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Pocket Tangerine: Not Just Your Recommended Daily Dose of Fresh Citrus

vote now etx music awardsBy Johnny Griffith

If you’ve been walking or driving around downtown Tyler on a Tuesday evening lately, chances are you’ve heard some music filling the air. Don’t adjust the volume on your radio, what you’ve been hearing is one of the newer, up and coming bands in Tyler, Pocket Tangerine.

Started in 2014, Pocket Tangerine began as a collaboration between Shiloh McGraw on guitar and Jordan Wilbanks on drums. Using a loop station to fill out the sound a bit, they worked as a duo for several months before putting together a line-up consisting of other local musicians from Tyler Junior College’s Jazz Band ensemble who were looking for a creative outlet and an opportunity to play something out of the ordinary for this area.

We tracked down Shiloh McGraw to get the scoop on just exactly what is going down with the band:

Johnny: First of all, where does the name “Pocket Tangerine” come from?

Shiloh: Before the band got started, Jordan and I would check out different house jam sessions around town in hopes of finding guys to play with. I had recently bought a large bag of clementines and had a few stored in my jacket for a mid-jam snack. When I pulled them out I got a laugh and one of the guys at the jam freestyled a song about getting your daily dose of Pocket Tangerine, and it just stuck.

Johnny: Whose idea was it to start the band?

1922494_827451137271745_228395370_nShiloh: I began recruiting the guys as soon as I joined the TJC jazz band. I guess it was my idea in that sense. I didn’t really think about it at the time, though, it just seemed like the right move to make.

Johnny: Who was the original line-up?

Shiloh: The original group consisted of Billy Trey Groom on keys, Michael Heatley on bass, Forrest Morgan on Tenor Sax, Joseph Schmidt on Alto Sax, Jordan Wilbanks on drums, and  Shiloh McGraw on guitar.

Johnny: What’s the current line-up of the band?

Shiloh: All those same cats with the addition of Montreal Sanders, who we couldn’t be happier to have on board with us. He came in and filled our drummer position while Jordan went to Denton to study at UNT for a year. When Jordan moved back it became an opportunity to expand even further. At full capacity, we now have an aux percussion player. This can add a lot to the rhythmic makeup, especially when dealing with world and Latin styles of music.

Johnny: How would you describe your sound?

Shiloh: Some of our original songs could be described as fusion, funk with flavors of jazz and soul. Everyone in the band brings different stylistic elements to the sound. We cover varying styles of tunes, which helps us develop our diversity. I hope to never have just one or two words to describe the sound.

Johnny: What are your influences musically?

1794731_827450713938454_2001031866_nShiloh: Our first big influence collectively as a band would be Snarky Puppy. We discovered them when the band first got together and have modeled our approach after them. They interact and actively play with many different artists, which is a very cool effort that I respect because it does good things for a music community. As we grow, we are finding our own route but their music definitely inspired us to get going. Other influences include Stevie Wonder, Mark Lettiere, D’Angelo, The Main Squeeze, Roy Hargrove, Charlie Parker, The Beatles, Wes Montgomery, George Duke, and Michael Jackson. This list could go on… That’s my favorite thing; we don’t just work for ourselves in music but also for those who we can inspire. One person’s good performance could be the reason that some kid decides to pick up a guitar, and that kid could go on to be one of the baddest players in the land.

Johnny: I read somewhere that a couple of the band members were accepted into Berklee. What was that process like, and how did that affect PT as a band?

Shiloh: Jordan and I were both accepted into the program but then ran into the problem of funding. Berklee’s program isn’t exactly widely affordable. It was a frustrating experience, as well as motivating. Having something that you think you really want fall just out of reach can definitely drive a person to take steps to ensure that won’t be the case again. I’m glad it went that way, though. I’ve grown so much in my time playing with these guys and have learned much about how to lead. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade it for a Berklee ride.

1456089_827621707254688_1931258794_nJohnny: When and where was your first gig?

Shiloh: Our first performance was at an open mic night out at Lago Del Pino before they shut those events down. It used to be the “place to be” for young local musicians on Wednesdays. I believe Juls has picked that practice up, so I would encourage people to support that. Our first official gig was on the roof at Jake’s on the Square. They had a good view up there!

Johnny: How often do you guys perform publicly?

Shiloh: Currently, we play publicly about three times a month. Between our public shows, we play some private events such as dinners, scholarship luncheons, and weddings.

Johnny: What’s been your favorite memory so far as a band?

Shiloh: Our very first open mic performance at Lago would stand pretty high on the list for me. There was a ton of energy that night with our excitement as a band to do something brand new, as well as with the room’s curiosity to see what was up with this six-man group complete with horns (not often seen in that scene). Another moment that stands very high for the current line-up was our recent show at Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q. They bring in some of the best live music in town from all over, and they have many patrons who come for that reason. The people were great, and the band was on their game that night. It was a good time.

1912414_827450657271793_170454881_nJohnny: What is the biggest challenge, if any, in this area being a band that is a bit different musically than what typically you find here?

Shiloh: Winning the general crowd over with instrumental music is definitely the one big challenge. Everyone can identify with a singer because they perform using language that people understand. Music is its own language that many people just aren’t as familiar with, aside from being nice backing noise behind the singer. Like with many things such as sushi and wine, it seems to be an acquired taste. A good first step that we have taken is adapting many popular tunes to the jazz format. We play the melody and chords to the tune and then improvise from there. We have learned a lot through the challenge and have made many improvements we would not have made otherwise. Therefore, I’m glad for it.

Johnny: Who is your favorite musician/band?

Shiloh: Again, Snarky Puppy would be up there. A lot of the cats in that group have their own solo projects that are all very good too, so it’s hard to get away from that circle. My personal favorite guitarist is Guthrie Govan. The man is a Virtuoso, yet is so reserved and humble. That’s my favorite thing about those who are truly “great.” It takes a humble heart and hard work in my opinion.

Johnny: What are some of the highlights of the upcoming summer for PT?

Shiloh: We are playing at Juls in August, on the 26th and we have another performance scheduled at FRESH. I’m also excited to track some of our original music and hopefully have some full-fledged recordings by the end of the summer. Aside from a few private events, that is all that’s on the calendar as of right now, but more than likely, we will grab a few more dates as the summer continues. Any new dates that we pick up will be posted on the Pocket Tangerine Facebook page.

Johnny: How about the next year, what are the goals for the group?

Shiloh: To expand to new territories! We have always loved the idea of going out to Denton or Dallas to play shows regularly and eventually even across the seas to Europe and beyond.

1911697_827621793921346_46900939_nJohnny: What has been your biggest success so far as a band?

Shiloh: Those times where our original music was better received or generated more energy than the covers. One of the biggest reasons I love music so much is the opportunity to express your unique self fully, and when people find real enjoyment in that, it’s one of the best feelings there is.

Johnny: What do you hope that people hearing you for the first time take away from the show?

Shiloh: I hope people will leave inspired to pave their own way in whatever they do. We aren’t the type/style of band you would usually find around East Texas, but because we love doing this we’ve remained steadfast in working to improve and opportunities have followed. I want people to see that something “different” can work and hopefully people will feel less afraid to break the mold of normal. I also like introducing people to different styles of music and showing them how vast the world of music really is!

Pocket Tangerine On The Web:

Upcoming Shows:

  • August 26th – FRESH in Tyler @ 6pm

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Around East Texas

April 21st: Mouse and the Traps and Bowling for Soup

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Upcoming Concerts

April 21st (8pm) – Mouse & The Traps – After more than 50 years together, Mouse & the Traps continue to be one of the best examples of “Texas Rock & Roll.” Formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, Mouse, Nardo, Dave & Larry continue to give the public just what they want – great rock and roll. Whether you remember “Public Execution,” “Hit the Bricks,” or not, Mouse & The Traps has something for everyone. Tickets are $20-$25.

April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advance online for $15 at etix.com.

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Bands

Blind Pursuit: Chasing Dreams

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By Johnny Griffith

In science, there is a phenomenon known as the Butterfly Effect which states, that in a complex system, small changes in one place can have a larger effect elsewhere. This is best illustrated in the hypothetical example of a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico and causing a hurricane in China.

A more practical example of this would be the formation of the band Blind Pursuit, based out of Palestine, Texas. An amalgamation of sound and styles brought to the table by each individual member, Blind Pursuit is the end result of five people from different backgrounds and geographical origins ending up in a small town in East Texas and magic happening.

Hailing from Southeast Louisiana, Maine, Cayuga, and Harmony, the odds of these five people interacting were astronomical, but small changes had large effects and Blind Pursuit has been a staple in the east Texas music scene for three years now. We recently tracked them down to get to know them just a little better.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has been playing gigs around East Texas since 2015. What was the genesis of the band and what is the current line up?

Blind Pursuit: Our first show was February 28th, 2015 opening for our good friends Blacktop Mojo at Click’s Live in Tyler.

Our current lineup includes Marc Mitchell on drums, Craig Jones on bass guitar, John Reed on lead guitar, Katie Reed with lead vocals, and Michael Jones on lead vocals and acoustic guitar.

Craig and Katie hail from Cayuga, Texas. John was raised right down the road in the Harmony Community just outside of Palestine. Marc migrated from the great state of Maine; and Mike spent most of his time about 45 minutes southwest of New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been in Texas since 1998 and spends his time filling in behind the bar at Pint & Barrel Drafthouse in Palestine, and working construction. He met John and Katie again in 2013. John and Katie own Reed Construction where John builds custom homes and Katie does interior design. Craig owns Oak Floor Supply in Tyler, Texas and Marc is in marketing and communications and sometimes moonlights at the Appleton Coffee House.

Johnny: How about the name – there’s a lot to be said in that name. What does it mean to the band and where did the idea come from?

Blind Pursuit: The name Blind Pursuit stems from the belief that we are all pursuing something, whether it be chasing dreams, running after love, or following your passions; at some point, it takes a blind leap of faith to achieve something truly great. In all actuality, we started with the word ‘Pursuit’ and since we had no idea of how or where we were going or how to get there, ‘Blind’ seemed like the obvious choice.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has a pretty eclectic mix of sounds in your catalog but how would you describe ‘your’ sound?

Blind Pursuit: Wow! That’s a great question, one that we’ve been asking for quite some time. We play what we love. We are a varied group of musicians with different musical backgrounds and tastes, and we play what we would like to hear if we were sitting in the audience. Our own sound stems from songwriting, which is mainly done by our lead singer Michael, and so it definitely has a soulful, emotional style to it, and has a layered Indie rock feel. You can hear a little bit of our southern influences layered in as well as the obvious differences of having two lead vocalists. So if you wanted to pigeonhole us into a specific genre, I would say we fall into the Indie Rock genre, just because it encompasses such a wide variety of sounds and musical stylings.

Johnny: How much of your show is covers versus originals these days?

Blind Pursuit: After the release of our debut album “Offramp,” we do about ¾ covers and the rest originals. New material is constantly being added and we hope to shift the number of originals to a larger segment of the show.

Johnny: About how many shows does the band try to play a month?

Blind Pursuit: We’re currently averaging five shows a month but we are always looking to add to that.

Johnny: Are most of the gigs in the east Texas area or do you travel out of the area?

Blind Pursuit: The majority of our shows are in East Texas. We do travel to north and central Texas on occasion and we are hoping to broaden our travel radius this year.

Johnny: What are you most proud of as a band?

Blind Pursuit: Our album, without a doubt. We feel like it is such an outpouring of who we are and our evolution over the past couple years. It’s like we have given birth to our own child. So much love, nurturing and hard work has gone into this project. Our resources and time have been singularly focused towards this and we could not be prouder of how it has turned out. We worked with so many great musicians and our Producer, Phillip Moseley was a great asset. They have been invaluable in helping us birth this album.

Johnny: What has been your favorite moment, on stage or off, as a group so far?

Blind Pursuit: I think it has been a thousand small moments of connection with our fans. We’ve heard stories where our songs touched someone going through a divorce, or something we sang really resonated with someone going through a tough time, and you just stop for a second after the mad rush and adrenaline goes away, and you think about how you’re affecting people and the connections you’re making. When we see people singing along with our songs, grabbing their person and dancing, when you see an emotional reaction – that’s the good stuff, the reason we do what we do.

Johnny: What is in the works for the year?

Blind Pursuit: We’ve got another handful of songs and hopefully, that will translate into a new project as well. Whether the next step is an EP or a full-length album is yet to be determined.

Johnny: What’s in the water down in Palestine, between Blind Pursuit, Blacktop Mojo, Kolby Cooper, and others… seems like Palestine has become a serious music town. What’s your take on it?

Blind Pursuit: Every once in awhile, “magic” happens in the most unlikely of places. If you’ve seen the documentary on Muscle Shoals and the music that came out of that small studio in Alabama, then you kind of have insight into the madness behind the magic.

All these acts from Palestine are backed by the most awesome community of people who rally behind us and get the word out, grassroots style. The people here truly love music and they believe in us, or we wouldn’t be able to do what we love. We have a connection, not only through the town we’re from but through our producer and the studio we’ve all recorded at, Audioworx.

Johnny: What experience do you hope first timers will have at a Blind Pursuit show?

Blind Pursuit: Someone recently left a review on our Facebook page that sums it up perfectly: “Bet you will leave their concert feeling like your soul is a little more free than when you walked in.” We hope that everyone will leave feeling a little lighter and a little more connected to their fellow man. In a world where we are bombarded with distractions, we hope people can come and reconnect and feel more human than when they came in. We hope the love and passion that we have for life and music can be felt and translates well to concert goers.

Blind Pursuit can be found at facebook.com/Blindpursuit and blindpursuit.com.

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