The Hippo


Mar 19, 2018








New York Funk Exchange. Courtesy photo.

New York Funk Exchange

When: Saturday, June 21, at 9 p.m.
Where: Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket
Tickets: $7/advance, $10/day of show at

Can’t sit still
New York Funk Exchange churns into Stone Church

By Michael Witthaus

 The guiding principle of Brooklyn’s New York Funk Exchange is found in a pair of song titles from its soon to drop second CD: “Get On The Floor” and  “We Can Party.” From the moment the nine-piece band shimmies on stage, horn section blazing, it’s evident that fans don’t come to just watch them play.   

Firebrand lead singer Serena Fortier is introduced as “the diva of dance, the high priestess of party.” If the groove slow downs at all, it’s to a purposeful grind of a song like “Stoked,” a new track that Fortier called as “kind of dirty; down, down.”
NYFE will release the album, This Is Your Brain On Funk, later this summer. Fortier is thrilled that the project, over three years in the making, is finally complete. But as she talked by phone while rolling home from a gig in Burlington, Vt., she seemed more excited by the band’s first video shoot, done in May at New York’s Cutting Room. The full-length show will be a calling card for the band. 
“The special thing about us is our live performance and the energy we have on stage,” said Fortier. “That’s where the magic happens, and it’s something we really wanted people to experience.”
A busy summer lays ahead for the band, including a June 21 show at Stone Church in Newmarket and the Green Love Festival Aug. 15 in Starks, Maine.
“Stone Church is built for live music, I really love it there,” she said. “The place has a great vibe and the people are chill.”
Fortier grew up in nearby Lewiston, Maine, so a solid contingent of family and friends typically come out for her close to hometown shows. As a youngster, Fortier listened mainly to folk and singer/songwriters, discovering funk music only when she arrived at Berklee College of Music.  “I really just fell in love with it,” she said. “James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson — soulful and funky; it just grabs you. You really can’t sit still.”
Upon graduation in 2007, she moved to New York City and quickly formed a band with a few of her Berklee classmates. They made their first CD, Funkonomic Stimulus Plan, in 2009. The group gigs steadily around Brooklyn and Manhattan, maintaining a residency at Club Groove in the West Village.
Perhaps due to the Berklee connection, the band has a solid fan base in Somerville. They’ve appeared multiple times at Johnny D’s, a top club in a community known as the Brooklyn of Boston. 
“Not only do they party and get down and shake their booties off,” Fortier said, “but they really do appreciate the technical aspects of what we’re doing up there.”
What they’re doing is faithful, solid R&B, a throwback sound with a modern attitude, fueled by Fortier’s swagger and streetwise lyrics. 
“We don’t want to be a clone of our favorite bands,” the singer said. “I say this a lot — we’re new school with an old soul. We take the music that we love, shine it all over and give it a new face.”
Speaking of new faces, Kendall — “a/k/a Special K” — took over as the band’s drummer a few weeks back. 
“He feels music differently than our previous drummer and it’s really jiving well,” she said. “He’s played six shows and he’s learned all our material so quickly, it’s really great.”
The new chemistry invigorates the entire band, Fortier said. 
“Even playing some of our older songs and the songs we recorded a while back for the new album … he’s breathing new life into it.” 
As seen in the June 19, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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