July 12, 2016
After two full-length albums, five Summer Jams and six years of writing, performing and touring throughout the Southeast, Those Cats — one of Statesboro’s best-known bands — is taking its final bow.
For the time being, at least.
“It’s not a ‘goodbye,’ but a ‘see you later’,” said lead singer Cyril Durant, who is calling the break an “indefinite hiatus.”
Since beginning as a four-person instrumental band in 2010, the funk-and-blues ensemble has gone through several major lineup changes with an ever-evolving sound, having as many as seven players at one time. Throughout the years, though, the band has had a backbone of three original, constant members: guitarist Zac Tilson, bass player Miles Wiggins and drummer Scott Underwood. For some bands, such major upheavals would signal the beginning of the end, but that isn’t why Those Cats is disbanding now; in fact, Underwood said that in-and-out cast of characters in Those Cats’ lineup has been a definite strength.
“When I started it, that’s kind of what I wanted it to turn into,” Underwood said. “The name is a very ambiguous, faceless thing. … It becomes a whole slew of people — not just a core group, but a lot of people we still keep in contact with.”
The major upheavals facing Those Cats now are not internal lineup changes or in-band strife. Underwood said that the band members current changes are natural consequences of getting older and transitioning away from the college town in which Those Cats began. Durant and Tilson recently got married — one in October of last year and one in November — and relocated to Savannah; and Underwood is preparing to move to Athens, Georgia, with the members of his other music group, The Band Piano., which has been garnering rapid recognition around the state.
Between growing commitments, hour-long commutes and the already difficult challenge of organizing five people’s schedules for practice time, Those Cats was finding it almost impossible to find time to rehearse, let alone book consistent gigs. But rather than let the band dwindle away, Underwood said the band discussed entering their hiatus with a controlled descent.
“It fell into place,” Underwood said. “Everybody was at that point to where it made sense to put it on hold.”
The members of Those Cats packed their final schedule with many of their favorite haunts, including a last show at Gnat’s Landing, their “second home in Statesboro,” in addition to McLovins in Savannah and Atlanta’s Soul Music Fest, both of which are slotted for the end of July. Their July 16 performance at Summer Jam will be the sixth consecutive Summer Jam they have appeared in — a particularly impressive accomplishment, given that the festival has been running for eight years.
With their funky soulful sound, Those Cats have long been carrying the torch of the Statesboro blues, but the band has been more than a constant presence in the local scene: It has been an active participant in shaping that scene, providing inspiration to younger up-and-coming bands and giving musicians a chance to temporarily share the stage. In 2011, Those Cats participated in a concert event called “Jam for Chambers,” raising money for a favorite local bartender who had suffered a sudden aneurysm; and in 2013, they held a fundraising concert to raise money for the family of an Eagle, Nick Ward, who was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street.
“We like to give back to the people who have given to us, and Statesboro has been a staple for us,” Durant said. “It’s where we got started, and anything we could have done to help out, we were more than willing to do.”
More than just giving them a start, Those Cats’ Statesboro fans have poured back into them, too; the band’s first album, Something More Specific (2014), was Kickstarter-funded largely by Boro-based backers.
And through it all, Durant said, the band members’ relationships transcended bandmate status into deeper, genuine relationships. They have been groomsmen in each other’s weddings and supported their respective musical projects.
“It’s more like we’re putting the band to rest more than we are our relationships with each other,” Underwood said.
So while Those Cats are hanging up their instruments for the time being, there is still a chance that these old friends and veterans of the stage might pop up every now and then for reunion appearances or surprise shows. On the Facebook post listing their final July shows, they have followed “the end” with a conspicuous question mark.
“It’s not to say we won’t be playing again,” Durant said, a little coyly. “It just might not be as soon as people would like.”