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For the Sake of the Song: Mike and The Moonpies Shed Their Skin to Shine As Silverada

June 27, 2024 9:00 am GMT

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“If you were here for the name, you were here for the wrong reason,” Mike Harmeier says through the crackle of a cell phone receiver.

He and his band, Silverada, are barrelling through Nebraska, sunlight reflecting chrome as they set their sights on Oregon after a festival stint in Illinois.

For the Texas-bred band of road-worn wisemen – comprising frontman Harmeier, drummer Taylor Englert, guitarist Catlin Rutherford, bassist Omar Oyoque and steel guitarist Zachary Moulton – this is their inaugural outing under the metallic-tinged moniker, but far from their first roadshow.

Nearly two decades ago, the band made a name and a niche for themselves as Mike and the Moonpies. For nearly two decades, it was a designation that never really quite fit. “I think pretty early on, we realized we weren't really attached to that name,” Harmeier explains. “It was just kind of something to get this thing kicked off the ground, and we didn't know what it was gonna be or what it was gonna turn into.”

It turned into 16 years that produced eight albums, won over a loyal fanbase and made barroom oracles out of mere musicians. Throughout the years, however, things changed – priorities, aspirations, creative direction, all bent to the will of time and progress. “We used to be content with doing Texas regional stuff and then the dancehall scene and then opening up that spiral to tour outside of the state,” the bandleader continues. “[The band] has just always evolved and grown.” Mike and the Moonpies, though, hadn’t grown with them.

Their last two studio albums – Cheap Silver & Solid Country Gold from 2019 and 2021’s One to Grow On – ushered in a season of well tequila, ‘85 Chevys and the realization of where the band was headed, a season that ultimately gave life to Silverada. “We felt like those records kind of bookended the timeframe in which we had figured out what the band was.” With that knowledge, the bones for a few boundary-nudging tunes and the confidence instilled in them by their devoted cult following, Mike and the Moonpies shed their skin to shine as Silverada.

Shine, they do. Like heat waves from radio towers, full moons off crescent wrenches, and loose change for anything strong and plata, Silverada is beginning this lustrous chapter with their new self-titled album.

While such a rebrand can make some supporters weary, the record doesn’t find the band ripping up the rulebook, rather loosening the reigns on what has become expected of them over the last several years. “We weren't chasing anything … I had no grand ideas when we started this about what it was gonna sound like; I just wanted it to fall into place. I think that's why it's so eclectic. We didn't chase ourselves; we just chased the song.”

From the moment the bright strings of ‘Radio Waves’ welcomes a half-hour of beer-drenched steel, muscular rhythms and matter-of-fact vocals, to the time it comes to close with the static warble of ‘Hell Bent For Leather,’ newcomers are bound to fall in love with a revived band, while staunch fans will become reacquainted with the group they’ve known and loved, humming with a renewed sense of passion and pride.

At the end of it all, they haven’t completely re-invented themselves, and this new music isn’t some dramatic departure from anything resembling the Moonpies. “I tried some new techniques, writing some stuff for this record. But all in all, it's still me saying the things that I've always felt like I needed to say. It helps us maintain who we are, and what we're all about, and I think that our fan base really appreciates that.” Harmeier and company haven’t forgotten their beginnings or spurned their roots; they’re still the same band with the same commitment to playing good music for good folks.

“There's just all these things on the record that I don't think we would have found if we were trying to be what we thought everyone thought we were … We took the reins away. Anything that you wanted to play, you could play. Anything I wanted to say, I would say. We didn't overthink it, we just naturally took it where the song led.”

It’s that honesty that has helped the band evolve, and it’s that devotion to themselves, their fans, and their music that has gotten them to where they are in the first place. They aren’t likely to forsake that anytime soon.

However, change can be uncomfortable, and some listeners could feel growing pains. Harmeier explains that there has already been some discourse surrounding the shift, negative opinions being flung mostly by those who weren’t true fans in the first place.

“The biggest thing is – generally, what it always is – is staying out of the comments section,” he says. “That’s hard to do because you want feedback, but it's just not worth it … Those people will come and go, say they did or didn't like it, or whatever. We have to keep our eye on the prize and why we're really doing this. This is how we grow and this is how we make ourselves satisfied in the industry. I think just trying to keep an eye on the prize is the hardest thing, while not getting lost in the shuffle of all of the other stuff.”

That prize Harmeier speaks of is the journey from here on out – the space to continue evolving, the ability to keep pushing the boundaries. Everything else is just noise. “We're always figuring out new things about ourselves and about how we want to play. We don't think about how anything sounded prior to this. It's all about how we want to move forward. Everything is for the sake of the song and for the sake of the music, so I think we just focus on that and let that be our guide.”

For more on Silverada, see below:

Written by Alli Patton
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