Yes, Moonpies may be in the Austin country band’s name and their latest record may have string arrangements, but none of that touches the heart of Mike and the Moonpies’ Waco show on Saturday.
“It’s still a dance hall show,” explained guitarist, band leader and songwriter Mike Harmeier. “The Melody Ranch fits perfectly with that.”
The band’s appearance at the Ranch, a recent venue change from the original location at Smiley’s Country Club, has it doing what brought the five-piece band together in the first place: playing live honky tonk before a crowd.
Harmeier, a Houston-area native, had been writing country songs in Austin and around 2007 began to assemble players to play regular honky-tonking gigs at Austin’s Hole in the Wall, White Horse and Broken Spoke nightclubs. The band’s lively shows soon made its reputation, even with the odd snackfood name.
And Moonpies? “It was a joke back in the day,” Harmeier said, noting it fit with the era of country music the band was exploring the time. The joke then stuck as the band’s fan base grew. “It’s ours now,” he said.
While the band can honky-tonk with the best of them, it’s known for trying styles that set them apart from run-of-the-mill Texas country. Their latest album, “Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold,” for instance, features a string arrangement on several tunes echoing Nashville’s Countrypolitan days, even as other songs channel ’70s Outlaw country.
Since the album was recorded not at the band’s usual recording studio, Wimberley’s Yellow Dog Studios, but London’s Abbey Road — yes, that Abbey Road in London — the string players hired happened to be from the London Symphony Orchestra.
Harmeier shrugged. “Every record is different than the last,” he said. “It’s a departure for us, but it’s getting more radio play than the other records.”
Saturday’s show kicks off a two-week touring run that has the Moonpies traveling to Colorado, Missouri, Iowa and other places across the Midwest. It has the band at a place where it does what it does best, the band leader said.
“Get ready to dance,” he said.