Kansas native and Austin resident Mike McCoy is a man for all seasons. A gifted singer, composer, songwriter, social commentator and conceptual artist from the heartland, McCoy has been making music for more than 30 years, incorporating a whiplash array of styles and genres from country-roots to punk to performance art and power pop. All overlap in McCoy’s world.
Mike founded the KC power-pop band Cher UK (Cargo/FistPuppet) & (Red Decibel/Columbia Records) in the mid 1990s and has fronted other quirky conceptual bands (often, tongue planted firmly in cheek) such as the Black Rabbits of Lawrence, Kansas, and two Austin critics’ darlings, the American People and the Service Industry. Mike is also a prolific solo artist whose latest venture, The Death Bus (digital release only), harkens back to his earliest and perhaps most natural milieu -- roots/country/balladeer. In 2016, he will continue expanding his solo repertoire and he hopes to wrap up the year with a new record.
An religion studies and art-history graduate of TCU, fund-raising researcher at Yale, a carpenter/designer in Austin, an online “word contortionist” and a former museum administrator in KC, McCoy’s truest calling is the crafting of songs. He’s a hayseed intellectual-philosopher whose compositions strike the right balance of plaintive and high-brow, sardonic and humble. McCoy brings a singular, poet’s sensibility to the music equation. He writes about a wonderful waitress in a rundown town who has the power to make or break your stay ("if you treat her well, you might get what you want…"), about an immigrant woman whose dreams of America lead her to a lonesome life as a domestic ("feather duster I believe her, no one sees the way I see her…"), about American apathy and how winter is a submarine ("winter is a submarine -- I lay inside and I no longer dream...”). In most of McCoy's songs, there is something deeply wistful, despite the freighted narratives and their dizzying wordplay. He's a serious guy and he writes about serious stuff. Yet in the lyrics and in the spaces between words and melody, you can almost hear that lone whistle blow in the dark of a heartlands night; you hear a style of writing that combines political commentary and snarky populism with an inextinguishable belief that somehow, with the right blend of gumption and fortitude, we humans might just pull off something good. He’s equal parts punk-rock-Americana -- a strange brew of Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, John Mellencamp, Ramones and Burl Ives. But no matter in what incarnation you encounter Mike McCoy, you’ll find he’s driven by the same basic themes: ideas and ideals of humanity, principles and hopes, outrage and indignation, absurdism and dadaism, puns and poetry and parody, with a large dose of red-white-and-blue wishful thinking.