Written by Sophie Wyatt
Having joined the music industry at a time where strict genre labels are becoming redundant, singer-songwriter and multi-creative China Bowls is expressing herself through the art of free creativity. The music she has released so far has shown her talents of stringing storytelling alongside warming synths and crisp backbeats. Being brought up on a mix of 80’s music, China Bowls explained that a lot of her first memories of music were provided by her mum’s love of Bowie, “there was a lot of dancing in the kitchen to very 80’s style music.”
Unlike a lot of artists that boast of their first musical encounters being learning the piano age 2 or writing their first song at 5, China Bowls was very truthful about the absence of musical abilities in her upbringing. This was refreshing and gave a niche perspective to entering the industry at an older age. “I didn’t really grow up with loads of musical friends or playing with other people. So I guess it was a widening path when I realised I could do it as a career. I was always trying to pull music into everything. Meeting more musical people was probably part of the turning point and seeing that possibility. I had my first ever festival gig with this collective called The People’s Front Room and I went in at a random festival and asked to sing with them sometime. And then they text me because their singer had dropped out before Bestival and they asked me to go with them.”
China Bowls is a name that sticks with you. It makes you question what it means and how it makes you feel. She explained that there is a very organic reason for her artist name which relates back to her childhood. “My last name is bowls,” she says with a smile. “And my mum wanted to call me China. But she decided not to because she was worried the pun would prompt some childhood picking on felt unpretentious because it was already there.”
“First Light” is China Bowls debut EP. Throughout the 4-track EP she tackles topics including oppressive ideas of purity and sexuality that are projected onto women, insomnia and escaping from unhealthy relationship patterns.”It’s basically things I was thinking about a lot in lockdown. I wanted it to be like being inside someones brain. They’re all separate songs but it’s about being my experience of being a woman. A kind of stream of consciousness.”
Alongside this, the emerging artist worked on creating the dress used in the press shots and videos surrounding the project. Having grown up loving theatre and design, China Bowls thought this would be a way of creating a number of things that can be pulled together for one passionate release. “Initially it was just trying to think of video concepts and then I was just thinking I could make a dress and be self-sufficient. And it became the focus of the video. But it was not that easy in the end. The song is about carrying emotion around – when you realise you’re in a toxic situation, any kind of relationship where you’ve been clinging on to what it was at the beginning. You’re kind of carrying that around with you. So I wanted the dress to be the thoughts that you’re carrying around and it just gets bigger and bigger. I wanted it to be ridiculous but nonchalant, like you’re going about your normal day and it’s just getting in the way and you just carry on carrying it around. And then I literally made a wedding dress.
It definitely feels like a coming together. Theatre is very much something I grew up with. It’s nice to pull those two words together, it feels really nice to make stuff for a musical purpose. It can make sense together.”