In the Secret Places subdivision of McFarland, the basement of one of the houses has been turned into a recording studio. Hours have been spent in there rehearsing and laying down tracks for an upcoming album. It’s easy to look past the row of houses on Windmill Way and not know which one Ultrea is practicing in.
Ultrea has been together for just over a year and is made up of Jen Lecesse, vocals; Greg Dellmann, rhythm guitar; Bryan Lawver, drums; Jason Wepking, bass; and Chris Swenson, guitar.
Ultrea was created through previous relationships the members had. Swenson jokes that he’s known Lecesse since they were both in diapers; they were also in a band together. Prior to Ultrea, Dellmann and Swenson were in a band together. The pair then began their own band and contacted Lecesse in 2011. Since then, the line-up has changed a bit to where they are now.
“It went pretty fast,” Dellmann said.
When asked to describe their sound, Swenson described it as Evanescence meets Killswitch Engage.
“We try to be diverse actually because the influences for each of us are quite different,” Lecesse said. “We have some similar influences but a lot of our influences are really different so a few of our songs ride the lines of more rock and a few of our songs ride a little bit more of a hard rock-slash-metal take.”
The band said they are still developing their sound but they know they want to promote a positive message through their music.
“Our message is don’t give up on your dreams, don’t let people push you around, life is hard and you have to stand up and do what you believe,” Lecesse said.
Wepking added Ultrea’s lyrics are pretty clean with only two instances where they use swear words, which can really easily be edited out.
“An eight-year-old can listen to it and a 90-year-old can listen to it and not feel offended by it,” he said.
Wepking said even his grandmother likes to listen to Ultrea. He said the first time she listened to the band she wasn’t quite sure she liked it. However, when Wepking’s grandmother turned the music down to a quiet volume, she loved it.
During the band’s Brat Fest performance on Saturday, Ultrea kept it loud for the audience.
It’s not just the volume of Ultrea that reaches 11, it’s also the energy from the members. At their performance Lecesse perched herself on a speaker while Swenson was jumping. The spark continues when the band does an interview. Hours before a Sunday night show, they seem to be ready to take the stage and give a high power performance.
The band considers themselves to be a family and they act accordingly, good-naturedly teasing one another and having some laughs. Lawver said it’s the time Ultrea spends together that makes them closer.
It’s not just the members of Ultrea who make up the family – there are spouses, significant others, parents and, between the bandmates, 11 children.
Wepking describes the band rehearsals as being almost like a family having supper at a grandparents’ house. They all eat together before the band heads down to the basement.
“Every time we’re practicing down here the kids are rocking out and pushing the door open,” Lawver said.
The members said they get a lot of support from their family members and friends, who they often refer to as saints.
When Ultrea performs many people overlook the unofficial sixth member, Luke Drury, 29 of Wisconsin Dells. Wepking describes him as the band’s sound guy/techie/roadie.
“Luke is our Godsend,” Wepking said. “He helps us load in, load out, set up, sound. He’s got a great work ethic. He helps us out tremendously.”
The conversation turns to the Madison Area Music Association Awards (MAMAs) where Ultrea is nominated for Best Hard Rock/Punk Performer and Best Hard Rock/Punk Song for “Before the Storm.” Lecesse said it was an honor to be nominated for the awards.
Right now, Ultrea is recording their new music in Wepking’s basement. The band created the studio during the last several months. Lawver said the studio has paid for itself – on Saturday he was able to lay down six hours of drums for the upcoming album. If they had to rent studio space, it would have cost more than $100 for that amount of time.
Until the new album comes out later this year, Ultrea will continue to record, rehearse and perform.
“We’re going to keep doing what we do and move forward,” Dellmann said, “and play for as many people as we can.”