By Justin Vellucci
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Wild Kindness, the Pittsburgh label that once defined the city’s alt-pop aspirations through records by Andre Costello and Chet Vincent & The Big Bend, is back. Chief operating officer Jeff Betten relaunched the dormant label June 12.
Betten, a 10th-generation Pittsburgher who flirted with a City Council run this spring, became general manager of Misra Records in 2015, and a non-compete clause led him to leave Wild Kindness. Donnie Ducote, who succeeded Betten, then moved to New York and the label went dark. Betten recently started soliciting demos online.
“Stuff starting coming in – it was pretty cool,” said Betten, 33, of Troy Hill. “If I got 200 demos, I might have regretted it. But great music’s like lightning in a bottle. You just have to catch it.”
The acts interested in Wild Kindness are eclectic.
There’s Crafton’s Douglas Lowell Blevins, who sent Betten his album The Truth About The Rain, and the funky six-piece “no-pop” act Martha Stax from Portland, Or.
There’s goo, an Erie-area trio that peddles in experimental punk rock and sent Betten its 2018 record, parentheses. (Betten liked the first track and was curious if the band would lean more in that direction.)
“I approached Jeff because I saw a tweet that said he was interested in hearing new music. I love Wild Kindness releases,” said goo drummer Eric Oliver, 31, of Corry, Erie County, an Ellwood City native who previously lived in East Liberty and Highland Park while studying at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. “I loved playing open mics and going to shows when I lived [in Pittsburgh] and miss how much music is there.”
There’s Bingo Quixote, a six-piece Betten said “definitely [has] that weirdo-freak thing going on.” There’s Six O’Matic, a Pittsburgher who, according to Bandcamp, “blends aesthetics of multiple influences, from ambient to Appalachian, from silly to psychedelic.” And there’s David Mnemo, a songwriter who returned to Pittsburgh last summer after living in Colorado.
“I knew Jeff was a big proponent of the Pittsburgh music scene from my time living here in the early aughts,” said Mnemo, 33, of Bloomfield, who performs “song-driven alt-pop-indie-country.” “With my new EP set for self-release at the end of the month, I was excited by the prospect of working with someone so dedicated to putting out original music and offering artists the level of support they need to get their careers on track.”
Wild Kindness artists split proceeds 50/50 with the label, Betten said. It’s that ethos that drove him to first get involved at the Mr. Roboto Project cooperative years ago.
“I’m not into the business of chasing trends at the expense of what I like listening to,” Betten said. “Wild Kindness, to me, has an analog feel to it. It’s very warm-sounding. It’s a little amateurish. It’s got a DIY ethic. It can be a great record but if it’s a Wild Kindness record I want it to be rough around the edges. I find that endearing.”
Betten is looking forward to promoting artists like Costello, who he feels was as central to Pittsburgh in 2014 as forebears like Donnie Iris, Rusted Root or The Clarks at their pinnacles.
And Wild Kindness’ new goals?
“I just wanted to let people know we’re open for business again,” Betten said. “As long as we’re still moving forward, that’s my goal.”
For more information visit www.wildkindness.com