Lowery was born in San Antonio, TX on September 10, 1960; his father was in the Air Force and the family moved a great deal before settling in Redlands, CA when David was a teenager. He attended the University of California Santa Cruz, and fell in with a handful of like-minded musicians, playing in a handful of short-lived bands, including Sitting Ducks and Box O'Laffs. In 1983, Lowery and guitarist/percussionist Chris Molla
began working up new songs while hanging out in Redlands during summer break, and after returning to Santa Cruz, their band Box O'Laffs, with Anthony Guess on drums, evolved into Camper Van Beethoven
with the addition of bassist Victor Krummenacher
, violinist and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Segal, and guitarist Greg Lisher
. After the band began developing a local following for their curious fusion of folk rock, garage rock, world music, and punk with Lowery's witty, off-kilter lyrics tying the elements together, they recorded their debut album, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, in 1985 for L.A.-based Independent Project Records
. The album became a critical favorite and earned plenty of college radio airplay for the song "Take the Skinheads Bowling," making CBV
a small-scale underground success story. CBV
toured frequently (including a major tour opening for R.E.M.
) and released two more full-length albums on their own Pitch-A-Tent
label, II & III and Camper Van Beethoven, before signing with IRS Records
in 1988. Their first major-label album, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, earned the band a minor MTV and college radio hit, "Eye of Fatima (Pt. 2)," but the group began to splinter during the recording of the follow-up, 1989's Key Lime Pie, which was dominated by guest musicians. While the album's cover of "Pictures of Matchstick Men" was a minor hit, it came too late to save the band, which called it quits in 1990.