The Raleigh area is host to so many creative and innovative artists and musicians who are making things happen independently and locally. One of those local gems is Moon Caravan Records. Based in Boylan Heights, this indie record label continues to produce and represent some outstanding local music and bands. We thought we’d get to know them a bit better by sitting down with owner/musician Joyce Bowden to learn more about Moon Caravan Records and her own personal musical journey.
Joyce Bowden co-founded Moon Caravan Records with her husband Lee Kirby. Born into a musical family with roots in folk music, she dropped out of Juilliard in 1980 after developing a case of claustrophobia and soon met and started singing with mentor Arthur Russell. Russell, whose cello compositions and dance music greatly influenced New York City’s downtown music scene in the 80’s (and whose star continues to rise even to the present day) collaborated with Philip Glass, David Byrne and many others. While still working with Russell, Bowden went on to sing and perform with the Casual Gods, the Trashaholics, Tom Tom Club, David Byrne, and Joey Ramone in the Resistance.
Following Arthur Russell’s death in 1992, Bowden, Kirby, and other area musicians formed The Arthur Project and then later Moon Caravan Records (in 2002) in honor of Russell’s music and legacy. Now ten years later, Moon Caravan Records’ roster holds a variety of local and New York bands including: Milagro Saints, Goodnight Graces, Bear 54, Ernie Brooks, Peter Zummo, Milton, deerfrance, jolei, and Recent Memory. Be sure to “Like” and follow Moon Caravan Records on their new Facebook and Twitter pages to connect to the music and get up to date information on their bands, albums, gigs and more.
A personal Q&A with Joyce Bowden
Describe the type of music represented by Moon Caravan in 3-5 descriptive words.
Tone. Bone. Cone. Hmm… At this point it’s all about the resonance of sound, it doesn’t seem to make sense and yet it does. Like poetry.
When did you start Moon Caravan Records? Who was a part of that?
Moon Caravan was created in honor of Arthur Russell. My husband Lee was the supporting influence in this. The name Moon Caravan came from a combination of his fascination with moonlight and movement and his initials CAR (for Charles Arthur Russell). Some of the bands actually cover and perform his music and create new music inspired by him.
What is the best thing about what you do?
I feel really lucky to be able to explore inner domains of self through music. Really lucky. I love being around other inspired musicians.
What is the hardest thing about what you do?
The best thing about it is still the hardest thing – the exploration of self through music. That can be really tough because sometimes you just want it to be about fun, and it is, but it’s not an external thing, or not ever entirely, or you end up missing the point in the center.
What is one of your favorite things about living/working in the Raleigh area?
This area is quieter with less actual and environmental noise to distract you (unlike New York City). There is so much good music happening this area that is unique and has integrity, and there’s room for a lot of pure connection to the music. I think it has to do with the fact that there is still a good bit of the natural world in our daily lives. Umstead Park is a mighty place to explore!
What was the first album you ever owned?
Joni Mitchell’s “Blue.” I listened to it all night when my mother went to bed. Absolutely magical. Game changing.
What musical artists have most influenced your sound/style as a performer?
Arthur Russell. I find that his music unfolds through time and reveals itself to me even now. Understanding, or I should say – innerstanding his music is sort of like breaking a code all about how music works. Like a mandala you know, all laid out on the sand, and you look at it enough that it seems to come up in places to meet your eyes, like you could pull up on it from the center point and it would still speak eloquently and in perfect symmetry. Arthur’s deep learning of Vajrayana Buddhist philosophy early on, coupled with his studies at the Ali Akbar Khan School of music cast shadows and light all over his words and musical phrases. He was a major influence on many artists. His music is revered as the Holy Grail to a lot of people because it speaks easily to the soul.
Name one non-musical artist or piece of art/culture that has really moved you?
Just recently I saw a show at Flanders Gallery downtown Raleigh that featured the works of a talented local artist, Heather Gordon. It really moved me as I felt like her mandala – like paintings represented a lot of my own understanding about how we are all hooked into the universe with many layers of circular levels of self that we ascended through in space-time.
Describe your worldview with a famous song title.
“Love is Overtaking Me” by Arthur Russell.
Tell me about one of your favorite concert-going memories.
Earlier this month, we were performing (with Bear 54) in New York and also got a chance to go see the Go Organic Orchestra at the Roulette Performance Space in Brooklyn. It was incredible, a very entheogenic experience (generating the divine within).
What is the best piece of career advice you ever got?
I think Stephen Ineson of the Milagro Saints got it right when he refused to change the name of the band over the past 15 years, and he was right, it worked. He had a dream about it. You create your own reality. As you think, so it is.
What is always in your kitchen?
Genmaicha tea, balsamic vinegar, bananas.
What qualities do you most admire in others?
Beauty, grace and truth, and an open mind.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
YouTube Science videos about Astrophysics and chocolate, not necessarily in that order…
- Check them out at www.mooncaravan.com.