The Story of FarFetched, A St. Louis Record Label Founded by Damon Davis
Damon Davis, St. Louis’ contemporary renaissance artist whose talents range from visual art to music and film, founded the FarFetched Artist’s Collective in 2011. It’s a unique record label to say the least, made up of self-described “wayward weirdos of the underground scene,” as is written on the “About” page of their website.
One of Davis’ most recent projects, “Darker Gods,” perfectly exemplifies the collective’s lack of artistic constriction, which tends to sabotage great work. “Darker Gods” includes both a musical and visual art component, the latter of which began with an art show at The Luminary Center for the Arts, a visual representation of a mythology featuring stories about deities of color which Davis came up with himself, rather than much of liturgical and mythological storytelling, which almost always features white deities. Davis also released “Darker Gods” through FarFetched, a corresponding album that explores similar themes, now available for purchase.
Davis has largely handed off the reins to a highly dynamic, talented team of musicians and artists in St. Louis, who you’ll likely find at TechArtista working with new artists, planning events and moving the vision of the collective forward. We spoke with two of the innovators behind the organization, Darian Wigfall and Charles Purnell, about their partnership with TechArtista and additional programming coming up, including art, music and educational events. You can also catch several FarFetched artists at this year’s LouFest Music Festival, including Jesse Gannon, Owen Ragland, Scrub and Tonina.
Darian and Charles, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. To start, tell me about the beginnings of FarFetched and the current mission of the organization.
Darian: So we were founded by Damon Davis in August of 2011, and it really began through his interest in making albums with other artists he liked. As it grew, he found that everything worked on a larger scale when albums were developed and pushed collectively. FarFetched was really born out of that collaborative spirit.
What do each of your roles with FarFetched entail?
Charles: I had been a fan of the collective since it first started, and though the idea was really brilliant. It’s really true that we can do so much more working together than apart. The whole group is full of cool curators of music, and also just really great human beings who are so much fun to work with. I actually worked with TechArtista on some digital marketing projects, and came aboard with FarFetched in 2015. I also do much of the digital marketing for FarFetched, but we’re a lean business so all of us wear a bunch of hats and take on multiple roles. We also do a lot of hands-on work with artists, advising and consulting them. It’s incredibly easy to be fooled or tricked in the music industry, and we can help them navigate whether a certain choice will have a positive or negative outcome. We really look out for them.
Darian: Right. I also wear a variety of hats, as director of operations. But the thing that’s also really great about FarFetched artists is that they’re really self-starters. I don’t have to work on booking a bunch of local shows for them or get them a spot opening for a national act. They already have the talent and tenacity to land those things in place. What I can do is fill in any gaps that they might have wanted in hindsight: things like sending a photographer or videographer, planning extra time for load-in and setting everything up, or promoting their shows through our channels and connections.
When I met Damon I realized that what I was doing at the time is what most people in music do: focusing on my own thing and thinking I’d do it better than anyone else in order to get by. But that mentality and approach fractures the community, and inhibits our ability to create any sort of collective strength. Even in larger markets like L.A. or Atlanta, musicians thrive on collaboration and will work together even if they don’t like each other. So when I was asked to join the mission, it was a no-brainer.
What has your experience been like as a record label and creative community for musicians based in St. Louis?
Charles: I feel like it’s fitting that we started here and have remained based here. So many great artists and art have come out of this place. Also, what we think of as the contemporary civil rights movement began here. It’s really been beautiful, profound and scary. Darian can really speak to that as well, and it’s a topic we frequently discuss and actively address through music, as a form of activism.
Darian: I’d also add that it’s ultimately about being part of a community that we want to interact with and have to inspire our music. We’re active in the community here, and we take that energy back to the studio, interact more, and it really builds on itself. Now we’ve reached a kind of critical mass where you can see a direct influence from the community on our music, and the influence of our music on the community.
What’s the ultimate goal you hope to achieve through FarFetched?
Darian: As artists, we all have a similar vision and idea of what it means to be successful; and what I really mean by that is figuring out a way to make a living off of being creative and doing what you love. All of us make music, and we want to carve out a name and make a living, but not have to be part of the rat race. That’s what FarFetched allows.
Charles: Definitely. The whole mission and vision has evolved in a really organic way that supports what’s best for the artist. It’s a really special space where there’s a deep level of respect, where we can give feedback on each others’ work and not take offense if it’s critical.
We can say things like, ‘Hey, this ain’t your best work, and I love you enough to tell you that you can do better.” That’s such a great place to be.