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Serena Fortier of New York Funk Exchange talks Hard Rock Cafe show July 25

See one big band with a rich, thrilling, feel good vibe.

Serena Fortier talks touring, surprises, and their upcoming performance at Boston's Hard Rock Cafe!
Courtesy of New York Funk Exchange

The Brooklyn-based nine piece orchestra is making their return to the Hard Rock Café, 22-24 Clinton Street in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday, July 25 at 8 p.m. Their upcoming album is titled, ‘This is Your Brain on Funk.’

Click here for more on New York Funk Exchange.

I had the chance to interview Serena Fortier, lead singer of the New York Funk Exchange.

Please tell me about your background and how you came together. Were you a group of strangers or did you already know each other and was it always the plan to have a group this large or did it just turn out this way?

A few of us went to school together at Berklee College of Music in Boston and after graduation moved out to NYC. We were looking to start a band and had some friends whose band had recently broken up. So, we snagged up the drummer and bass player and started the NYFE. The Wall Street Horns were just picked up along the way. We toured with just one lonely trumpet for a while! I don't think we realized we would have such a large horn section in the beginning but that's how it ended up.

How did your sound develop and were you ever supposed to have a different sound?

I think when we started jamming together, we didn't necessarily know what it would turn into. We all had a love for bass-driven grooves with tight horn sections and in general, music with a soul.
As a group, I don't think any of us really listen to much music made after the late 70s so that influenced our sound in the direction it ended up. I think we've done a great job incorporating elements of our favorite bands from the 60s and 70s without being direct clones of their music.

I like to say we're new school with an old soul.

Your new CD is coming out this winter. Your debut CD, ‘The Funkonomic Stimulus Plan’ was released in 2009 and it is such an inventive title. Your new CD has perhaps an even more compelling title, 'This is Your Brain on Funk.’ Tell me about this CD. Will your sophomore effort be like the debut CD or will the CD veer in a different direction?

I'm really excited and proud of this new album. It’s a much more cohesive album than our first. It's definitely reminiscent of the first album, but we've really developed our sound over the past few years.

‘This Is Your Brain on Funk’ sounds like us. Even the name represents us as we're all children of the 80s! It is packed full of funky bass lines, screaming horns, crazy synths, and a powerful lead vocal wailing out catchy melodies. They're all just really great songs and there is something on this album that everyone can relate to such as songs about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness! (laughs) Of course, there’s a dance party guaranteed with every track!

You have been touring throughout the Northeast for the new CD. Tell me how touring has been. I’m sure there must have been some surprises on tour.

Touring has been great. We travel around in our beast of a van which we lovingly refer to as the "White Whale.” Pack myself and all the fellas in there and go! A couple surprises we've run into while touring were when the air conditioning died in the van on the hottest day of the summer!! We pulled over at the closest gas station, each grabbed our own cooler, and packed it full of ice and spray bottles!! Oy vey that was an interesting ride!! The other is we just got a trailer to drag our gear around with us. It now officially costs us $40 to cross the Verrazano Bridge!! That was also quite the surprise!!

Any particular performance you are most looking forward to? Is there any future gig where you are thinking, “It’s just amazing I’ll be playing there?”

Honestly every gig we play, I just feel super lucky! I remember visiting NYC and going to see live music at popular NYC clubs and being blown away. I now have a band that not only plays all those clubs but even has a residency at a club I once visited as a tourist many years ago! Not too shabby for a girl from Maine!!

Aside from the new CD, what does the group hope for in the future?

I think just being able to keep touring and sharing our music with audiences not only across the country but hopefully internationally! We wanna take the funk overseas!!!

What can audiences look forward to in your upcoming performances and what is the best reason people should see the New York Funk Exchange?

Our live shows are not to be missed! This is what we are known for - A strong, soulful lead vocal and the Wall Street Horns. The power and energy that the NYFE emotes during each live performance always leaves our audiences begging for more. Two party!

Click here to get tickets for New York Funk Exchange at the Hard Rock Café!

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