It's a Tuesday night at Austin's Horseshoe Lounge and two members of the band Mike and the Moonpies are here to do an interview. Frontman Mike Harmeier is wearing snakeskin boots and a Dwight Yoakam trucker cap. Lead guitarist Catlin Rutherford vaguely resembles Chris Hillman when he wears a mustache, but he's just shaved it off.
Harmeier's from a suburb of Houston, and grew up going to the rodeo. He says his favorite movie is the George Strait vehicle Pure Country, but Pulp Fiction is a close second. Rutherford's family used to own a dance hall in South Texas. He recalls a time Johnny Paycheck came through and asked for a glass of water before the show; instead of drinking it, he startled everybody by plopping his dentures in.
Mike and the Moonpies are a professional honky-tonk band. They are self-managed and don't have day jobs, gigging four or five nights a week at bars and private parties around Texas. A typical Moonpies set is a mix of '70s hardcore country standards (Doug Sahm, Gary Stewart, Freddy Fender) and their own songs, which have good hooks and lyrics about heartbreak and hard living.
"We're gonna start getting out of state more but right now it pays for itself to go in the same circle: Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin," says Harmeier. On one hand, this makes them a throwback to an earlier breed of dancehall-circuit performers. On the other, they're just doing the practical, 21st century thing: constant touring, digital record releases and self-promotion online.
The parking lot is its own spectacle at the White Horse, where they play every Thursday.To get to the door you'll pass Cadillacs, choppers, and the occasional mule. Mike Judge has been spotted there, and is a fan. He makes a cameo in their music video for the song "Tape Machine," from their new self-titled EP on Phono Records.
In advance of their show Friday, May 4, at Adair's, here's an excerpt of our interview.