Ryan McNeely remembers working at Starbucks five years ago, doing the service industry slog, listening to the Muzak and wondering why all these songs were force feeding him messages. So he made music designed to defer to the listener's thoughts, stuff that could induce daydreams. Several evolutionary phases later, he still believes in letting you decide what his songs are about.
But today, he's found a new outlet for his work, as a producer for several local rappers (three tracks on the recently-released Rockwell Knuckles' You're Fucking Out, I'm Fucking In are his.) McNeely's new EP Adult Fur Part 1, a collection of songs he's been trickling out since the beginning of the year, got its official release earlier this week. Listen below.
Originally meant to be a longer, album-length release, Adult Fur will now be released as two parts. McNeely was getting some positive feedback on the tracks as he posted them to Soundcloud, so he decided to push a few songs out there in a more concentrated way. Gogoyoko.com, a music store type site based in Iceland, liked the EP so much they featured it as a banner on their homepage and sent an email to all the site's users recommending it.
McNeely has had a history of positive feedback from foreign countries. An early track, recorded under his own name, was released on a compilation from Japanese label Rallye-Kanazawa called Keep An Open Mind Or Else. The comp also featured, among others, Simian Mobile Disco.
He got into working with hip-hop more recently through a somewhat roundabout social connection to Rockwell Knuckles. It's a genre that interests McNeely deeply; he is interested in the contrast between his own blank messages and the focus required of a rapper. "I think it's amazing that someone can pull so many words out of a single thought," he says. The track on YFO, IFI standout "Play Catch" is actually derived from a song McNeely wrote for the movie Streetballers, which was picked up for national distribution a couple years ago.
"The rock scene doesn't want collaboration to happen," he says. "It's like it's fucking 1933 or something." He's had a much different experience working with hip-hop -- people like Rocky, Tef Poe and others have responded to his most esoteric visions with appeals for more. Tef is featured on Adult Fur in the song "Message," as is Benjamin Riley.
McNeely has been making music too long to be motivated by much more than love for what he's doing. Still, he feels he's contributing to the bigger picture in a unique way. "I don't think I'm making the same thing as anyone else," he says. He feels a strong sense of pride for St. Louis, as well -- if there is a broader audience being spoken to by Adult Fur, it is McNeely's hope that those people come away with respect for St. Louis music. "It's all about furthering the quality of this city's music," he says.