just kind of depressed, I was on the eve of divorce. So a lot of that came out in the music. With "Love in Flying Colors," that was just the sound of person that has kind of let go of a lot of the past, and is moving forward, more free … kind of finding the sunshine again.

Nicolay: I think with this album, we wanted things a little more upbeat, have some more up-tempo elements up to it, and ultimately have something that contrasts with what we've done before. You could make a comparison, between our albums and the seasons, and for every album that we drop we want to set a very unique sort of vibe and tone that fits where we are in our personal lives at the time.

How would you describe indie soul?

Coleman: Indie soul is R&B music, or soul music that is a little bit more adventurous than what you would hear on the radio. It's all soul, R&B and black music, but it's just going to be a little bit off the beaten path and it's not going to nicely fit into anybody's comfortable box of what it should be.

What are some of the challenges you face as independent artist?

Nicolay: I think the main challenge that you face is that it's very hard to break out of your bubble, that immediate circle of hardcore fans that know about you and follow you and come to the shows. It's just harder to connect with a bigger audience. For us that has been the biggest challenge.

Coleman: Being independent is not something that's for the faint of heart and it's not for everybody, you know what I'm saying? It's really not. Like Nic said, it's very hard for you to scale as an independent artist, because you have limited funds, you don't have all this money you can [give] to radio or whatever. … You have to take it one record at a time. It can be challenging, but it's pretty much the only way to ensure your vision gets to the audience the way you want it to get to them.

If you got an offer from a major label, would that be something you both turn down immediately, or would there be discussion?

Nicolay: Probably a short conservation. I really cannot think of many situations where that would be a beneficial thing for us now. I think that unless there is an incredible payday attached to something like that … that'd be the only reason. When you get in bed with a label, you give up more than you gain, probably more than you realize. S

Foreign Exchange plays Thursday, May 1, at the Canal Club, 1545 E. Cary St. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 day of show. For information call 643-2582 or visit



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