Was just thinking about this while updating the Saving Country Music Top 25 Playlist, and putting the new Mike and the Moonpies song “Paycheck to Paycheck” in the top spot: Why is this band not blowing up more? Not to belittle what they’ve accomplished as the once spirited, but decidedly local Austin honky tonk band that took it national with their 2015 record Mockingbird, and has subsequently hit the afterburners and become a band many consider to be the best live act in country at the moment, with albums that either win or at least compete for the best releases of a given year.
But it still feels like there is a significant disconnect between how big this band is, and how big it should be. When Saving Country Music first started some 14 years ago, we were used to this diagnosis for our favorite artists and bands. How in the world could Hank Williams III, .357 String Band, and Rachel Brooke not be bigger? But over the years, we’ve seen this paradigm shift: Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Cody Jinks, Tyler Childers, the Turnpike Troubadours, and other have legitimately blown up to compete with the mainstream, with artists like Colter Wall and Charley Crockett coming up right behind them.
Part of the reason a similar fate hasn’t befallen Mike and the Moonpies is because they aren’t looking for the big deal, or to rocket up some hierarchy of musical success. That’s what makes them so cool.
Late on the 4th of July, as many revelers here in the United States were policing up the beer bottles and husks of spent fireworks from their back yards, and either dreading having to slunk into work the next day, or thanking God they don’t have to, Mike and the Moonpies announced they’ll be releasing their latest album called One To Grow On on August 10th. The announcement was accompanied by a quote, “All that remains of a memory now lives forever in a song,” and the pronouncement from the band, “It’s an album to make new memories to and to bring back the old ones.”
That’s really a good way to describe the magic of Mike and the Moonpies. When you go to a Mike and the Moonpies show, you remember it forever like it was yesterday. With the way they work with nostalgia and revitalize classic country music themes in new and original ways, their music finds that nexus of forging new memories while revitalizing old ones.
The chemistry of this band is just so perfect, not just unto itself, but for this very time and place. They’re classic, but cool. As a frontman, Mike Harmeier could be regarded as a pipsqueak. But when he walks out on stage, he might as well be 10 foot tall. He’s got a confidence and cool factor you just can’t fabricate. Steel guitar player Zach Moulton is the the best in the business at the moment. So is bass player Omar Oyoque, who in any other band would be an annoyance or a distraction. Normally you don’t want to notice the bass player in a band. But with this one, Omar is the man that brings the party.
Guitarist Catlin Rutherford is completely underrated. In a band with so much else going on, he knows when to melt back and hold the rhythm, and when to step out and steal the show. And drummer Kyle Ponder has the responsibility of holding it all together, and instills the pep in this band that makes them so appealing. Similar to how many regard the Turnpike Troubadours, Mike and the Moonpies are a supergroup all unto themselves.
That’s the reason they aren’t about to compromise anything they do just for a quick step up the ladder. The chemistry is too good at the moment to mess with this, and that’s why they’re keeping everything in house, and independent. But at the same time, the world needs Mike and the Moonpies. So it’s up to us as independent music fans to make sure they get seen and heard in a way that is proportionate to their passion, skill, and appeal.
Hopefully the new album One To Grow On is just that—the moment Mike and the Moonpies blossom to the next level. The early indications are all promising. But either way, those that know Mike and the Moonpies know this new album immediately rockets to the top as one of the most anticipated releases all year.
One To Grow On is now available for pre-order.
1. Paycheck to Paycheck
2. Hour on the Hour
3. Growing Pains
4. Rainy Day
5. Whose Side You’re On
7. The Vein
8. Social Drinkers
9. Burn Out