Goodbye, FarFetched. Music label disbands after a decade defining St. Louis eclecticism
A decade ago, Sunyatta McDermott and her partners in the indie trio CaveofswordSweren’t sure they had a place in the St. Louis music scene. When Damon Davis approached her, her husband, Kevin McDermott, and Eric Armbruster to join the collective, she knew their indie band had found its home.
“Kevin and I felt a bit unmoored in the St. Louis music scene,” McDermott said. “It really felt like a great match, we were dispositionally and musically aligned and had a place to be and, and that was the beginning.”
That’s exactly what FarFetched founder Damon Davis and his partners had in mind — a one-stop shop for innovative local music. For a while, it worked. But recently, the label’s leaders went their separate ways.
The FarFetched music label in St. Louis united rap, electronic, R&B, indie and experimental musicians to create a vibrant collective. Its acts included Tonina, Mathias and the Pirates, Katarra Parson, Owen Ragland, Abnormal and Thelonius Kryptonite.
“I wanted to set up an environment where these different types of people could be in communion with each other,” Davis said. “Them trading ideas back and forth [would] eventually create a new genre, a scene in St. Louis for music that was cutting-edge.”
The collective’s sound was a big hit at shows throughout the region. The label held annual concerts to celebrate the release of its “Prologue,” compilation albums that featured its artists and other affiliates. Davis said those shows, other performances at the venues Blank Space and 2720 Cherokee, along with its residency at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation were instrumental in the collective’s rise.
“Because we had such a wide base of different types of artists, we were doing shows all over the place,” Davis said. "Almost weekly, different acts would be competing with each other.”
But the past few years have been a difficult time for the label.
FarFetched made money on music platforms like Bandcamp, but the coronavirus pandemic shut down venues. When artists started working from home, it made working together difficult, said Charles Purnell, FarFetched’s former director of digital marketing.
“It becomes like, what's the need,” Purnell said, “and why do I need a community aspect of it? Why do I need other people around to help me when I could just do this myself?”
But early on, Purnell said FarFetched developed into a real community of collaborative artists. Its pairings led to fresh takes and partnerships that might not have been possible without such close-knit relationships and helped introduce artists to different audiences.
“It was different than anything else that was going on,” Purnell said. “I think when Damon says it was the home of the weirdos, I think that's a really apt term because it was the musicians that maybe I wouldn't have listened to normally.”
FarFetched also captured the sound of the social justice movement in St. Louis. The label collaborated with activist, theologian and musician Reverend Sekou and his group The Holy Ghost for the album, “The Revolution Has Come,” released after the Ferguson Uprising.
FarFetched artists have had a big presence in the activist community, which will remain part of the collective’s legacy,” said Darian Wigfall, the label’s former director of operations.
“[People] seeing us together at a protest, or a rally or action, or town hall, or whatever it is, just showed that there's an independent music scene here that cares about Black Lives, cares about social justice, cares about equal rights,” Wigfall said.
The three former partners are moving on to different ventures. Wigfall started Certain Media Studios to help artists and train people on how to use multimedia to share their stories. Purnell said he’s working on new music. Davis is focusing on his film company, Allegory Pictures. He's also designing an art installation honoring Mill Creek Valley, a historically Black neighborhood demolished in the 1950s.
Davis said he’s intent on keeping the spirit of FarFetched alive — but it’s over for now.
Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis