by Teyquil Skelton
The NYC/Philly art-rock band, Pretend Collective, have been working on music over the past two years as they recorded song after song trying to see which one solely fits the motor of this model. Within that process, eleven songs were beautifully crafted, picked and handled with care. Prior to the music they’ve been working on recently as mentioned above, Mike Reilly, the mastermind and brainchild behind this project, has been writing songs before that and some of them if not all, has been with Reilly for over ten years.
This album wasn’t just something to put together for the sake of time but created with heart, love, and empathy moving forward. Reilly lost a childhood friend named Seth to suicide and one of those songs he wrote ten years ago was about him in which he planted lyrics from pen to paper around the first or second week of his death.
I recently had a conversation with Reilly about his experience. “It was the hardest thing for me to do musically,” Reilly admitted. It was also different from anything he’s ever done and it came last to make it on to the record. Reilly decided to do something new this time around for the song he wrote for Seth in remembrance of him by inviting everyone Seth knew to record backup vocals on the song “These Harder Days.”
Seth and Mike were not only best friends but brothers, they were half of each other, and they were and will forever be friends in music and theater. The Giving Groove is a full-service record label that is independent and based out of Philadelphia. They push the envelope of instilling the motto “artist-friendly and socially conscious.”
The label strives to help artists realize their musical potential and vision while willingly giving back to its community. In one of the ways the Giving Groove gives back is by giving half of all the after-tax album proceeds to their artists and half is donated to a music-related non-profit that the label works alongside that the artist themselves selects.
Reilly had the opportunity to donate to one of them and the non-profit organization he chose was Nuci’s Space. The non-profit based in Athens, Georgia, specifically targets the awareness of suicide with a focus on musicians who suffer from thoughts or attempts of it. The organization helps to alleviate those living with the brain illness and the agonizing effects it causes. They’re also fighting to end the stigma of mental illness and the false information people receive about it as well. Nuci’s Space maintains a health and resource center for musicians to help create a safe and comfortable space for them to seek support and guidance in their journey.
They also provide access to affordable professional care that actively participates in treatment while educating about suicide awareness. By means that Mike lost his friend a little over ten years ago, the pain never really goes away and the thought of wanting to do something still, for an individual who just couldn’t stay resonates within him to this very day. Organizations like Nuci’s Space offers that opportunity to give back but also relieves possible guilt if there ever was any in preventing it from ever happening in the first place.
I asked Reilly what is he doing to spread awareness of suicide through his own perspective musically. He replied that it’s a difficult question to ask repeatedly if you’re helping anyone through writing songs. Then he went back to a time when songwriters he admired helped him growing up. Reilly also mentioned that he had an idea that rock n’ roll is for fifteen-year-olds who need an escape, to go somewhere else other than where they are in the present.
Reilly wants to give the same to those younger with his music and with this album, I truly believe it’s one of his goals in doing so. To be the voice in the headphones of a 12-year-old boy or girl, providing hope when they’re experiencing dark days and lonely times, in a space filled with people but still feel alone in that very same place is something Mike is fighting and striving for musically. I believe he’ll touch many souls with his music because it’s rich, truthful, heartfelt and genuine. You’ll never go wrong whenever your heart is in a thing that’s real and you’ll never fail at reaching someone either as long as what you love remains real.
Pretend Collective represents just that and that alone is all anyone ever needs, not just in music but in life as we continue to live and breathe as functioning human beings in society. Keep up-to-date with what’s going on with Pretend Collective via Facebook, Bandcamp, and Twitter.