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Music Collective FarFetched Crashes Genres, Pushes Boundaries

Adult Fur ii, Album Cover
Adult Fur | Courtesy of the Artist

Local music collective FarFetched is a loose association of musicians from various genres and age groups. The group celebrates its fourth anniversary with a compilation album, "Prologue IV," and a release concert at 2720 Cherokee arts space on Jan. 9. The group is united by a will to experiment with genres, use digital means for music creation, and push boundaries lyrically and stylistically. In four years, it has grown to encompass 14 acts that range from hip-hop to progressive pop music.

On Pop (and classical, and hip hop, and experimental) Music

Thirty-year-old Ryan McNeely records under the name Adult Fur. McNeely is a classically trained musician who turned to electronic music as a better means to achieve inventive and nontraditional sounds. 

“I’ve always loved bands like Queen ,” said McNeely, “Queen was never afraid to do whatever they wanted to with music, they were really popular without being mundane or boring or repetitive.”

McNeely grew up playing violin in Ferguson but became disenfranchised with classical music’s lack of innovation or desire to change classical arrangements. In general, he’s frustrated with any band or musician that mimics previous musicians without building upon that sound. 

“There’s too much focus on what music used to be rather than what it could be; and what all these people in FarFetched, or not in Farfetched, could be doing in music (is) to further it,” he said.

During an interview, he reviewed sounds he recorded earlier in his Tower Grove East apartment while his cat attacked his keyboard. According to McNeely, experimentation is key to his creative process. He’ll often sift through dozens of keyboard and computer generated sounds to match a particular melody. As part of the FarFetched collective, he says the group’s various styles are united by the desire to push boundaries.

Adult fur will release the album "µ" this spring.

On Promotion and Organization

Darian Wigfall of Far Fetched
Credit Johnny Andrews/Courtesy of Far Fetched
Darian Wigfall

FarFetched started with artist Damon Davis and McNeely and Corey Williams, better known by the stage name Thelonius Kryptonite. A year ago Darian Wigfall, 33, joined the collective to provide management and promotion expertise. Wigfall grew up in Creve Coeur, and spent time in Chicago before returning to St. Louis. He’s developed their social media strategy and pushed the diverse roster to play shows outside their comfort zone.

“It’s hard to find something around town that someone from FarFetched isn’t involved in,” he said, reflecting on the group’s ubiquity.

FarFetched musicians are in arts spaces, play house concerts, teach music production around town and also appear in visual art shows. Wigfall joined the group after Davis approached him. They both had ties to the local hip-hop community and Davis was impressed with Wigfall’s promotion of Lauren D., a local artist and FarFetched associate. Wigfall was attracted to the group’s progressive approach.

“We want to make music for 3015, so we’re ahead of the curve ... we’re making the music that will become popular in the future,” said Wigfall. 

Initially listeners and audience members defined the group as purely hip-hop focused. Wigfall and Davis have intentionally diversified their membership to include artists from different genres. Yet, they only gravitate to artists who share the desire to create music for the future.

“People are starting to see that you know we really are trying to make thought-provoking music and music that’s really inclusive to build the community,” said Wigfall. The members also, he said, function as a family. This past summer the group met in Tower Grove Park for a barbeque where Wigfall and Davis brought food and others supplied whiffle ball equipment and a Frisbee.

On DJs and 'Dark Folk'

Sunyatta McDermott, vocalist, CaveofswordS
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio
Sunyatta McDermott, vocalist, CaveofswordS

CaveofswordS began as a collaboration between husband and wife Kevin, 40, and Sunyatta McDermott, 38. Its synthetic sound is grew from Kevin McDermott’s work as a DJ and hip hop producer and is bass and ambience-focused. Both have been a part of the St. Louis music scene since the mid-90s. Before they began working together, Sunyatta was in a group whose music she characterizes as “dark folk.” CaveofswordS music floats Sunyatta’s vocals and lyrics about architecture and death over Kevin’s heavy beats. They act as the collective’s elder statesman - dispensing advice about the business of music.

“Knowing when to get to a venue for load in and sound check all these things is really important. But if no one tells you that, you just don’t know it and it goes so much more smoothly if you just do these simple things,” said Sunyatta.

They’ve helped FarFetched performers hone their skills interacting with venue representatives and live sound engineers.  In turn, they benefit from the group creatively.

Kevin McDermott, producer/multi-instrumentalist, CaveofswordS
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio
Kevin McDermott, producer and ulti-instrumentalist, CaveofswordS

“The best way to approach music is to allow yourself to be influenced not only by the music you listen to but by the music you work with,” said Sunyatta, “What we get is to work with people we admire.

In the past two years CaveofswordS has expanded to include Erik Armbruster, 29, as an additional guitarist and Zach Gibbons, 28, as a live drummer. The group will be releasing its sophomore album on Boxing Clever Records this spring. 

On Beats

Abnormal, Pretty Girls Like Dope Beats, Album Cover
Credit Abnormal/Courtesy of the Artist
Abnormal, Pretty Girls Like Dope Beats, Album Cover

According to Wigfall, Daniel Sanders, who records and performs as Abnormal, is one of the group’s genius beat makers and producers. Sanders is 22 years old and has built a reputation as an inventive rhythm generator and sound manipulator. He started making music after his cousin introduced Sanders to audio tracks he’d made on the digital music software FL Studio. Feeling competitive, Sanders decided to try to make something better than his cousin. It wasn’t until he met up with Davis and hip hop artist Black Spade that Sanders became more of presence in the music community.

“They helped me come out of my shell a little bit,” said Sanders, “they were the guys that said you need to contribute more to the art scene.”

Sanders’ brings in complex beats and sound-scapes that draw inspiration from both hip hop and progressive rock music. 

“Pretty much I try to make everything stream of consciousness,” he said. “I try not to start out with too many preconceived ideas, maybe start out with something like house music then say, you know, what let’s change this up and give it a jazz vibe.”

Sanders said other people had asked him to affiliate with their creative groups, but he never felt like he could get behind their music or art. But when he heard the work coming from FarFetched musicians, he felt a kinship and respect for their work. His feeling toward the collective extends past artistic appreciation. He echoes Wigfall in characterizing the group as more of a family, citing shared rides and meals, and the way the group looks out for each other outside making music.

When asked about the future, Sanders laughs.

“It’s going to mess you up and it’s going to mess you up in a good way,” he said.

The group plans to extend its reach in the coming year. Wigfall intends to place its music in licensing libraries available for movie and commercial placement. CaveofswordS and Adult Fur both intend to release albums this spring. Prologue IV is available for streaming online with a physical release slated for later this month. Doors open from the release concert at 9 p.m. Jan. 9.