A Chat with The Cowboys

Bloomington rock band The Cowboys get ready for their third show at Joyful Noise Recordings.

With shows in St. Louis, Detroit, and a Bloomington Walmart, The Cowboys have been making a name for themselves throughout the Midwest. The four self-taught musicians, all Indiana natives, have opened for Screaming Females and have been active in the Bloomington community, playing a gig at Landlocked Music on Record Store Day 2015.

Image courtesy of The Cowboys

Image courtesy of The Cowboys

Since 2012, vocalist Keith Harmon (KH), guitarist Mark McWhirter (MM), bassist Jordan Tarantino (JT), and drummer Zackery Worcel (ZW) have been making music as a team. With three records in their catalog, all of which have been released on cassettes, The Cowboys, are preparing for their third show at Joyful Noise.

With musical influences like The Velvet Underground, DEVO, and Brian Wilson, the Bloomington-based group looks to old school local bands for inspiration. Although the band simply enjoys playing music with one another, they’ve had numerous successes. As the most downloaded band on Musical Family Tree, they’ve toured with local group Purple 7 and have done gigs throughout the Midwest.


Getting ready for their Friday night show, which will include new material, the band reflected on how the group of four first got together to make music, along with what they consider the highlights of being a part of the group.

We caught up with the band to discuss plans for new music and their goals as a collective group.

Your band formed in Bloomington, but where in Indiana are you all originally from?

MM: I’m from Indianapolis, our bass player is from Goshen, and our singer and drummer are from Lawrence, Indiana.

Out of the cities and venues that you’ve played, do you have a favorite stop?

MM: I like Detroit a lot, I had a lot of fun there. We played at this place called the Trumbullplex, it’s this big Victorian mansion. It was just a lot of fun, it was open to anyone who wanted to come and it was a lot of fun.

How did The Cowboys form?

KH: Jordan and I were trying to get something together, and then Jordan met Zack, our bass player, and I met Mark at a party. We got together and started playing covers and it started to snowball. Real organic.

MM: We played under different names for like six months or something, and then we took a while off. When we came back together, we really found our sound and Keith took over songwriting, and I think it was around that time that we decided on a band name.

The Cowboys performing at the Bloomington Walmart

The Cowboys performing at the Bloomington Walmart

All of your music can be found on Musical Family Tree. How did you guys get involved with the site, and what does a resource like that mean for local bands?

MM: Musical Family Tree is a big part of my musical stuff. It turned me onto a lot of old Indiana bands. Basically it’s a database of bands from this region. A lot of these groups might not have had an official release, so there’s a lot of music that you might not get to hear otherwise. When I was doing my solo stuff, I put all of my music on there and interacted with a lot of people on there. I really appreciate the site. When The Cowboys got together, I made sure to get all of our stuff on there. It’s a cool thing. It’s sort of like SoundCloud or Bandcamp but for local bands. It’s really growing, too.

How did you get involved with Joyful Noise?

MM: I think the last two times we’ve played there, someone contacted us, I think someone we knew and ask if we wanted to play. They ask local bands that they think might be a good fit. I think we all know some people who are involved in Joyful Noise. It’s fun to go there, it’s good people.

Your last album came out in 2014. For this show, are you performing new material?

KH: We’ve got a lot of new songs. We took a little while off, because Mark moved back to Indianapolis for a little bit, but we’re getting back into it. We’re going to record soon, so the (Joyful Noise) show will be mostly new songs.

What’s it like playing new material for an audience? Is it nerve wracking?

MM: For me, playing guitar, if I like the song, I’m excited to play it. I generally like Keith’s songs. If I don’t like it, I’ll tell him.

KH: We usually don’t play songs unless we have it down. So there’s no point being nervous.

The Cowboys will be playing at Joyful Noise Friday, Feb. 26.

Doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 8:30 p.m.