Cher UK

Spotlight: Mike McCoy's 50th Birthday with Cher UK at Davey's Uptown, 10.4.13

(Photo by Todd Zimmer)
We young pups could stand to learn a thing or two from Mike McCoy.
McCoy is best known as the man behind Cher UK, a band that has been around in various arrangements and cities along the way. Originating in KC in 1989 with Mark Reynolds and Jeff Nichols, Cher UK has undergone several incarnations throughout the years, with McCoy as the only constant—even geographically. In addition, he’s had his hand in other projects here and in his current home of Austin, where he moved in 1998. Among them, The Service Industry, The American People, Wood Roses, Black Rabbits, and Yard Pups.
Throughout his years in his different projects, he has accumulated a smorgasbord of talented players in Kansas City straight down the I-35 corridor to Austin. In fact, he started the North vs. South Music Festival with Baby Grant Johnson in 2003, which brought bands from KC, Austin, Minneapolis, and surrounding areas to collectively display their musical abilities in one place—for the common goal of appreciating of music.
“I am a very fortunate man to have known all these players all these years. The list is long and the people on that list know who they are and why they play music in the first place,” says McCoy. This Friday, he’ll join some of these longtime KC musicians at Davey’s Uptown to play newer tunes and old favorites from the Cher UK catalog. The lineup will include Lyle Wells on guitar, Bernie Dugan on drums, and Jason Beers on bass.
Cher UK reunited at Middle of the Map Fest 2012 and has played a small handful of shows since. Friday’s show will be a special one: McCoy makes his way to the half-century mark.
His thoughts on the big shindig?
“Sometimes you have to go ahead and live in the self enough to fabricate good times with people you love from your history, musically or otherwise. It is indulgent, but it's also not a fucking sport.” To McCoy, performing his songs with friends in front of loved ones and supportive fans has become an integral part of his being. “Though I have intentionally made my life to be a slave to this idea, it also has given me more fulfillment than any one man has a right to. I am a spoiled white American male who depends on his friends' happiness in order to see balance in the world.”
After this symbolic coming of age, McCoy will be working on his first solo record at Sparta Sound in Minnesota with friend Rich Mattson. The studio is in Mattson’s house, a renovated small-town church. “It will be a completely different recording for me, but the lyrical content will be my best so far, appropriately,” remarks McCoy.
The songwriter looks forward to heading back to see old friends. And being a veteran of both the KC and Austin music scenes has given McCoy some perspective on why he’s moved on and what he’s left behind.
“For me, [Austin] is the perfect place to write songs as we get further and further from the ‘good old days’ here. My favorite thing about Austin is its ability to complain about itself and then sit smugly in its own greatness and ballsy creativity,” quips McCoy. “But I need the aural consideration of a town so helplessly out of control and self-indulgent. Austin is the place for that. I need the confusion, I guess.”
But seeing the music community in KC grow over the years has also provided him with valuable insight. “The KC scene is unique and more well-rounded than most scenes. It's insulated at times, but the growth there is surprisingly not marked with the stain of American groupthink that is so common in ultra-fashionable cities and overhyped festival towns.”
Most importantly, there seem to be no doubts in McCoy’s mind that he’s made some incredible musical moments because of the passion he's put forth and has gained from those around him. “It's time with good friends recreating songs that left some sort of mark on my life due to the people who have been kind enough to let me onstage with them, the people who came/come to the shows, the people who have sold the product, the owners of the clubs, the talent buyers in any given region, the production people, bartenders, door staff, sound engineers. Hell, it’s just people.”

Help toast McCoy as he celebrates his 50th on Friday, October 4 at Davey’s Uptown. Get there early for a song-filled evening: the show kicks off at 8 pm with Baby Grant Johnson, followed by Dolls on Fire, John Velghe and The Prodigal Sons, Drop A Grand, The Dead Girls, Cher UK, and Ernie Locke with Missouri Bultaco Association. Facebook event page. 

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also plays drums Drew Black & Dirty Electric and bass in Dolls on Fire and The Philistines. She likes to schedule naps in between her regular schedule whenever possible. There's no shame in that.

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Album review: Cher UK - Little Blue Soldier (EP)

Cher UK has had more lives and iterations than the Saw, Halloween, and Friday the 13th movies combined. It’s the band that won’t die, and we’re all better for it. The recipient of Entertainment Weekly’s Band Name of the Week title for the week of Oct. 1, 1993, Cher UK has been around a couple of decades. 

It is high time the band provide the music-hungry masses with more music to stick on their iPods and phones given the band’s last recording, Berdella, was released about 15 years ago. Thus, Cher UK frontman Mike McCoy and bandmate/bassist Mark Reynolds make good on a promise and bless us with four tracks on the EP Little Blue Soldier. This iteration of Cher UK also includes Bernie Dugan on drums and Michael Stover on lead guitar, with a few special guests along the way.
Kicking off the EP is a song by the same name: "Little Blue Soldier." The song quickly reminds the listener of Mike McCoy’s witty songwriting. Take a portion of the chorus: "Must have been a brain lapse, maybe a collapse of your basic synapse. Hey, maybe you’re crazy. You’re tired of thinking and your thinking’s getting lazy," McCoy croons in a peppy tone. Rounding out the song is a bit of brass courtesy of Kyle Dahlquist on trombone and trumpet.
Dahlquist also makes a turn on "Peace, Love and Fun in the Sun." This song sounds like the band bought stock in some odd Beach Boys. However, it works out in Cher UK’s favor as the song provides a great beat for dancing and some of the most pleasant musical earworms you’ll ever encounter. "Reagan Versus NoLa" is largely instrumental and written by Reynolds. I imagine that a race car driven by guitars sounds like this song. It’s kept at a solid tempo by the drums. In short, it’s a rush of skilled playing.
Cher UK ends the EP with "Denny's After Closing." Serenaded by Betse Ellis’ haunting violin playing, the song evokes memories of legendary nights out in Kansas City and makes you ache for another epic night in in the City of Fountains. People who have experienced a crazy evening in KC should be able to somehow relate this song and if they don't, then they either aren't human or have never really had fun.
I recommend getting your hands on the EP and relishing in its sound, wit, and earworms. As a whole, Little Blue Soldier is a little bit pop, a little bit country, and a little bit rock & roll, but nothing like Marie and Donny Osmond—testify! 
Cher UK will be releasing a limited-edition copy of Little Blue Soldier at Davey's Uptown this Saturday, October 20. They'll share the stage with Hotdog Skeletons and The Pedaljets. Facebook event here.

--Alicia Houston

Alicia Houston eats toast, drinks coffee and drives a car. Her view on the Oxford comma continually is up for debate. When she’s had a few beers, Alicia impersonates Katherine Hepburn. She has been writing since she was five and listening to music since she was born. She has a tattoo of a gray unicorn. The unicorn gives her advice and daily affirmations.

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On The Beat with Bernie Dugan

This week's edition of On The Beat features multi-faceted drummer Bernie Dugan of The Brannock Device, Cher U.K., and The Quivers. He's a busy guy and a gear head. How does he do it? Catch the beat right here!

On The Beat is a weekly interview brought to you by drummer Sergio Moreno (of Hillary Watts Riot and Alacartoona), and features some of the many talented drummers in the Kansas City area.


On The Beat with Bernie Dugan



On The Beat with Bernie Dugan


Bernie Dugan’s style is a lot like the many drumsets he’s collected through the years; rooted in tradition, warm in sound, steady in performance and most importantly, sparkly and fun. As the drummer for The Brannock Device, Cher UK and The Quivers, Dugan has swiftly become a staple of our local music scene.

The Deli: How did the drums find you?

Bernie DuganMy brother and brother-in-law both play drums. I started out playing on my brother's set. He is a lefty, so I would always have to rearrange his drums. I bought my own set in 1985, after saving up my money.

The Deli: Tell us about your collection.

BD: It is a slippery slope...You buy one, then another...and if you are not careful, you end up with more drums than room to keep them in. I got out of control in the late 1990s. I owned 12 drum sets and 40 or 50 snare drums. I just kept on finding good deals. I eventually grew tired of the size of my collection and scaled it down. Currently each band I am in has its own drum kit complete with bass drum art and I keep a kit in my practice space.

The Deli: What's up with vintage drums?

BD: I have a love-hate relationship with vintage drums. They can have a great warm tone that can't be duplicated with modern materials, but old drums have problems. Vintage drums were not made with the same precision that drums are made with today. Older drums have characteristics that you have to work around. Inevitably, parts fail and that can be a hassle especially when you are on stage.

I played vintage drums exclusively for years. Then one day, I had enough. Forty-year-old drums are not built to withstand the abuse I was dishing out at the time. I sold all of my vintage drums except for a snare drum and bought some second-hand, custom-built drums.

Some of the custom drum builders are making outstanding instruments. They tune easily, stay in tune and the modern hardware is so much more reliable. I played a number of custom kits for nearly 10 years and avoided vintage drums until I used the studio kit for the latest Brannock Device recording. It was a beautiful 1960s Ludwig Blue Sparkle kit. I was hooked. I never realized how much I missed that warm, woody tone. Shortly after I picked up the Gold Sparkle Ludwig kit that I use with The Quivers.

The Deli: Obligatory question: your favorite drummers. And why?

BD: I have too many favorites to list. My first favorite was Stewart Copeland. At the tender age of 14, he floored me. I couldn't comprehend why he sounded so different but I knew what he was doing was important. Ringo is on the list because he has style. Some of Ringo's beats will stick in your head like an ear worm. Max Roach is my favorite jazz drummer because he possessed all of the technical ability, yet had a very organic feel. Stephen Hodges is pretty remarkable, he has played on my favorite Tom Waits songs and my favorite Mike Watt songs.

The Deli: What's your process?

BD: The songs dictate much of what I do and I play what feels right to me. It is pretty simple, I don't try to analyze a song, I just try to feel it. I approach each band differently. With The Quivers, I have to keep it solid. I lock in with the bass and leave plenty of room for the rest of the instruments. I play what needs to be played while keeping it satisfyingly interesting. The Brannock Device is something completely different. It is about pushing and being shoved, but in a good way.

The Deli: Playing in three different bands, is it ever tricky?

BD: I just enjoy playing music and truly enjoy the people I play with. I consider my band members some of my best friends and would hang out with them even if we weren't in bands together.

Scheduling is the only real complication because, like me, most of my bands' members also play in multiple bands and/or have extensive solo performances.

Bernie is a busy drummer; if you haven’t seen him play yet, you will. Catch him live at recordBar this Sunday, June 24 with The Brannock Device (Sonic Spectrum’s tribute to The Minutemen) and June 30 with The Quivers (Sonic Spectrum’s Local Music Showcase).

 -Sergio Moreno

Sergio is a drummer drone for The Hillary Watts Riot and a contraption set buffoon with Alacartoona. He wishes he could get paid to practice meditation, do yoga, and drink white tea all day long. But in the meantime he earns his keep making greeting cards in Spanish.


Bernie Dugan
Bernie Dugan 


The Brannock Device
Into The Witness Chamber

The Quivers
The Quivers EP

Cher U.K.
She's A Weird Little Snack