Rolling Out the Record: Pretend Collective Debuts Full Length LP

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. The debut LP ‘Pretend Collective’ is available for purchase in vinyl and digital formats here via The Giving Groove.

It’s release day. We have rolled the record out.

To make a record is to dump your heart and mind onto a hard drive in slow motion,  and then to sort through the mess with people you will come to know better and love harder, hoping the whole thing doesn’t crash, as things that roll often do. And even if it does, maybe you’ll like the way the pieces land.

Today marks a culmination of the efforts of a slew of creative individuals over a period of years. 

There are all the players on the record, who took vague notions I had pounded out on the upright piano in my childhood home and weird lyrics I woke remembering, and transformed them into sensible, flowing, beautiful, musical noise that sounds like me, and also like them.

This not a personnel detail; this is a community roster.

There is Eli, the artist behind the album artwork, who sat with me over coffee creating draft after draft of something that neither of us could see yet, until one day it had revealed itself via her hand, come to still life like a sculpture from a block, something magical emerged from where once had been nothing special.

There are Emma, Will, Mia, Beth Ann, and Mike who pointed their cameras just so, preserving the moments that will become my memories of these years. There are Michael and Will, James, John, Vincent, filmmakers who found and shaped the moving images that place the songs on the screen, who built from music these never before seen worlds, the worlds that bridge the gap between us and you.

There is Randi, the label’s art director and co-owner, who dreamed aloud with me, supported my aesthetic instincts and wishes, and lent her talent to the making of this gorgeous thing I can now hold in my hands.

There is Katie, another label owner and a fellow songwriter, who has been a sounding board, a profound voice of encouragement and a general ray of sunshine, and who connected me with Nuci’s Space, our partner in this project and an organization who strives to help people like me to be happy, to be healthy, and to make music.

This is not a list of Thank Yous; these are the credits rolling where credit is due. 

There are the children and parents of my hometown, who are so much a part of this music that they are literally singing the words on the record and depicted in the interior artwork. They are a part of this music because they are a part of me.

There are my oldest, dearest friends, who just this year watched as one of us left before the others, modeling for us the epitome of grace while we cried together by her bedside.

This is not a roll call; this is my family.

There are my sisters and there are my parents. How anyone could ever get anything done at all without the love and support of people like these back at home is something I have never been able to conceive. 

There were my grandparents. There was the last of that great institution, Al, who only recently has given himself over fully to legend and legacy. I am him. I am all of them.

There is every music maker, artist and storyteller that has ever moved me. As much as I have ever loved the things they made, I love them as much now.

There are more. 

More than any of my collaborators in this endeavor, there are Matt Teacher and Mike Lawson of The Giving Groove, who said yes to my strange home demos almost three years ago. They said, “What are you thinking—a single? An EP?” 

I said, “A full-length record.” 

They then proceeded to green-light every insane idea I threw at them: every twelfth vocal overdub, every fourth track of drums, every thirty-singer recording session. They leaned into the absurdity that I attempted to describe in detail in email manifestos, smoke-break rants, MIDI mockups, and 3 AM demo recordings. With skills I will never possess, these two dudes made a vinyl record out of a musical fantasy that had previously existed only in my imagination. They made the album that I wanted to hear, and they did it without ever asking me to compromise. I hope every artist someday has the opportunity to feel supported to that degree.

The big revelation of this experience for me, now that the thing is made—not just made, but made entirely to my specs—is that it’s clear that the signatures of my collaborators are absolutely all over this thing. It’s ours, which is better than mine alone. 

Pretend Collective.


–Mike Reilly

Pretend Collective’s debut LP is out now. Buy it here.

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