Lovely Recordings was intended to serve a tight group of local bands, similar to origins of indie labels Saddle Creek and Merge, in Omaha, Neb., and Chapel Hill, N.C., respectively. Releasing an urgent mix of romantic post-punk and guitar-driven, American indie rock, Lovely catalyzed Pittsburgh's burgeoning underground-music scene, creating an energy that extended beyond its stable of gifted bands.
"We saw Pittsburgh had the fan base and the band base to really make an independent label like this work," says Brad "Flash" Hlavach, who founded Lovely in 2003 with Shade bassist Brad Kiefer and John Dzubian, then guitarist and singer for The Wynkataug Monks.
"It basically started with a bunch of friends getting together, wanting to release albums and not wanting to fall into what everyone else was doing," says Hlavach. The only non-musician, Hlavach's role in Lovely included everything from booking shows and driving the tour van to DJing and screen-printing CDs in the house he shared with members of Shade.
Releasing The Wynkatuag Monks' Tanks and Shade's Fedra in 2004, Lovely's initial output attracted attention from publications like Left of the Dial, Spin and NME. The label eventually added Toronto Brit-rockers Chrome Yellow and Pittsburgh young guns Olympus Mons, and hosted sold-out release shows and showcase nights in Pittsburgh.
Even with that hype and momentum, none of the Lovely bands found major backing. The Wynkataug Monks changed lineups and names, and eventually disbanded; Chrome Yellow suffered an ugly breakup; and most of the members of Shade (including Hlavach) began settling down with wives, families and day jobs.
The label began to slow down in early 2007, and Olympus Mons' debut album was the last Lovely recording.
"I don't think Lovely is 100 percent dead, at least the feeling of it, the idea of it," says Hlavach. "It was always about promoting who we knew and what we knew," he adds, "saying, 'Look what we have here [in Pittsburgh], why would you go anywhere else?'"