It's been two decades since Pohgoh released In Memory of Bab, and frontwoman Susie Susie Richardson-Ulrey has no regrets about all the time that's lapsed since her band submitted Tampa's contribution to the second wave of emo (a strain post-punk rock).
"Absolutely not. I don’t think regrets serve any purpose," she told CL in a message. "This new record is a perfect bookend to the first one. We have zero expectations and are doing this because we want to and because it’s fun. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for us."
That new record she's talking about is a still-untitled effort produced in-part by emo heavyweight J. Robbins, who helped Pohgoh put it all to tape in his Baltimore studio over the course of 11 days. In the fall, CL declared that Pohgoh's new album is one of our most-anticipated of the upcoming year.
"It was a dream come true," Ulrey said of the experience of working with one of the band's biggest influences.
While we'll have to wait until it's slated September release, local fans may get a glimpse of the album this weekend when Pohgoh plays Gasparilla Music Festival in downtown Tampa. By our count, Pohgoh is the first emo band to play the festival. Richardson-Ulrey is less about the label and more excited to to share some new tunes — which lean on Superchunk, Versus and Ida for inspiration — with her hometown.
"For us, the term 'emo' was more about the punk rock DIY community that we were a part of. Are my songs emo? Yeah, every single one is about emotions or experiences," she said of Pohgoh's catalog which has physically reached Europe, Japan and even South America.
"It’s really magical to build something with your friends and then get to share it with people."
Read our short Q&A — and listen to some Pohgoh — below. See our GMF listening guide here.
Full disclosure: From 2013-2016, this writer helped coordinate social media efforts for GMF
Last year CL talked about how we couldn't wait to hear the new album. Could you give us some details on how that's going?
First of all, thank you! We’re super excited about it. We were on a songwriting spree and I suggested to the boys that we go away somewhere to make an album. We’ve never had the opportunity to do it in the past - so why not? In my mind, there was only one place I wanted go- I wanted to work with J. Robbins. It could’ve been a total disaster but it was the complete opposite. J is (aside from being a huge influence on all of us) patient and insanely smart and immediately got our aesthetic. We drove up to Baltimore on a Sunday, tracked 11 songs in five days at Magpie Cage and drove home Saturday. It was a dream come true! It’s slated for a September release.
And a lot has changed in music, the world in general, since In Memory Of Bab was released 20 years ago. Can you talk about how much that Susie writing songs for 'Bab' has changed since then?
20 years ago, we had the luxury of practicing Sundays and Wednesdays for three hours a stretch. Some of the songs were written off the cuff at practice and some Matt or I would bring to the table. With this record we wrote two ways: either I brought roughed-out songs with and we’d arrange as a band or Matt brought riffs and parts that we’d arrange and then I’d take home to write melodies and lyrics to.
How do those changes show up in the songwriting?
I feel like Matt and I are better songwriters and we’re all better musicians (minus my MS-related dexterity issues). After Pohgoh disintegrated we went on and formed other projects and that’s given us more colors to choose from when we write. Also it gives us the intuition to know what we want a Pohgoh song to sound like.
In your life, especially musically, what hasn't changed in 20 years? Is that for better or for worse?
What hasn’t changed is that we’ve had the gift of circling back around to play with the same musicians we’ve called friends for 25 years. It’s safe. Maybe that’s a detriment? But we also have our own language: cues, references and influences - Keith will nod his head a certain way or Matt gives me a certain side glance and I know what they mean. It isn’t work. It’s really magical to build something with your friends and then get to share it with people.
Technically, you're the first emo band to play GMF, but do you think your sound has moved on from such a specific genre tag?
For us, the term “emo” was more about the punk rock DIY community that we were a part of. Are my songs emo? Yeah, every single one is about emotions or experiences. Stylistically we’ve always leaned more towards indie rock - Superchunk, Versus, Ida. The emo genre itself embraces different styles. Thanks to a comp and a 7 inch we were on in the 90s, our records reached Europe, Japan, South America. That’s pretty cool.
Lately, a lot of light has been shed on the treatment of women in music. The singular unit of Pohgoh was obviously a good situation, but looking back on it so you think there was a lot of mistreatment of women in your scene back in 1998?
Yes, absolutely. Going back and revisiting some memories, I realize now that I was too naive, too young, to uncomfortable to speak up. I felt like I had accomplished something by playing in a band, but I didn’t think that it would be such a novelty. Plus I was a kid and that puts a whole ‘nother weird spin on being a woman in a band. There is still progress that needs to be made.
It's so cool to see Pohgoh return. So you have any regrets about not coming back sooner?
Absolutely not. I don’t think regrets serve any purpose. This new record is a perfect bookend to the first one. We have zero expectations and are doing this because we want to and because it’s fun. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for us.