Mark Sepe isn't quite sure why he chose Tom Sawyer's girlfriend as the namesake of his new cassette label, Love You Becky Thatcher Recordings. But in light of the label's debut release, a compilation called Ride Me There: 20 Bands of Pittsburgh, Becky Thatcher is the serendipitously perfect patron saint for such a serendipitously sweet collection.
"Mostly I just wanted to see if I could do it," Sepe says, thinking back to this past spring, when he first started plotting the label. "I've always been a fan of cassettes; they're a good way to actually get a physical thing out, rather than just an MP3. A tape is just nice."
In May, Sepe put out a general call for local bands who would be interested in participating. Having moved to Pittsburgh two-and-a-half years ago, "I have no presence whatsoever," he says. "I think there was skepticism; [the bands] didn't really know me, they didn't know if I was going to come up with good product."
Mike McDermit, whose band Higher Fives appears on the tape, was drawn to the DIY spirit of the project. "I really liked that there were no politics in submissions," he says. "Nothing beyond the music and the packaging." And on listening to the finished tape, he was impressed by the depth and variety of local musicians, many of whom he'd never heard.
The first half of Ride Me There is mostly lo-fi, weirdo Americana, with songs by Wifebeater, Limpin Roosevelt Barns, and others who sounds like lost children of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. The second half -- which includes Dire Wolves and Sports Metaphors -- alternates between noisiness and unpolished pop.
In the end, Sepe had more songs than he could use -- some he couldn't fit due to cassette time constraints, others just didn't fit musically. But he plans to use them on future tapes. "All the bands of this tape are really awesome," Sepe says. "I'm glad it worked it out, because [they] deserve to be heard."
As McDermit sees it, Ride Me There is a picture of Pittsburgh music, meant to encourage new affection for the scene.
"Not unlike the picture of the house and man that Tom Sawyer draws and gives Becky, leading her to fall for him."
More information on Love You Becky Thatcher and the Ride Me There tape can be found at loveyoubeckythatcher.tumblr.com.