Vandoliers are the next wave of Texas music. The six-piece Dallas-Fort Worth group channels all that makes this vast state unique: tradition, modernity, audacity, grit, and—of course—size. Forever puts it all together for an enthralling ride down a fresh Lone Star highway.
Produced and recorded by Adam Hill (Low Cut Connie, The Bo-Keys, Deer Tick, Don Bryant, Zeshan B) at American Recording Studios in Memphis, TN, the band’s third album (and first with Bloodshot) Forever is a mix of youthful and defiant punk, rugged Red Dirt country, and vibrant Tejano. The full-length’s 10 songs blend emblematic rock ‘n’ roll with bold horns, violin, and a slather of twang reflecting where the band is from, where they’ve been and, eventually, where they’ll be headed. It’s regional and universal all the same.
“I wrote a series of songs about my life and gave it to the best musicians I know to flesh out,” says lead singer and guitarist Joshua Fleming. “I spent over a year writing by myself, with friends and mentors, and we spent just as long filling out arrangements and writing scores. We wrote horn and fiddle parts on a trio tour through the mountains of New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana.”
One of those mentors is fellow Dallas-Fort Worth musician Rhett Miller of Old 97’s. The influence and tutelage of Miller and his bandmates helped sharpen Vandoliers’ Texas-bred, roots-based punk rock.
“Before the band started diving into the new material, I sent Rhett a bunch of acoustic phone demos,” says Fleming. “Being the amazing person he is, he sent me back a 3,000-word email of advice that read like a master class in the art of songwriting. Beyond their influence musically, they’ve really taken us under their wing, letting us play shows with them and giving us all kinds of advice along the way.”
While tracking alongside the muddy path that country-punk bands like Old 97’s, Jason and the Scorchers, and the True Believers blazed in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Vandoliers define their own style; no one else is upending the genre quite like them. There are familiar ingredients—Fleming’s raspy vocals, rousing sing-along choruses, and an infectious energy (like on the rippin’ “Sixteen Years”)—that lay down the foundation on Forever. But it’s the ancillary instrumentation that separates them from others. When they seamlessly inject punk rock with ‘60 and ‘70s country grime (“Tumbleweed”), old-timey fiddlin’ (“Miles and Miles”), Tex-Mex horn and violin (“Fallen Again”), and heartfelt balladry (“Cigarettes in the Rain”), a rich new sound emerges. References to the Texas Tornados, Social Distortion, Deer Tick, and Calexico can be made, but none fully capture the soul of the self-proclaimed “Converse cowboys.”
For a band that spends more than half the year on the road, “forever” is their credo of hope and determination—“VFFV” (Vandoliers Forever, Forever Vandoliers) is tattooed on the six members’ arms as an emblem of their solidarity and commitment to the collective, through good times and, more significantly, the tough ones. The album’s lyrics center on themes of dedication (“Sixteen Years”), being known as middle finger-throwing rabble rousers (“Troublemaker”), seizing adventure while traveling (“Nowhere Fast”), and addressing anxiety and depression (“Fallen Again”). When they return home from tour, broke and empty, they humbly look to their families for support (“Bottom Dollar Boy”), and unconditional love—despite their unconventional career paths—(“Tumbleweed”). Thus recharged, they can hit the road again, to spread the Vandoliers’ message with renewed fervor.
Formed in 2015, Vandoliers are Fleming, bassist Mark Moncrieff, drummer Guyton Sanders, fiddler Travis Curry, electric guitarist Dustin Fleming, and multi-instrumentalist Cory Graves. Their first two albums Ameri-Kinda (2016) and The Native (2017) were released on State Fair Records.
Mike and The Moonpies
Dawning a new era of country music in Austin, Texas, the Moonpies are steamrolling their way through Texas, playing their beer soaked hipster honky-tonk in dance halls, bars and venues all across the Lone-Star state. The Moonpies are more than hometown heroes. They are big city heroes on the rise and gaining thousands of fans along the way. Their signature sound goes over with the classic country crowd as it does with the indie rock crowd. They fill the legendary Broken Spoke full of two stepping' South Austin swingers, and have built their own legendary Thursday night residency at the White Horse in East Austin, hipster haven, which attracts fans of all ages and backgrounds.
Sure they may stumble out of their RV at 2 pm with an empty bottle of Jack Daniels falling out of the van door and on to the hard pavement, but they don't stop. Just 2 years ago they were playing to Monday nights at the Hole in the Wall to 75 people. Now the Moonpies are slinging across the Texas sky with no reservations and taking no prisoners, only groupies, whiskey, sweat and hipster honky-tonk. Their Thursday night shows at the White Horse are more like an entourage of 200 people, young and old, that can't get enough of their Moonpie drug until 2.AM.
October of 2012, the Moonpies followed up their 2010 debut "the Real Country", and their much applauded Daytrotter “Barnstormer” tours, with the sophomore LP, “The Hard Way”. Check out the video for the first single "Sunday" on YouTube and watch them test their acting skills. As with each show, deeply sentimental front-man, Mike Harmeier commands his two-stepping crowd with every song as he growls and drawls his way through the high energy set. The guitar playing of Catlin Rutherford (who is often caught on stage with a cigarette between his lips) echoes a young Buddy Miller, but he commands the instrument the way a hunter commands his rifle. Zachary Moulton is a tattooed vision of toughness on the pedal steel, and bass player Preston Rhone roots the band with his Rick Danko like presence and guitar riffs.
A typical Moonpies set would include nearly every song off each of their debut albums. But don't forget this band can down a set ‘70s classics for 4 hours like it's a bottle of Jack Daniels. You want George Strait songs??...they know them all. Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm, Gary Stewart and more are mixed in for good measure. They are the house band for the Last Waltz at Club Deville every Thanksgiving. As the Austin Chronicle said “they have been ruling the roost for several years now” in the Austin Honky-tonk scene and are starting to do so in other parts of the country after a much buzzed about SXSW 2013 run of shows.
Praise for The Moonpies:
“Truly, THE best show of SXSW- Mike and the Moonpies at the White Horse!!”- Daytrotter
“Mike and the Moonpies are a prime example that classic country is still going strong in 2012. Their regular appearances at Austin’s White Horse are already legendary, and they have quite a cultural melting pot (no pun intended) at their shows. Suffice it to say, if Austin’s famous ‘70’s live music venue, the Armadillo World Headquarters, was still around, they’d fit right it. No matter where you catch Mike and the Moonpies, they make any joint feel like a good ol’ Texas honky-tonk. Just make sure you come ready to dance”- Texas Music Magazine