Silverada, the former Mike and the Moonpies, will show off new creative approach at Gruene Hall gig

The hard-working Texas country act is on a tour that will take it to New Braunfels’ Gruene Hall on Saturday, July 13.

click to enlarge Silverada's latest album is its first under a new moniker, and the release reflects a broadening of the group's sound. - Eric Cain
Eric Cain
Silverada's latest album is its first under a new moniker, and the release reflects a broadening of the group's sound.
After touring relentlessly for more than a decade, dropping eight albums and building a rep as a crack live band, changing names may not seem like the most obvious career move for a veteran act.

Just the same, that’s what acclaimed Texas country band Mike and the Moonpies did. Under the fresh new moniker Silverada, the quintet released its latest album last month, and it’s on a tour that will take it to New Braunfels’ Gruene Hall on Saturday, July 13. Taylor Hunicutt will open that show.

Silverada frontman Mike Harmeier said the new name reflects the band’s evolution, including both its gradual shift beyond classic honky-tonk country and a more recent evolution of its creative process.

Those moves are apparent on Silverada’s new self-titled album. While still steeped in two step-ready twang, the recording shows Harmeier, drummer Taylor Englert, guitarist Catlin Rutherford, bassist Omar Oyoque and steel guitarist Zachary Moulton aren’t afraid to mix things up.

“Radio Wave” is a catchy move into heartland rock, while “Wallflower” — a tale of bashful honky-tonkers finding the courage to make a love connection — showcases strong guitar work over a beat that drifts toward disco. Those craving cry-in-your beer country will find it on tracks such as “Stay By My Side,” which boasts the line “When I give up music I’ll give up the drinkin’.”

We caught up with Harmeier by phone while Silverada traveled between Mountain State road dates to talk about the name change, the band’s new creative process and how fans are reacting to its more diverse material.

In reading over other publications’ stories stories about the name change, it seems like the reporting comes down to a 50-50 mix that it reflects a turning point in terms of the band’s sound and that it reflects a maturity with the band. Are they both right? Or is one more right than the other?

Yeah. I think both things apply. It’s just been such a long time coming to do it. It’s been on our minds for over a decade. So, every reason you could think of is a reason that we’ve thought of, and it’s hard to really pin it down as to what [the sole answer is]. I think we just knew this was the time we wanted to do it, because we felt like we were really settling into where we wanted to go from this point on, and it just seemed like this was the moment that we’d all been waiting for.

Plus, we were tired of having the conversation about doing it. I think that’s the main one for us, really. It’s like, “Man, we’ve gone through all the reasons to do this,” and we just got tired of having that conversation year after year. We had an album in the can, and we felt it pushed some boundaries for us and really locked us into the future. So we pulled the trigger.

Still, Mike and the Moonpies is an attention-grabbing name. Any concern that the novelty factor might not be there anymore?

No. I’m not too concerned about that. The novelty factor was part of the thing we didn’t even like about it anyway. You know what I mean?

That name never evoked what we felt like we were anyway, and we feel like this one really does. So, a lot of people would hear our old name and be surprised by what they saw, or vice versa, you know what I mean? So, I think that we’re more in line with ourselves and our sound with this name anyway.

The new album’s got stuff longtime fans will recognize, but it seems like it’s probably the most stylistically diverse thing you guys have put out. Talk a little bit about how that evolution happened in the writing.

A lot of it was me intentionally trying something different. I was having trouble getting started writing this record, so I tried some new things and read some books, and I just experimented with my writing. I found some techniques that I really liked, and it turned into more of a linear songwriting thing that I wanted to experiment with. So, when I went into the studio, I already had … a new idea about where I wanted to go with it. And once we started to track the songs, it was pretty apparent that the band was also having a good time experimenting with new ways to push our sound. So, I think it all came together in the studio where we were like, “Oh, man, let’s all try to chase this down and do everything. However, this song is, however we think this song should sound, that’s what we should go for, not necessarily what we think the band should sound like.” I think that started every single song down a different path.

When you said you tried different techniques, what was the one that made the biggest difference for you?

I think just straight-up free writing, which I had never really done. I’d always focused so much on telling a pretty direct story. At that time, I realized, “Man, I can free write and not worry about it rhyming or making sense or anything. I can put all that together later.” And I think that really changed the game for me. It opened up a lot of opportunities for me to say some things I didn’t even know I wanted to say. So that was the most beneficial thing that I started to do.

What’s been the response on the road to the new material, especially from fans familiar with the old stuff?

Man, it couldn’t have been better. There’s a couple of songs where people who haven’t even heard the song before are singing along to the chorus by the time we get to the end of it. That just feels really good, and it’s high-energy, even on songs that people don’t know. I’ve never had that before where it’s a brand new song and we’re just trying it out in the show. It’s creating this palpable energy with the crowd response. This is the first time we’ve experienced that, really, that I can remember. I think all in all, it’s very positive.

click to enlarge Silverada frontman Mike Harmeier said he experimented with new writing approaches for the album. - Eric Cain
Eric Cain
Silverada frontman Mike Harmeier said he experimented with new writing approaches for the album.

You guys play something like 200 road dates a year. How do you balance being able to write and create, having a family and spending that amount of time on the road?

That’s tough, man. I compartmentalize a lot of things. We’ve been doing this for 15 years, but we’re still learning new ways to tour. … I’m not a big writer on the road, so I carve that time out when I’m home, but most of that time is spent with the fam. … I don’t think it’s ever going to get easy, but this is what we do. And the way that we survive is touring. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. I think we’re comfortable living the lifestyle that we lead and having to compartmentalize those things.

If you could look back to when you started in the band 15 years ago, what advice would you give your younger self?

Dude, we’ve been chasing the thing for so long, I wouldn’t change anything that we did. The way that it started was the way it had to start. It’s created who we are now. The whole thing for us, it’s been about evolution and figuring it out. And we get here through just this range of actions and circumstances that have brought us to where we’re at. So, I think that there’s really nothing that I would change about it, and I think we’re supposed to be where we’re supposed to be. Without all the experiences and the ups and downs that we’ve had throughout our career, we wouldn’t be where we’re at now — and we feel very comfortable and happy here.

In other words, it’s not just the destination, it’s the journey.

That’s it. Yes, sir.

One last question. You’re playing Gruene Hall again. Could you talk a little bit about why that place is special and what it means to you?

Man, I can’t think of a single reason why it’s not special. It’s amazing. It’s my favorite gig, I would say — and we’ve been fortunate enough to sell it out the past three or four times we’ve done it. We do it in the heat of the summer, man, and we’re happy to sweat it out. That’s part of the show, man. I love the sweating it out, and doing our thing in Gruene Hall is just such an iconic Texas moment. Just something that I think we’ve all been chasing.

$20, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 13, Gruene Hall, 1281 Gruene Road, New Braunfels, (830) 606-1281, gruenehall.com.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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