I’m sitting in the heart of Moone Records in downtown Phoenix: couches, chairs, a shelf full of vinyl — a visible concern for minimalism. The guys; a dog who barks at everything; a girlfriend, a wife, a toddler. Pumpkin Shock Tops. Leftover brownies.
Five days a week, Micah and Caleb Dailey (brothers) and Bryan Juarez (their roommate) wake up at 5 AM and head to work at a warehouse. Sometime around 2:30 in the afternoon, they get home and start to dream.
In the midst of daily life, Moone Records was born, and in the midst of daily life, the heart of Moone Records continues to beat straight out of this living room. It’s beating now, with all its fury, as the dog continues to bark, and baby Jude tries throw his toy records in the trash can.
It’s ordinary, and incredibly beautiful — and the most beautiful thing is how consistently the people who live here celebrate life. No matter how dull it may seem, or how extraordinary, here there’s a sense that all of its sacred.
The guys start out talking, not about Moone, but about a video release for a local painting company. They’re inspired to see a business whose first concern is not personal success, but building relationships and beautifying the city they love.
Throughout our conversation, they’ll talk a lot about what other people in Phoenix are doing. It becomes clear right away that there’s something deeper than just music here — it’s something deeper that Moone Records shares in common with painters, restaurant owners, farms, and coffee roasters.
“For them and for us, it’s just building relationships,” says Bryan, “and the byproduct of that for us is art and music. It’s encouraging, because we’re seeing that on a different platform [with the painting company]. There’s this mindset in society where success and making money is the most important thing, but when you make that your priority you miss it.”
“Some artists are surprised when they come to us and we refuse to take any money for what we’re doing,” says Micah. “But the first thing we said when we started was that we wouldn’t take money from the artists we work with.”
“We want people to understand that relationships are way more important,” says Caleb. “We’re trying to take away that thing where money could ever have the chance to get in the middle of it.”
There’s something different about these guys. They come into this interview fully loaded and ready to share a vision that I can tell has been years in the making.
According to the guys, the question that started Moone Records was this: What would a city look like if it was built on a heart of service? What if politicians, business owners, and even consumers were in it to lift up other people? What if their individual stories could participate in a bigger Phoenix story?
“Gratitude. Contentedness. Satisfaction,” says Caleb.
It’s about taking pride in the city that you’re in, and putting it’s beauty and talent on blast to encourage others to do the same. They never say this, but another word keeps coming to my mind: Humility.
It’s about choosing not to wonder if another city could be better or “cooler” to live in, and not being heartbroken if you never gain national recognition.
Once again, they start talking about other people: “A lot of people around us are content to play for just 10 people,” says Caleb. “They’re loving the community of art and the people coming through.”
Micah agrees, “You gotta ask, ‘Do you have to be nationally recognized to keep going?’ Is that what art’s really about? Or is it about the benefit it can have on the emotional life of a place?”
“And honestly,” says Caleb. “It’s not like it’s a cop out, because I think most of these people are actually good enough to get national attention. But even if they don’t, they’re content with having a 9-5 so they can participate in their passion and make something of quality.”
It’s about producing something of quality for its own sake and not for the approval of other people.
But Moone Records is working to encourage people with all kinds of skills and resources to go out and make the most of them for the city.
“You can help fight injustice and serve the city in different ways — this is just our way to fight, to celebrate diversity, to create culture,” says Caleb.
“And then if people have ideas that they’re wanting to execute and we can be part of those things, then I love the opportunity to join in with people’s passion,” adds Micah.
Jude walks up to the laptop and yells into it. We wonder if he realizes it’s recording.
“Dude!” says Caleb, “The other day, he literally took off his diaper and started running around the house naked. That to me was, like, the point where he changed from being a baby to a toddler.”
We come back to the conversation: “For us,” says Bryan, “This is what we know how to do, so we’re doing it. We’re not trying to benefit from it, but yet we are benefitting — because of the friendships, and being able to see people become more trusting and caring when they see that we’re not trying to scam anyone. Being authentic is like, weird and different in our society. And so is consistency.”
It’s personal, they say. It’s not just about the music, or even about the “big picture” of working for the city, but about genuine friendships.
“I think music is a commonality,” says Caleb, “But it’s not actually what keeps the relationships going.”
“What’s really special for me,” says Micah, “is when we see the whole community coming together for the cause of the city, and we get to team up with businesses and other people to build this place up.”
Maybe, just maybe, the grass is greener where we water it.