Honky-tonking into Iowa from the Texas dance halls

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By Claire Dietz

claire-dietz@uiowa.edu

Texas-based band Mike and the Moonpies may be used to performing in the dance halls of the Lone Star State, not the bars of Iowa, but with a performance scheduled for Aug. 7 at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., it seems as though the members are willing to step out a bit.

Mike Harmeier has been playing music since he was a kid and has performed in many bands since high school. Eventually, his desire to make music was bolstered by another, similar passion, which he discovered when he turned pro and joined the music industry: the love of recording.

This love — especially of analog recording, which he tries to include in much of the band’s work — eventually propelled him to move to Austin, Texas.

“All the pre-production ends up going through you at some point,” Harmeier said. “It’s easier to mix and master digitally, [but] I still try to do as much analog as I can, and I’ll continue to as long as I make records.”

While the sound of analog recording may be difficult for the average listener to pick up, Harmeier can hear it, especially when it comes to the drums.

“I think [it’s because] I’ve heard it so much,” he said. “Especially working in the recording studio, I’ve heard it played back on the tape, and it’s just more crisp and clean.”

When the band members formed Mike and the Moonpies, they said they realized that the music they listened to had led them to become a sort of neo-honky-tonk band, inspired by the urban-cowboy movement.

“[It’s] just kind of the way it happened for us,” Harmeier said.  “We dress that way, we can play that way, so I think it was just the way it was going to be from the beginning.”

While the Texas swing-style band is accustomed to playing in dance halls, where the patrons come specifically to dance, the band is trying to branch out from that circuit.

“It’s all about the crowds,” Harmeier said. “There’s a purpose in the people that are going there, it’s a social thing … At a club or bar, people are there to hear the music more, see what the songs are about, and listen to people play. Some of that kind of gets lost in the dance hall.”

Harmeier said he was excited to return to Iowa; it was the first place the band toured outside of Texas in 2011. Now, it returns with a record titled Mockingbird, which was named by Rolling Stone*as a top-50 country records of 2016.

“I wrote [it] as a tribute to my father and my grandfather,” Harmeier said. “I tried to make a record that I would play on the jukebox when I was hanging out with my friends when I was a kid.”

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