The Underground Sounds of America: Pohgoh
Welcome to the latest installment of U.S.A.: The Underground Sounds of America, our series that shines a spotlight on the most underrated rock, metal, punk, and hardcore bands in the United States. Each week, we ask one band member to answer five unique questions so you can get to know them better. Because if you aren’t already a fan of the artist featured below…you should be.
Over the last 15 years, “emo” has been tossed around as carelessly as the catch-all phrase “indie rock,” misapplied to pop rock bands ranging from Fall Out Boy to My Chem. But any OG fan of the post-hardcore subgenre that dominated the punk rock underground in the late ‘90s can recognize the real deal; they know that Pohgoh are legitimate emo royalty.
The Tampa, Florida, foursome only released one full-length album throughout their short existence from 1994 to 1998. But the impact of In Memory of Bab — along with that of a handful of singles, splits, and compilation contributions — has reverberated for decades. The band is regularly honored in nostalgic music podcasts, geeky music sub-reddits, retrospective playlists, and genre-defining round-ups.
It hasn’t been an entirely easy road for singer and guitarist Susie Richardson Ulrey, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001. And though she’s been battling (and triumphing over, as far as we can tell!) the disease from a wheelchair ever since, the musician has stayed active with her other band, Rec Center (also featuring husband and Pohgoh drummer, Keith Ulrey), and independent record label, New Granada (co-owned with hubby Keith, whom she apparently sees a lot of).
However, none of her musical achievements to date could be more momentous than the release of Pohgoh’s long awaited sophomore effort — their first album in twenty years. Secret Club, due out on September 7th, is a fantastic piece of work that builds upon the bittersweet sonic bedrock the band initially laid out, while lyrically exploring the ups and downs of living with one bitch of a disease.
Seeing as Pohgoh fans are already champing at the bit for the album, and it would be a crime for any emo lover to not know this band, we asked Ulrey a few questions to satiate old fans and new. Here’s what she had to say:
1. If you had to choose one Pohgoh song, which do you feel would be the single best introduction to someone unfamiliar with the band?
Probably Friend X (from The Emo Diaries, Chapter. 1: What’s Mine Is Yours, 1997). The song was always a favorite and our most recognized song. The comp gave us a wider audience for sure. Over the years, we’ve received messages, emails, and social media posts about how the song was very special to people’s lives. With that in mind, we believe it also resonates musically as well as, lyrically, so it’s probably a good jumping off point, and one of our slower, moodier songs with the classic loud/quiet/loud formula.
2. What/who are your five greatest musical influences?
1. Juliana Hatfield
5. Velocity Girl
3. The lyrics of the album center quite a bit around some of the obstacles you’ve faced over the last few years dealing with MS. In what ways is the writing process now different from or the same as when you were composing music in the late ’90s?
When I was younger, the lyrical content was more surface. It all seemed so important and precious to me at the time, but in retrospect I really had no idea what I was in for. How can anyone, though? At this point in my life, songwriting has become an outlet for me to work through the spectrum of feelings I’m greeted with every day. It’s therapeutic and one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given.
4. Touring in a wheelchair is surely challenging. But are there any ways in which your disability might actually be an advantage on stage, in the studio, or on the road?
It’s a logistical nightmare. I have a handicapped tag so we’ll have great and/or free parking. We’ll also be packing two portable ramps and a camping toilet. Maybe one advantage is that we’ve had to get… creative? Also, while booking the tour Keith has been met with a wide array of what “accessible” means. He’s been educating promoters and venues about what is truly required to be 100% accessible.
I’ve also been strength training two to four times a week for the last six years. I have to exercise to maintain my current level of function (low weights/high reps)….I’ve discovered that I’m more capable than I give myself credit for and I can push out of my comfort zone. [Previously,] I was in a bubble, afraid to try anything that might be too hard. It’s been a huge confidence boost that has definitely pushed me to work harder as a songwriter and a guitarist.
5. What’s the most emo thing you’ve ever done?
Listened to The Cure’s Disintegration in the dark with lit candles everywhere. I was 15.