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The Tuxedo Cats: A Lot of Music, History and Fun

By Amanda Main

The Tuxedo Cats have been together about five years, but their founding members have been playing together for eight years. Todd Rinlee, 48, and Mike Harper, 56, founded the Tyler-based band out of a desire to play family-friendly venues, including weddings, birthday parties, and “more upscale venues” around East Texas.

The other two members are Steve Graham, 46, and Scott Garrison (Scotty G.), 54. Todd plays guitar, Mike plays drums, Steve plays bass, and Scott plays keyboard. Todd says everyone in the band contributes to vocals.

EGuide recently spoke with Todd and Mike to find out more about this band full of eclectic sounds — a band that often writes their setlist on the go, as they get a feel from the audience.

EGuide: What would you say sets you apart from other bands?

Mike: First and foremost, it’s probably the skill level of each member. We’ve all been playing for so long (Mike for about 45 years and Todd for about 40), and we have a similar interest, particularly in classic rock, but other genres, as well. And a bit of our stage show is just our banter and our work ethic, man; we are just hard workers. We pour it all out.

EGuide: What can people expect at your shows?

Mike: Free donuts! No, not really.

Todd: I would say that they could expect an extreme variety in the music, because, although we call it classic rock, you’ll hear Scott playing Michael McDonald and then turn right around and sound like Brooks & Dunn, and then we will take it to another place of rock ’n’ roll, and just play The Who and Van Halen and extremely hard stuff. If we see a lot of cowboy hats in the audience, then we’ll turn the country on and start having everybody boot scootin’. And if the venue calls for it, then we can play jazz standards for a couple hours. It’s all about variety for us. We’re looking at the audience and determining what’s gonna make these people happy, as opposed to having a list that we’re gonna play regardless of who’s there.

EGuide: What type of music do you most enjoy playing?

Todd: Oh, that’s tough. I don’t know. I think it depends on our mood. I know with me from one week to another, it’ll change.

Mike: I’m kind of the ’60s Beatles/Rolling Stones kind of guy, but I sure do love all of the styles that Todd mentioned. And some of those were styles that I didn’t even listen to necessarily, prior to playing in this band. It makes it fun to be able to play all these different styles well, and as the drummer, it’s not that hard. I just basically have to show up and not mess up (he chuckles).

EGuide: Well, do you guys also play original music?

Todd: We have a few original tunes. I’ve just put out a CD that’s available on iTunes, and anybody can search my name, Todd Rinlee, and it’ll pop up. It’s called “About You.” And we have pulled a couple of those tunes out. I know Scotty’s done some writing, and we’ve done an original of his a few times. But right now we’re mostly playing covers.

EGuide: As for your original music, what themes pop up in the lyrics of those songs?

Mike: Usually about pain. No, I’m just kidding. I’ll speak for Todd briefly and let him elaborate, but I know on his CD, some of it is about relationships.

Todd: Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

EGuide: So, do you have any plans to put out an album as The Tuxedo Cats?

Todd: Maybe eventually.

EGuide: Are you wanting to do more songwriting or mostly have fun playing covers for now?

Todd: We would always like to do some original things. I think at this point, it’s finding the time. We are staying really booked right now, which is a good thing, and I guess we would really just have to make time to do that. I see it happening though for sure.

Mike: I think a long-range vision would be in that direction, but right now we’re having fun playing around town and playing songs we love, and in the meantime Todd and Scotty are continuing to create, and we’ll incorporate those into the set as we can.

EGuide: What do you love about playing in East Texas?

Todd: I think it’s our fan base. We’ve come to know our fans pretty well, and the fan base is constantly getting bigger, so we just really enjoy that. Meeting new people.

Mike: “Folks is friendly in East Texas!” (he chuckles)

EGuide: What have you learned about life from being a musician?

Todd: I think with this band, I have learned more about dealing in business. I think I handle most of the business end of the band. I’ve never had as much management that I have had to deal with until now. So, I’ve learned a lot about that, as well as just the hard work that goes along with trying to measure up musicians, like the ones that I’m playing with now. We find ourselves hustling to learn music for other people and so, it’s just learning about hard work. Not that we didn’t already know about hard work, but musicians work very hard, as well. I’ve learned that its so much harder than just showing up for a gig and playing. The behind-the-scenes stuff is the work part; the playing music is the major fun part.

Mike: I might add that working in collaboration with other people, if you’ve ever been in a band, there’s an ‘itch that has to be scratched’ there. All of us have been in a lot of bands over the years, but we’ve all kind of found this to be like, “Wow, this is the band I’ve always wanted to be in.” Just the camaraderie and exercising that creative muscle with this group of guys — we’re friends, too. It’s just been very enriching for me.

EGuide: What advice can you give to aspiring musicians?

Mike: Keep your day job. No, not really, because Todd’s full time. We all have other responsibilities outside of the band. Todd’s a full-time musician, as is Scotty. I would say keep your options open. Be willing to do whatever.

Todd: I think for me one of the things that I would like to say to young musicians is, you look at music as a business. You really should be careful of pitfalls, because there are a lot of things that you can get entangled in, simply by association in the music business. So you choose to be a serious businessperson in music, or you have a choice of another very hard road.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely, and I would add one more thing – that this is a gift given to you, so use it that way as a gift to others. It’s real easy to make this “all about me” and if you think of it as a gift that I’m offering to others to try to help somebody feel better, or just to give somebody a smile, that kind of completes the cycle and makes it worthwhile.

For show times and other information on their upcoming dates, visit ToddRinlee.com/events. Find them on Facebook by searching “The Tuxedo Cats.”

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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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