It’s four years since we last spoke to Mike Harmeier, lead singer of Texas outfit Mike and the Moonpies. That was following the release of their album Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, recorded at Abbey Road Studios.
It was also around that time that their first UK tour was announced; a tour which saw so many delays thanks to the pandemic, that it’s only now finally about to happen. Since then, the band have released two records, including their latest release, 2021’s One to Grow On. Mark Wiggins spoke to Mike on the phone ahead of their trip to Europe.
You guys have kind of just come off the ‘Tour Me a Cold One’ run, which is your most successful East Coast run today, with plenty of sell out shows. That must have been a great way to kick off the year?
It was, you know, we start our year, usually with two festivals in Colorado, and then in Florida. We stayed out there and went on the Florida tour, you know, that was always great to start out, in Key West. Then we did all the way up the East Coast, more sold out shows on any tour we’ve ever had. We also had this guy, Rob Linus with us on tour support and open all the shows. And it was just a great hang all together. I mean, it was definitely my favourite tour that we’ve been on. I think maybe in the past couple of years. It was, it was a lot of fun.
You mention the last couple of years, obviously, it’s been a probably quite a wild ride for you guys as musicians. So it must be nice to be getting into that rhythm of things again?
It is and, you know, the shows have just become a whole nother animal now, you know. I was playing places I’ve never played before and selling out, you know, rock clubs and stuff like that. And the sing-alongs are great. It’s just got an energy that it’s never had before.
And straight from that, of course, you’re heading over towards here in Europe. 21 dates in 24 days, seven different countries. I mean, that’s a heck of a tour to be to be jumping on. How excited are you to be finally getting over here?
It’s amazing. We’ve been trying to do it for so long now and it kept getting postponed and postponed, and we kind of kept building it and adding more dates to it as it would get postponed. It was like well, okay, well, we can stay over there longer and really make the trip, you know, even more worth it than it was already going to be. So, we’re gonna take advantage of finally making it happen and I can’t believe we’re doing that many shows. But I’m very excited about it.
Yeah. And London sold out of course already, which must be so cool?
Yeah, that was great. That has been sold out, I think, from when it was first booked and it was at a smaller club. Then they moved into Omeara, and now that sold out. So, it’s really cool. I’ve been wanting to do that show. I’ve had several people that have tickets to that show that have come over to the States, in the past year or so, and have seen us here because they couldn’t wait any longer. They’re still gonna see us over there. It’s cool to see people that I’m going to recognize at the show.
That must be an amazing shot in the arm, because I guess there’s a degree of uncertainty coming over from the States. Obviously, you’re here for the first time and planning those shows. I guess once those shows start selling out, it must be an amazing feeling and give you that confidence before coming over?
Yeah, it’s the first time that we’ve ever really toured over there. And, you know we made a record (Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold) in London, but we’ve never played there. It’s pretty cool to actually be doing it.
I’m coming to the Manchester show and it’s been one of those where I’ve been so excited for so long. It’s such a cool little venue that you’re playing as well!
That’s awesome. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see some of the places we’re playing. I’m excited.
I was going to ask if you’ve got any expectations of the shows and the crowds that you might get here compared to perhaps back home?
We’ve had really good response and a lot of people comment on our social media stuff saying they’re coming to different shows. I’ve had several people message for every single show that we’ve booked, several people have said they’ll be coming. So I know, there are definitely some diehard fans out there that are going to be at all the shows. You know, I’m sure we’ll have a couple that we play to only a few people, and we’ll have a couple of sold out shows too. So, you know, it’s gonna be, I think, the full gamut of different kinds of shows. So I’m kind of excited to play, some bigger rooms and then some little bitty tiny things, you know, where we play on the floor. So yeah, it’s kind of a mixed bag, and I’m excited about that.
Yeah, it must be cool as well because, like you mentioned at the start, the shows have changed and, over in the States, things are really picking up for you now. You must be playing a lot bigger places than you used to, so coming over here must be like going back to those fun, smaller shows?
Yeah, I was just talking to somebody about this the other day, and they were just talking about how we kind of don’t play the little small bars, clubs and stuff like that over here anymore. Like in Texas, at least, we still do it in other places in the country. But that’s kind of where we, where we started was in the tiny little rooms. And I think we got really good at playing tiny rooms. It’s scarier to play the bigger room sometimes. So, you know, I think we’re gonna feel probably right back at home playing some of those small bars.
Absolutely. And kind of on the flip side, what what can European crowds expect from a Mike and the Moonpies show?
Well, it’s really, it’s a high energy show. I mean, our thing is, we don’t like dead air. We try to cram as many songs into a set as we possibly can and it’s pretty much nonstop. I don’t do a whole lot of storytelling or talking really. I mean, I set up a couple of songs, but mostly we just try to play our full time period and try to get as many songs in as we can. So it’s, it’s pretty high energy. Of course, Omar on the bass is always there to throw a party, jump around and get people excited. He’s really good at that part. So I kind of play the straight man in the band!
It’s one of those things as well, with crowds, especially in England, I’ve spoken to so many artists over the years who’ve come over and sometimes they’re thrown off by the fact that it’s very much a listening crowd. Just soaking it up and enjoying the music. It’s always important to not mistake that for a lack of excitement and a lack of interest, so I always say that when artists first come over!
I’ve definitely heard that before. I’ve had a few people say that to me before. They said “don’t worry about it”, and I’ve done plenty of those where I’ll have no crowd response in a show and people just be listening. I’ll think, “oh, man, I’ve lost them”, or “they’re not into it”. But then at the end of the night, they’re always like, “Oh, that was incredible. That was great”, you know, they loved us. But it took till the end of the show, to get them to tell me!
I always feel like I have to give it as a disclaimer because I don’t want you guys to finish the tour and go, “ah, maybe they just weren’t into it”. We need you to keep coming back, that’s the most important thing! But having said that, in Manchester, I don’t know if you know much about the geography of the UK and things, but there’s always going to be a rowdier crowd. The further north you get the rowdier it’ll be. I like to put it as the North over here is like the South in the States, the rowdy people are from the North.
I like that analogy! That’s just the other way around!
Getting back to you guys as a band. I mean, just looking at the last year for you guys, you had your Opry debut, you’ve got a sold-out show at the Ryman coming later this year, you’ve got the European tour as well. It must feel like you guys are just hitting so many great milestones so quickly at the moment?
Yeah, it does feel that way. You know, it’s been a very slow build, I started this band in 2007, so I’ve seen every aspect of how the years go by and you know, you’ll have decent years and big building years. After we put out the ‘One to Grow On’ record, we kind of hit the pause button on going into the studio for a little bit and just really focused on building our touring and doing some really high profile things like the Opry, and we did this Waylon Jennings tribute show with Shooter Jennings over in California and just really really cool things, you know. Things that are a feather in the cap that we really have been trying to get for a long time. So it’s been a lot of work to get these things to happen and it’s been years in the making for some of these things. We’ve been trying to get on the Opry, all that stuff for several years, so it just feels like all of that work is finally starting to pay off. It gives us a lot more confidence and kind of validation that we’re doing the right thing to have it start to pick up as much as it has this past year.
Obviously, you’ve had a massive push on US radio as well, does it feel like it’s taken you out of that bracket of just being on the Texas scene? I know it’s such a strong scene, but do you feel you’re becoming not just a nationwide but kind of worldwide band?
Yeah, that’s always been the goal for us. You know, when we started it was okay, we just wanted to be a really popular band in Austin. And then I wanted to be a really popular band in Texas. And in the next couple of years I spent trying to be a popular band just regionally around Oklahoma and Louisiana, and things like that. So you know, it’s always kind of expanding the spiral, that’s kind of been our goal throughout the years. And, yeah, it’s now a worldwide thing. So, something’s going right!
Exactly, yeah. And where do you go from there? You’re going to have to get in touch with Elon Musk and fly out to Mars and conquer that?!
(Laughs) I would take him up on that!
Just speaking about new music because I read about the making of ‘One to Grow On’, and how that was so inspired by being stuck at home. You said that’s kind of your comfort zone and you’re a homebird in a sense. So now you’re doing so many shows, conversely, for the next record, is that going to be more of a kind of, I guess, a road record again?
It feels like it, I’ve been writing a lot. I took about two weeks off at the end of last year, and I’ve been trying some new songwriting exercises to kind of get out of the, a lot of times, I feel like after I finished writing one record, like the ‘One to Grow On’ record, I tend to fall into the hole of writing the same kind of things as that record again, kind of continuing to chase that. So I did some songwriting exercises to try to change that up. It really opened up a lot of stuff that I had never tried before, and kind of some new-sounding songs. There’s definitely a lot of the road things because we have more stories this year than we had before, so there’s plenty of things to talk about. What I’m writing now is definitely different to the last record. I’m still, you know, still writing on it. Because I’ve been on tour and I don’t really write on tour, I write at home. I kind of focus on the shows when I’m out on the road. So, things are coming around and I’m starting to build a narrative for a record. You know, and I don’t ever force that. So, it’s kind of whatever comes but definitely, there’s a lot more road songs on it.
I guess it’s now just keeping an eye on when there’s a gap in your kind of agenda to be able to fit that kind of stuff in with so many shows?
Yeah, that’s exactly right. We’re touring so much, and then when we come home, it’s like, I’ve got a little boy at home and my drummer has a little boy, so, we’re trying to raise kids and tour at the same time. Trying to find those few days to sneak into the studio is getting tougher and tougher. But, you know, everybody in the band is… we’re all lifers. And we’re all into it for the long haul, so we carve out the time.
I was listening to the ‘Live at the Winstar’ album earlier today. I’m a sucker for a live album, especially when I’ve got a gig coming up soon. Can you see, with so many shows coming up, maybe another live recording on the books or anything like that?
Yeah, we did. Near the end of last year, we actually recorded a show at the Devil’s Backbone tavern, which is in Wimberley, Texas, about an hour outside of Austin. We recorded a live show and we also filmed it. We’ve been working with the film crew to kind of get some of that together and release that. So, we kind of have a live record in the can. It’s a lot more of the new songs, and it also has our new drummer on it, so it’d be the first thing he’s had recorded with us. We’re kind of working on that as maybe a late summer release. We’re just trying to figure out how to do video these days and how to stream video. If I put it on Netflix or Amazon or something like that, and how that works, it’s kind of a new era of that stuff. We’re trying to figure out how to navigate video streaming too. So, we’re gonna find some interesting ways to put that out. I expect that definitely in the second half of the year.
Oh, wow. That sounds really cool. You know, it’s so funny when you mentioned venues like the Devil’s Backbone, I’ve never been to Texas, but from listening to Ryan Bingham I feel like I know the Devil’s Backbone because he mentions it in ‘Bread and Water’ – now I know why!
There’s one thing that the Texas guys like us will do and it’s sing about the bars!
Well, I’m super excited for the show in Manchester. Thank you so much again for spending a bit of time chatting to me. Really appreciate it and we’ll see you over here soon!
Looking forward to it! Thanks!
Mike and the Moonpies’ European Tour kicks off on 1st April in Newcastle. Tickets for the UK stretch can be purchased from themoonpies.com/tour. Full details are below.