Mike and the Moonpies’s Next Act: Silverada

The Texas country rockers evolve with a new name and a refined sound in their upcoming self-titled album

Four musicians stand in a room with a green couch and guitars hung on the wall

Photo: Eric Cain

Front man Mike Harmeier (left) and bandmates during a recording session at yellow DOG Studios in San Marcos, Texas.

Mike Harmeier hated the name almost from the start. The Texas native cut his teeth in the mid-2000s, playing country covers at any Austin bar that would have him. A highlight of his set back then was a version of Tracy Byrd’s 1994 hit “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous,” in which Byrd sings that he doesn’t drink champagne or eat caviar but prefers “RC Cola and a MoonPie.” Between marathon gigs at honky-tonks like the Hole in the Wall and the White Horse, Harmeier was writing his own material, too, and when an offer came to go into the studio with some Austin friends, he needed a name. Without much thought, he came up with Mike and the Moonpies. “The alliteration was funny to me; we were drinking a lot and just having fun,” Harmeier says on a video call from the back lounge of his tour bus as it rumbles through Mobile toward Florida. “I had no expectations, so it didn’t seem that important.”

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Little did he know that studio session would lead to eight albums and sixteen years of sweat equity, with the group playing more than 150 gigs each year to a growing, rabid fan base enthralled by their top-notch musicianship and fierce red-dirt country. Harmeier admits that he’d thought about changing the name for more than a decade but had always chickened out. This year, he finally ripped off the Band-Aid: Mike and the Moonpies have become Silverada, releasing a new self-titled album this June that serves as a coming-out party for the band’s evolution. A handful of songs retain the trademark grit, while others lean in to a refined grandeur. “Radio Wave” and “Eagle Rare” soar with instantaneous hooks and epic instrumental breakdowns. Ballads like “Doing It Right” and the shuffling “Load Out” are downright swoon-worthy. “The experimentation got heavier and more interesting to us,” Harmeier says. “We’re in a good spot because our fan base is really dedicated, and I didn’t have worries about them not coming with us.”

An established band changing its name isn’t without precedent. Due to connotations with slavery, Lady Antebellum and the Dixie Chicks became Lady A and the Chicks, respectively. In 2021, the North Carolina duo Mandolin Orange turned into Watchhouse, saying the new moniker allowed them to be more creative and not tied to a particular genre, a sentiment Harmeier echoes. “I was having trouble getting started on the record,” he says. “I didn’t want to do the same tropes. I wanted to get outside my head and see how naturally things went.” He holed up in his backyard studio, an hour outside of Austin, and instead of the usual structured verse/verse/chorus/verse songwriting, he scribbled down words and lines free-form style, unconcerned if they rhymed or made sense. If he got stuck, he moved on and circled back later.

Harmeier has always been a gifted songwriter, bringing vivid characters and often biographical situations to life. But on Silverada, he wanted to leave more space for listeners to interpret the story behind the song. He says he was blown away at a show by the Philadelphia rock band the War on Drugs, an outfit known for sweeping, stadium-sized atmospherics, and listened to front man Adam Granduciel on a podcast talking about wrestling with one of the lyrics in the song “I Don’t Live Here Anymore.” “He didn’t have a line for it, so he just sang something,” Harmeier says. “I have no idea what he’s trying to say, but I’m still singing along. That was liberating for me.”

In today’s musical climate, authentic country rock is hotter than ever, with breakout stars like Zach Bryan and legends such as the Turnpike Troubadours headlining stadiums and arenas. Harmeier freely acknowledges he felt the old name deprived them of opportunities. The band had a lengthy text chain, going through more than two hundred options before settling on Silverada. “We wanted it to have a Texas tinge, but [that] didn’t sell us as just Texas country,” he says. “ZZ Top is a band from Texas; they’re not a ‘Texas band.’ But I want people to know we’re still from here, always and forever.”