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Richmond's bad girls of rock hunger for the spotlight. 

Ultra Base

Richmond's Ultra Bait is a girl-led, punk-inspired rock group with lewd lyrics and sexually tinged live shows. The 2-year-old band isn't known for musical ability. It's known for girls who wear next to nothing and who pull audience members into the Jell-O pit.

In short, Ultra Bait's antics have labeled it a joke band — a band that's good for shock value but not to be taken seriously.

Ultra Bait lead singer Angie Snider and bassist Tammy True insist that the bad reputation isn't the case anymore, that Ultra Bait has tightened its sound and cleaned up its act.

"People have an idea of what we sound like even though they haven't seen us in two years," True complains.

I recently sat down with Snider and True to find out if Ultra Bait really is determined to get serious. We met at a local bar, because, as Snider says on the phone, "I'll definitely want a drink."

Throughout the interview, True refuses to tell me if that is her real name. "If anyone's willing to give us a record deal," Snider offers at one point without prompting, "we'll suck their d—ks to get it — put that in the paper."

True also tries to tell me about a cover of the Beach Boy's "Surfer Girl" Ultra Bait recently recorded for an upcoming independent film. But she can't remember any of the details, including the movie's title. (I find out later that the film is called "Caught in the Rapture," and it's coming out in limited release this summer.)

Then there's the CD they give me. An anonymous up-the-skirt shot graces the cover of the band's self-titled debut. Open it up and you see Snider wearing a tiara, sitting naked and winking in a restaurant sink basin with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other.

It looks good so far. The problem is, the CD is blank. No music, no nothing. Nor is there anything on the second copy they give me.

The third CD they deliver works like a charm. And I am surprised at how good it is, considering that the band recorded it in less than 20 hours of studio time. No problems here — just plenty of aggressive verse-chorus-verse with a lot of stop/start power and catchy hooks. The urgent "live" feel of the CD only makes it better.

But can these attributes ever get a mainstream record company past song titles like "Bitch for Hire" and "Slut Love?" Aunt Mabel in the West End isn't going to buy that CD for her teen-age niece. So Ultra Bait seems permanently stuck in the underground.

"There's plenty of money in the underground," True says. And the band's shows prove it. They're usually packed with people eager to find out if the band's bad reputation is true.

Do they really make their own scanty, one-time-only outfits for each show? You bet. The theme for the band's first show was Catholic schoolgirls. Then there were nurses, red-paint monsters, silver-paint monsters, Batman cowgirls and the Scandinavian bikini team. At the band's two-year anniversary show this New Year's Eve at Hole in the Wall, they wore see-through bubble-wrap bikinis. Snider's top fell off.

What about that Jell-O wrestling rumor? Also true.

Two of the band's most memorable shows occurred at Alley Katz last year with full-on, WWF-style Jell-O wrestling in a 12-foot square, chain-link fence cage.

The first time went over well enough, True says. But at the second Alley Katz show audience participation got out of hand. "We wrestled Dave Brockie from GWAR and he tried to drown us," she says. "I think we do [those things] because it's more fun for us. We're still a young band. We're sounding better all the time."

To sound better, Ultra Bait added guitarist Peter Frank and drummer Sean Sutfin to the original lineup, of which only Snider, True and guitarist Lisa Medwedeff remain. The two male additions might lessen the all-girl impact, but Snider and True say they beef up the band's overall skill level.

Ultra Bait plays Plaza Duckpin Bowl on the South Side this Saturday. It can be a tough venue, where people either stop what they're doing to watch, or keep bowling. Snider and True might decide that this is the perfect show to prove that Ultra Bait is worth more than a good laugh. "If it's just for the outfits and the look — then it's empty," Snider says.

"We're still trying to figure out where we fit," True adds. "We don't know if we want to go the freak-show way or the teeny-bopper punk way."

Whichever way Ultra Bait goes, the band is sure to keep it raw. If they ever shock the world and make it big, the cookie-cutter music industry couldn't ask for a better spit in the
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