Have you ever walked into a bar intimidated by the row of hogs and Harleys parked out front? Wondered about the reception you’d get from the bikers partying down inside? It wasn’t quite that way with the dozen Vespa, Lambretta and Velocette knockoffs lining the sidewalk in front of the Fabulous Dingo Bar (now Burt’s Tiki Lounge) when UV Transmission was headlining. Rather than wielding chains and wearing leathers, these riders sported one-button blazers, Cuban heel boots and M65 parkas with the Royal Air Force insignia on the back. The crowd was there not to pogo or mosh (thankfully!) but to dance.
While acknowledging Ride and the early Stone Roses, UV Transmission took a step back from the nascent Britpop scene with an American take on ’60s English discotheque guitar pop and added dashes of mod manner and swirling psychedelic leads. “Psychedelic” here taken from the time that it meant carefully coiffed lads in Edwardian threads indulging in a handful of Preludins and a puff or two instead of the stateside acid-rock aesthetic.
Far from the vapid Austin Powers stereotype that everyone seemed to be goofing on at the time, UV was serious about its music. Every show was refreshing. You could step away from the dozens of “third wave punk” / alt-rock bands popping up in every garage and dance to songs with melody and just enough crunchy edge to keep things interesting. The band even earned a passing mention in CMJ New Music Monthly in 1997 as an “up and coming” outfit.
The proper gear is important to any band, but UV Transmission assembled just the right pieces to do justice to its ideals. Robert Urias sang lead while playing a 12-string 370 Rickenbacker guitar, heavy on the Super Reverb. He occasionally manned a Viscount Organ for an authentic sound rather than tabletop synthesizer blips and bleeps that have cheapened many a band. Matt Dickens (later of Burque’s ultimate Brit-influenced band The Mindy Set) supplied harmony vocals and bass on a Rickenbacker 4001. His brother Chris provided a steady popping backbeat on the drum stool. Pulling out any one of a half-dozen guitars in his arsenal, Mike Easton matched Urias reverb for reverb.
Released in 1997, the CD Transmission Received contained three- and four-minute tracks that were slightly polished but raw enough to capture the band’s live performances. “Let Me Turn You On (To A Little Love)” would’ve been the swinging hit single if it had managed to garner any but local airplay. Grittier by far was the rockin’ self-titled 7-inch vinyl single. Both discs were self-released on the unfortunately named Shag Records. Unlike many of UV Transmission’s local contemporaries (The Rondelles, Scared of Chaka, The Eyeliners), the band’s slim discography rarely appears on hipster record collector websites, which means everyone is hanging onto their copies. So am I.