When one encounters an acronymous band name, the first instinct is to decode its meaning. So what might one guess as the meaning for the band name U.R.B.? Initially the word “urban” comes to mind. You also can’t help but guess the words represented by each letter. Unforgiven Rabid Beavers? Unavoidable Rock Beats? Unicorns Racing Backwards? Does it have anything to do with the word “herb”?
They deny it.
For U.R.B.’s first two gigs, they hadn’t named themselves, so the venue called them U.R.B. for “Unnamed Reggae Band,” though the band does seem to appreciate the mystery the initials inspire.
“Well, we never really wanna tell it,” frontman Dave Pagan told me in a recent phone interview. “We always leave it up to speculation. Originally, we wanted everyone to have their own idea about what it meant. People always think they know what it means, and we’re like, ‘No, you don’t.’”
(So, does that mean it doesn’t stand for Unicorns Racing Backwards?)
U.R.B. play a mix of rock, reggae and R&B (hmm, all R’s). Possibly the affinity for letters comes from Pagan’s Scrabble background. “I’m a member of the NSA – National Scrabble Association. I’m nationally ranked.” Several of the band’s songs come out of these games. “We play a lot of Scrabble. A lot of our songs have been written over games of Scrabble. We were playing Scrabble, writing songs ...”
Pagan seems genuinely appreciative to have found the other members of U.R.B.
“These are a bunch of good, talented players, and they’re professionals,” he said. “It makes it easy for me if I don’t have to worry about everybody. I’ve been in bands with problems; band dudes are slackers, [but with U.R.B.] everyone knew each other, and I was like ‘This is a band right here.’”
The other band members are Tim Manges on guitar and vocals, Kelly Tellef on bass, Jim Teel on keyboards and vocals and Dave Trevino on drums.
Aside from the Scrabble inspiration, Pagan describes his songwriting process as one that’s both intuitive and incidental.
“Sometimes I write songs to get back at people. Sometimes I’ll just wake up and write a song and it’s a great song. Songwriters are a rare breed ... I’ve got tons of songs that no one’s even heard yet. I just got a lot of ideas. A lot of them I come up with some guitar and some vocals and then the boys help me arrange it and put it in a package. A couple of the guys in the band are really good at arranging things. I put riffs on the table and they can mix it up right. It’s a good combination. Those guys mix it up, and it becomes something totally different than what I intended. It just naturally evolves. Songs have a way of developing naturally just through playing them.”
Though their MySpace page indicates a few influences, including Bob Marley, The Beastie Boys, Toots and the Mayals and Prince, Pagan says their influences are varied and not easily defined.
“We all like an eclectic mix of music. Anyone in the band if you ask what they listen to, you’d probably be like, ‘Are you serious?’ We could pretty much do about anything. I could be like, “Let’s play something that’s rock, let’s play something that’s reggae,” and those guys can do it.”
Pagan prefers rock and funk. “I like rockin’ guitars and rappin’. Early Funkadelic was something that really moved me a lot when I was playing guitar. You can’t go wrong with any of that Funkadelic stuff. Beat for beat note for note, I love that stuff.”
Pagan, who claims to be “one of the baddest plastic fabric fabricators in the world – “That’s my 9-5, not my claim to fame, my 9-5” – also seems to be inspired by his child’s mother, Shandis, his girlfriend of 11 years. He called back in a sweet gesture to ask that this article mention he loves her.
The band is looking forward to a CD release in the near future. “The CD is gonna be awesome,” Pagan said. “[The songs] sound really good. We put them on at Digitracks. It should be coming out in the next couple months. I’d like it to be out sooner than later. It’s comin’, man, real soon. It’s gonna sound great. It’s gonna kick ass. I can’t help saying that, even though I’m in the band. If I walked into a room and heard it I’d be like ‘This is good stuff.’”
U.R.B. are playing at the Botanical Roots Concert Series – opening for The Ark Band on Friday, July 29 – and they recently kicked off the TRF concert series, opening for the Bob Marley tribute band Seefari.
“I’m just glad I’m playing gigs,” said Pagan. “Sometimes it might seem like people don’t support it too much, but you could probably any night of the week see a really good band in Fort Wayne. You can see a different genre any time of the week. Should it be better? Sure. But it’s not as bad as people like to whine about. It ain’t that bad. We’re not doing too bad for Fort Wayne.”