tbt* profile: Rec Center

Rec Center
By Julie Garisto, tbt* columnist
In print: Friday, August 15, 2008

Susie Ulrey and Michael Waksman headline Rec Center.
[Courtesy of Nicole Kibert]

Recreational therapy: Susie Ulrey, vocals, guitar and keyboards; Michael Waksman, vocals and guitar; Brian Roberts, bass; and Keith Ulrey, drums.

Impressive resumes: Married band mates Susie and Keith Ulrey were in Pohgoh and Maccabees in the ’90s. Keith Ulrey and Waksman are now in Zillionaire, one of tbt*’s ultimate local bands for 2007. Waksman also performed in Chester and the Washdown. Brian Roberts is in Hankshaw, Redhands and Murder-Suicide Pact.

Celluloid inspiration: Susie, Keith and pals ritually watched the 1979 teen-angst drama Over the Edge, starring Matt Dillon and Vincent Spano. The town in the movie, New Granada, inspired Keith’s record label and promotions company, New Granada Presents. The rec center is where the angry youth congregated. Waksman says that the name of their new band was also intended to invite musicians to join in and collaborate. So the band would be sort of a recreation center for local rockers.

Their sound: Mellow electric with some acoustic touches.

What they play: Waksman, a Telecaster Deluxe. “I try to make it a warm sound,” he says. “I use the neck pickup, trying to make it bright. It’s pretty much the same sound I use with Zillionaire except it’s half as loud with no distortions.”

Susie Ulrey: “I play organ, bells, piano, and I have a Daisy Rock guitar. … It’s so pretty — yellow mother of pearl and the fretboard is inlaid with flower vines. Very girly.”

Susie’s voice: Delicate, sweetly expressive and powerful; comparable to Blossom Dearie of Schoolhouse Rock fame.

How it all came together: Waksman started adding keyboard parts to Susie’s solo material and she added keyboard parts to his songs. They performed shows late 2004. Roberts and Keith joined in on recordings and band practices. “Susie and I switch off on songs that we bring in. We haven’t started collaborating on songs yet,” Waksman says. “I’ll bring in a song I wrote, or she’ll bring in song she wrote and everyone else might throw in an idea about how an arrangement might go.”

Rocking on: Susie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001. She hasn’t had progressed symptoms in two years and considers herself in remission. The absence of complications has afforded her time to concentrate on writing and playing music. “I love to play,” she says. “I miss it. I was so not shy about telling Keith how jealous I was that he was rocking in a band. I missed that. Of course, we’re rocking quietly. But we were rocking. The first couple of times of practice with the four of us, I was so wound up. We got done and it was 11 o’clock. I was so excited.”

Hear ’em: 9 p.m. Saturday with Pemberley, Sons of Hippies and Nathalia Estrada, at New World Brewery in Ybor City. $6. (813) 248-4969. myspace.com/reccentertampa.

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