It’s been well over a decade since legendary female R&B group En Vogue released their last album (2004’s Soul Flower). In 2016, the ‘Funky Divas’ (Original members Cindy Heron-Braggs, Terry Ellis, and newcomer Rhona Bennett) made their return to the spotlight with the new single, ‘Déjà Vu,‘ and planned album, ‘Electric Cafe.’
With this return, old and new fans will feel a sense of nostalgia while experiencing the group’s growth and maturity. In our sit down with the iconic group, they touched on their sound and new album, their inclusion in the National Museum of African American History and Culture, withstanding time and sticking together as a female group, and much more.
So, tell us what you guys have been up to? What’s the status on Electric Cafe?
Cindy Heron-Braggs: We’ve never stopped performing; we’re always doing shows. We are getting ready to release our first album since 2004, and this new album will be coming out in the first quarter of 2017, and the title of the album is called ‘Electric Cafe.’ We have released the single, ‘Déjà Vu,’ that is available everywhere.
What were your personal feelings when you found out that your music will withstand history after dresses were selected for placement in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture?
Terry Ellis: It’s an honor to be inducted into the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Our red dresses from the ‘Giving Him Something He Can Feel’ video and also the silver dresses are in the Smithsonian. When we were first approached about the curation of our dresses, we were really excited. Once we actually saw the dresses in the museum, for me, it was just surreal. I don’t think I’ve processed that moment yet. It’s a blessing, and we’re so grateful and really excited about that.
Cindy Heron-Braggs: It’s a wonderful feeling to know that those dresses will be there forever. Like Terry said, it’s still so surreal because we remember wearing the dresses, we remember giving the dresses to the Smithsonian and seeing it, but this is all in our lifetime. To think that possibly or grandchildren or great grandchildren will go to see these dresses; there’s nothing like it.
You joined forces with your pass producers. What was the creative approach for this project and what should new and old fans expect?
Cindy Heron-Braggs: It’s going to still have the signature En Vogue sound and harmonies but the music has evolved, as we evolved, and it reflects that. It has an international feel to it.
Terry Ellis: It’s a little more eclectic for us in that all of our other records were more thematic whereas this one isn’t as structured, but there’s still a consistency in the vibe and its got a very global or international flare to it.
You guys appeared on Kelly Rowland’s show ‘Chasing Destiny’ earlier this year. What was that experience like and do you all have any plans for your own reality show?
Cindy Heron-Braggs: As far as Kelly Rowland’s show, it was a great experience for us because we love and adore Kelly Rowland. We loved June’s Diary; they were a sweet group of girls, and they can sing their faces off. We had a lot of fun just hanging out with them and interacting with them. As for us doing a reality show one day, there’s nothing in the works right now, but we’re certainly open to that idea.
In this day and age, R&B girl groups are very slim. What kind of advice can you give to new groups on how to stick together?
Terry Ellis: That’s a hard one. For us, for Cindy and I especially, this is what we love to do. It’s our passion; it’s a driving force for us. To have made the decision to continue is because we respect the craft and we respect each other. I would give that advice to any other girl groups.
Cindy Heron-Braggs: One of the ways to keep the bond within female groups is to set your sight on the bigger picture. You can always be in the micro-moment, leave because there’s a disagreement. Members at times may feel that their talent and what they have to contribute to the group, and to the creative process, isn’t always fully appreciated. You have to understand that there are multiple talents there and you must respect each other’s contribution. If you continue to nurture your base, which is the group, there will always be open doors for individuals to do their own thing, and then always for the group to come back together and continue to do what they do. Often times, there may be lures that may pull a member away. Those are often short-lived, and I think those opportunities come because of the group and because of your base.
Terry Ellis: Also, you must understand that your individuals that came together so you must respect the differences. This will make it easier to navigate with each other.
Do you foresee the resurgence of female groups?
Rhona Bennett: It would seem that that’s happening based on what I’m seeing. The Good Girl group that came out, I think they were on the X Factor or one of those shows; they sand ‘Don’t Let Go,’ which sounded great. June’s Diary of course; Fifth Harmony is out there. I think that a resurgence may be happening.
Coming from the Golden Era (Best music ever), What artists do you guys like today and how do you feel about the landscape of R&B?
Rhona Bennett: We were just talking about this. I think that there’s a beauty to every era of music. It’s the saying, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and I think great music is in the era of the beholder. One of the good things about today’s music is they are finding a way to marry the electronics to the human aspect of being on an instrument. That’s the gift that we get in the evolution of it all. There’s plenty of artists out there that we all dig. There’s a lot of good music out there; it may not be on mainstream radio, but with satellite radio, streaming services, and social media, you can always find something new out there.
What can artists do to help improve the popularity of R&B?
Cindy Heron-Braggs: I think that the artists that are doing R&B are doing their part already by just doing great music. A lot of it rest on radio and DJs to help get that music out there. They have to be willing to play that music.
Terry Ellis: Good music is timeless so that it will come back around.
Along with the new album, what’s in the works for En Vogue?
Cindy Heron-Braggs: We have a tour set up for 2017 here in America and abroad. We will also promote the album in South Africa; we’re especially excited about that because we’ve never been there.
What’s the reception like when you travel overseas; Are you appreciated more?
Terry Ellis: They have a different level of respect for R&B music; a whole nother level of appreciation for it. It’s really humbling when we go over there, and we’re just grateful for it.
As we sign off, what do you want to say to the world?
Terry Ellis: We understand and appreciate the fact that we’re still able to make our music 26 years later because of our fans appreciating our music and asking for more. We don’t take that for granted; we know it’s because of them that we’re still standing. We want to say THANK YOU.
Founder and Creator of Singersroom.com and IncredibleWork.com. Follow me on Instagram at @gary.gentles.