CaveofswordS, the eclectic musical project of Sunyatta and Kevin McDermott, will release its debut album this Friday, June 29, at the Heavy Anchor (5226 Gravois) with Ou Ou, Syna So Pro and Sinfinis. The band -- and album, Silverwalks -- is the subject of this week's music feature, written by RFT Music Senior Writer Christian Schaeffer.
CaveofswordS has only played a few shows, but Silverwalks has been a long time in the making, and has been available through various digital outlets since the beginning of this month. Listen to the stream through Bandcamp below, and be sure to buy a copy by following the links or through any number of other online retailers.
In the feature, the two talk at length about the unusual musical partnership and genesis of the band:
"We've known each other for fifteen years but at vastly different ends of the spectrum -- I was DJing, and she was playing in folk bands," says Kevin. "So it wasn't until a few years ago when we hung out a little bit more and talked about our mutual interests."
CaveofswordS sprung from his computer-driven compositions -- snippets of songs heavy with samples and loops, no longer than 90 seconds in length -- which he handed off to Sunyatta as he attempted to pair local vocalists with his tunes.
"Initially, there was not going to be a band at all -- it was just going to be a recording project," says Kevin. "As far as I knew, she was still in the Helium Tapes, which I obviously enjoyed. I had been writing hip-hop instrumentals and just instrumental-soundtrack mood stuff for years and releasing them to no one, and thought I might get a vocalist to open it up."
Those early sessions consisted of combing through Kevin's songs and looking for ways to create space for Sunyatta's voice -- a clarion instrument that can broadcast fragility, seduction and longing with strength, nuance and precision. For Sunyatta, working amid loops and drum-machine patterns was a step outside her roots in errant folk and garage rock.
"As a vocalist, you need to give the song time to breathe before you launch into the next part," she explains. "Nobody wants to hear a vocalist sing over an entire song -- at least I don't particularly want to."
She continues: "It's still a learning curve for me because I've always written songs with a band in a basement while you're doing it live, instead of interfacing with a computer, which is a weak spot for me. I come from a rock and folk background." However, these studio compositions offer a quieter palette with which to work.
Kevin has likewise adjusted his compositions -- many of which have the mood and pace of trip-hop -- to include Sunyatta's voice. "It's nice now that I have to think of space -- I have to do things very minimally," he says. "I'm not the greatest player, but I am very specific about what I want to hear. I'll spend two hours dialing in a guitar tone so it sounds like a movie I heard from the '60s, or like the drums have to be this certain sound. The process in the back of my head is saying, 'Where is Sunyatta gonna sing?'"