Rolling Out the Record: Mike Reilly’s Pretend Collective Finds Light in ‘These Harder Days’

Mike Reilly has made a name for himself as a songwriter’s drummer, touring, recording, and writing with Hoots & Hellmouth, Ha Ha Tonka, The Spring Standards, Matt Nakoa, Freddy and Francine, and many others. His new project Pretend Collective release their eponymous debut LP on September 13, 2019 in collaboration with The Giving Groove, a full-service independent record label based in Philadelphia, who will donate half of all album proceeds to benefit Nuçi’s Space, which provides mental health services to music industry members.

Pretend Collective headline their Vinyl Release Party at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia on September 18 and at Elsewhere/Zone One in Brooklyn on September 24. Hear Hello, Lonely Road and Higher Than A Flying Cloud Castle Made of White Light, the first singles from the forthcoming LP.

Ten years ago, I lost a childhood friend to suicide. 

In the days and months that followed, I sat in the confounding haze that accompanied this deep blow, trying to see into the distance toward an understanding of my own feelings about the loss I was sharing with my wounded, tight-knit hometown community. The hurt was potent, the confusion was thick, and the love of family, friends and neighbors was palpable.

The clarity I ultimately found came incrementally over a period of months, and then years. Before I was able to feel that clarity for myself, it emerged as I sat reeling at the keyboard, revealing itself as a song unlike any I have written before or since. It’s called These Harder Days, and it begins like this:

We made our home where the giants stack their dishes.

The water comes when we have misbehaved.

We scurry from their rage/we hurry for the shade.

We bear the nightmare and we wake to see the landscape rearranged.

For me, the song is entirely wrapped up with my memories of and affection for a friend I lost, but the lyric speaks to something bigger than my personal experience. It illustrates the emotional confusion of tragedy as we weather it together, invariably finding the remedy for it in ourselves, and in each other. 

I wish we were in shorter supply of this emotional confusion. Tragedy jumps off of the screen and into our circles of loved ones, getting closer every year, every day it often seems, and with every news story. In the absence of consensus concerning What Can Be Done, the question insists on staring back at us like an unflattering reflection: What am I going to do to help?  

The Giving Groove is Pretend Collective’s record label; I am a Giving Groove artist. Philanthropy is at the core of The Giving Groove’s mission: 

“Under the Giving Groove model, half of all of our album proceeds after taxes go to the artist, and half are donated to a music-related 501(C)3 nonprofit of the artist’s choice. Our team collaborates with each artist to pair them with charities that champion the causes they are passionate about.”

The Giving Groove is helping. They connected me with Nuci’s Space.

You can read about Nuci’s Space and their published mission here. This is the organization’s vision, as they eloquently express it:

“…to end the epidemic of suicide and to inspire a culture free of the stigma attached to brain illnesses and its sufferers by supporting a community-wide effort that focuses on education, prevention and access to appropriate treatment.”

This is a vision I want to participate in realizing. That is why half of all Pretend Collective album proceeds will go to Nuci’s Space, who have turned turn their passion and resources into results and community in their hometown of Athens, GA and in the larger community, where they continue to prevent suicide, to create and maintain awareness of depression, and to assist musicians in a variety of capacities. 

Back in the studio in Philly, we continued our work on These Harder Days, and the song gradually announced itself as the musical and emotional pinnacle of the record we had made.

Ten years later, These Harder Days exists in its fully realized and recorded form, and I am happy to be able to tell you that documented on that recording are the voices of no less than thirty friends, family, and neighbors, singing the words together, feeling the loss together, and delivering the clarity of shared experience to one another. These are the same friends that stood around his piano with him, in his childhood home, on countless late nights, singing and laughing, sharing the great years of each others’ lives, and making the memories that are what we have of him now. Here is the way our song ends:

Look around/we’ve reappeared 

We find each other singing in the clear.

The song will be available with the full LP on September 13. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

–Mike Reilly for Pretend Collective

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