NEUROTICA's Kelly Shaefer & Migwell Pryzbyl 

By Dominic Pierce-Toogood

Hot on the heels of their self-titled, major label debut on Smackdown Records, lead singer Kelly Shaefer and bassist Migwell Pryzbyl of Neurotica - Florida's coolest export since orange juice – sit down and chat with us about touring with Ozzfest, bringing rock back to its roots and the reason that lawn bowling just doesn't cut it when it comes to down time.

Think hot, humid summer day. New York City. Downtown. East Village. Overhead clouds are building in the sky. A storm is on the way. And relief from the latest heatwave is right behind it in the form of a northern cold front. But there's something even cooler coming from the South. Sarasota, Florida, to be exact. In fact, it's already here. And it's sitting right across from us in the conference room of Smackdown Records' offices in NYC.

It's Neurotica. Chilling with the success of the hit single "All My Friends Crush You" from their self-titled debut. And about to embark on the hottest tour this summer. Ozzfest. 

RoughEdge.com – So this could be a big year for you guys?

Kelly Shaefer – Definitely. And definitely gonna take it for all it's worth. Very honored to be part of Ozzfest, much respect for the whole event and the people that put it on.

RoughEdge.com – What bands are you looking forward to playing alongside?

Kelly Shaefer – Down. Love Pepper Keane man, known Pepper for a long time, got a lot of respect for him and Phil. System of A Down, I'm really feeling that record a lot ("Toxicity"). They're great, man. Brilliant. Left of center. And I always like that. And there are a lot of other bands and a lot of good stuff I never heard. I hear that Mushroomhead are really interesting. Looking forward to checking them out. 

RoughEdge.com –You guys are from Sarasota. I happened to take a look at the city's official website this morning. It says, "You cannot be bored in Sarasota unless you want to be. You can enjoy bird watching, shell collecting, golf, lawn bowling..." We want to know where you stand on the lawn bowling.

Kelly Shaefer – (laughing) Big lawn bowling fans!

Migwell Pryzbyl - I think possibly my Grandmother wrote that! 

Kelly Shaefer - Sarasota is one of the most beautiful places on earth and it's an amazing place to live and we love it! The beaches are our favorite part. Every time we meet someone, we're like, you've gotta come to Sarasota, you've gotta come to the beach. That's where we spend of a lot of our time. But it's a very boring city. I mean I pretty much grew up there and there was nothing to do. No clubs to go to, nothing for a teenager to do. So, I put a band together and that gave me something to do 4-5 nights a week right off the bat and then it blossomed into something good. He (pointing to Migwell) spent a lot of time in Buffalo. 

Migwell Pryzbyl - Yeah, my family grew up in Buffalo. Basically the same thing as Sarasota, but you only get two sunny days a year. I'm a huge Bills fan and after the four Superbowl losses, my family decided to move to Florida.

RoughEdge.com - We don't blame you. Rather rough ...

Kelly Shaefer – Sarasota though, not a great place. But Tampa is 50 miles away, so we can go to Tampa and get our nightlife and play good shows. In the late 80s, early 90s Death Metal was huge in Tampa and the scene was great. Sarasota is a good place but it's not a fun place.

RoughEdge.com – You must be a welcome relief for the people there.

Kelly Shaefer – Yeah, we hope so. When we would practice at our warehouse there would be literally a hundred kids already there waiting ... like it was a club or something. We would open our door and turn our amps on and all these people would be there. That's how we got a lot of our early followers. A lot of people started to come out to our practices and then just kept coming back. Some people would come out and just sit there and watch us write songs.

Migwell Pryzbyl - Yeah! When they were there and we were working on a song, trying to work out a riff ...

Kelly Shaefer – ... we'd ask them if they were bored. They'd say no. We'd play the same song 100 times. They loved it. Once again ... there's very little to do in Sarasota. I mean if it were L.A. it would probably be different. 

RoughEdge.com: How did you guys get together?

Migwell Pryzbyl - I actually met him (Kelly) through a singer in a band I was playing in. The singer was a promoter of an Atheist (Kelly's old band) show in Buffalo. He introduced us. 

Kelly Shaefer – So, when our bass player from our very first indie record flaked out, we called Miguel up. We had to pull him out of the woods. He was out in the woods dancing naked ... playing African drums! He goes out in the woods and plays for days at a time! So we were like, ‘Can you make it?' He came out of the woods, showed up and has been here ever since. (Laughter)

RoughEdge.com –You seem to like playing together.

Kelly Shaefer - We love each other.

Migwell Pryzbyl – Totally. We have a great time.

Kelly Shaefer – Yeah, it's a very tight bunch of guys. We all have the same exact interests, no one has a drug problem, it's just very laid back. The rest of the guys in the band are even more mellow. That's why we're here - we're the most gggrrrrrrr!

Migwell Pryzbyl - We drink a lot of caffeine, you know, Mountain Dews.

RoughEdge.com – You've got your Brian Johnson (AC/DC) connection. He discovered you guys. You've got Ozzy Osbourne. You're going on tour with Ozzfest. These older rockers seem to be in tune with you guys.

Kelly Shaefer – We are really in tune with them. I mean, we are here as a result of them.

RoughEdge.com – So they really influenced you?

Kelly Shaefer – Hugely. Hugely influenced me personally. Still the riffs that I write on guitar, you know, "Up in the Hay" (sings riff), those kinds of riffs are all about Sabbath, man (sings riff). And Brian Johnson is just a model of, as I have said many times before, of how to be a rock star and how to be a modest, cool arsed mother and not be a dick head, arrogant superstar - he has been a huge influence on us in that respect. 

RoughEdge.com: You have a big following, obviously, in Florida. Do you think, without Brian Johnson, you would be where you are? Would you hope to be where you are? Did you see all this (success) coming 7 years ago before Ozzfest even began?

Kelly Shaefer – I mean it will sound pompous but yeah. We never saw it any other way. We were fortunate enough to have some help along the way and in a lot of ways it wasn't as much as people think. It confused some people that we were working with Brian 'cause they go "Oh, cool, they (Neurotica), must sound like AC/DC" and we don't sound anything like AC/DC. So I think a lot of people got confused and maybe did not check out the band right away because of that connection, you know? But certainly without Brian giving us that push at that point, we might very well have been two years later to the game. But he really picked things up for us. 

RoughEdge.com: This interview is going to run in the US and the UK. Do you have any experiences from the UK, do you have any favorite venues? How does the audience differ from playing the States? Any favorite bands?

Kelly Shaefer – This band hasn't been to Europe yet. My old band Atheist ventured to Europe several times so I am familiar with it myself and he (Migwell) has traveled in Europe. But the clubs over there are significantly different from here, the whole response. In my opinion, the European people are true fans of the band and they stay, they're loyal ... they stay with a band and they love a band and they will always love a band. They very rarely turn on a band unless the band turns on them. I loved the people, man. Atheist put out like three records and those kids would come to the shows, carrying them. You never see kids at American shows carrying around the record collection from the band that they are seeing and literally 100 out of a 1,000 of the (European) kids are carrying around those records for the whole night. I mean, it's hot, they gotta hold their drink, they gotta do all this stuff. but yet they want to bring the records and they want you to sign them, and they're just true fans and it makes you feel good as a musician. You go to LA and everybody's, like {sits still with arms folded staring} everybody's out in the crowd like that - it's just not that way in Europe at all. I shouldn't beat LA up - as a whole though they're jaded, they seem to expect things more than European kids do. European kids appreciate things a little bit more.

RoughEdge.com: So where do you think the epicenter of rock music is? Is it London, NY, LA?

Kelly Shaefer – Wow. Right now, I don't know what's going on in London but I would venture to guess that if it is headed in a rock (direction), if it is headed away from ‘hip-hop' metal into rock then bet your arse that Europe is on it first. Europe will grab onto it first and England in general will sort of cater itself to letting rock back in, hard rock back in, just pure hard rock and good tunes, no hybrid stuff ... no confusion ... no "is this a rap band or a rock band ... no what kind of band is this?'. They (Europeans) just seem to grab it and put it up and then go with it. Hopefully the American kids, I think they're coming around – I think they are also looking forward to different vocal styles and sounds 'cause the music has been very samey, samey here for a long while. And if you listen to all these bands on the radio today - a lot of them are just very much alike. Ironically, we were listening to a commercial on the way up to the airport for three local bands, fairly prominent local bands from where we come from in Florida. Remember the commercial, Migwell?

Migwell Pryzbyl – Oh yeah.

Kelly Shaefer – First song, (sings riff), second band, (sings riff), sounds like the same band, like the exact same band. And even some of the mainstream top 10 artists of today, if you go through the top 20 you can find five of those bands that sound exactly alike, all in that same format. It's gotta change, it's gotta break away, man, into something different. In order for that to happen people have got to kind of question it and that's what's happening with Neurotica a lot. We have a different sound, we have a different sort of vocal style, different qualities to our music that aren't really around right now. They are things that have happened in the past but we have incorporated them with this new, sort of younger vibe, more modern vibe. So I think that given the opportunity on a situation like Ozzfest that these kids are gonna see it in a live setting and are gonna feel it. 

RoughEdge.com: That's what you really think Ozzfest is gonna do for you then? Open you up to all sorts of kids? A whole new audience?

Kelly Shaefer – Absolutely. I think people are gonna come with a pre-conceived notion of what we're like and then they're gonna leave with a different notion. I feel confident that we can do that. We've done it in the past and I feel like we'll do it again. We don't take no for an answer, we're not afraid to get in somebody's face and we're not afraid to have a show and pull the crowd in. I'm not the kind of front man that likes to hide behind the microphone and be all quiet and mysterious and say nothing between songs. I wanna have a party and I want everybody else to have a party and that's the way rock shows oft to be and that's the way we want them to be.

RoughEdge.com: What do you see at the moment over here as regards to the overall rock scene?

Kelly Shaefer – Well, I mean the past three years it's been this new metal thing that people call it and I think that probably in the next 18 months it's gonna be back to, not back to, heading to, songs that can last for 20 years. People want stuff that you know they never tire of hearing. I'm still not tired of hearing Zeppelin records, still not tired of hearing Black Sabbath records, I can listen to them over and over and over for the rest of my life, I'll never be tired of those records. Why? 'Cause it's great music. It's great timeless music that will last forever and there are many other great bands that fall into that category but that is what needs to happen right now. That in my opinion will help the record industry instead of all this instant shit - it needs to be stuff that can last and survive a lifetime and can have legs for 20 years, you know, not just for 6 months or the summer. With the video age and MTV they'll pump a song in the summertime and suddenly in the fall that song is done and nobody wants to hear it anymore. They've pounded it into the ground, they did everything they could to cram it down everybody's throat and everybody's like, bleugh, they start to regurgitate it. I would rather be the band that you swallow and gain weight from rather than throwing it up. It's a weird analogy but most of today's music you swallow and throw the fuck back up and move on. I just think that we want to play a role in making quality music that lasts. Something that 20 years from now kids can look back on and go "That inspires me to play music. I don't wanna play this (type of) music, I wanna play music like that (like Neurotica)." The same way I am still inspired now. 

RoughEdge.com: So that is your vision of the future then, making songs that are gonna last? To stand the test of time. 

Kelly Shaefer – Sure. We need to create the new "Stairway to Heaven" you know those songs that are just legendary, there's "Dream On" there's "Walking in the Sand," just songs that are such a part of our culture, even today. Even younger people are into those songs too, you know what I mean? You gotta be able to write songs that when whoever is into when you are out and you are current - 20 years from now their kids should be able to get into your music as well. It should be that timeless, man. That's Aerosmith, Sabbath, and Zeppelin. Even early Metallica and stuff like that, I feel like those records will live on for a long time. I will always go back and listen to "Ride the Lightning" and albums like that but not really so much of the new stuff.  

RoughEdge.com: You consider this instant/new metal music just kids getting a fix right?

Kelly Shaefer – Yeah. It's just how many records can you sell. I don't want to write music like that. I would love for 10 million to love our record and go buy it. 

RoughEdge.com: That kinda ties in to what you said on your website (at www.neurotica.net) when you said "I want to write a song the whole world can sing." Do you think you've achieved that yet with the 2 songs that are being played: "Ride of Your Life" and "All My Friends Crush You"? 

Kelly Shaefer – I do think that there are songs on this record (the new CD) like "Stars in my Eyes" and "Ride of Your Life" that could last a really, really long time. I believe "Stars in my Eyes" is the kind of song that I would love to see become a single. It's very emotional, it's very sincere, it's moody but it still rocks. When we made this record we wanted to not have any of the tracks be questionable, we wanted to make sure that every one of them was Pow! They've all got their place and not one song shouldn't be there. We're definitely confident in it, that's how we feel about it. We are definitely very proud of the album. We wrote a lot of songs before making this record, we had a lot to choose to from. But these were the ones we were ready to bank on - then we have a whole pocketful of new ones.

RoughEdge.com: You've got ammo.

Kelly Shaefer – We can reload. 

RoughEdge.com: So five years from now, where are you going to be?

Kelly Shaefer – I want to be at the top of our game, man. I want to be leading the pack. Not interested in selling the most amount of records, not interested in any of that. I just want to be a respected musician and I want to contribute to what I love—the music industry and the music in general and creating music that helps the kids get through their lives. Music is therapeutic. It's therapy for everyone, no one is untouched by it. Can you imagine a world without music? You can't - you can't imagine it, it's like imagining life without air! You can't live. I don't care if you're into Arabian music or whatever, everybody has a soundtrack to their life.

RoughEdge.com: Right.

Kelly Shaefer - And I want to be involved in the movie soundtrack of everyone's life in five years from now.

RoughEdge.com: You see bands, extreme bands. You know, like Slipknot. You see them, on "Resident Evil" - movies like that. That's fine with you having the extreme become mainstream?

Kelly Shaefer –I think don't there's anything wrong with that - I know that many, many would say differently. So, you're in the wrong business. I want to touch people. I mean, if you go buy the record, then that's great. We (Neurotica) get an opportunity to have a nice life.  But, more importantly, if I had a choice, and this is honest, as much as everybody would love to be comfortable financially. If I had a choice of everyone in the world digging the music or making a whole lot of money to me it's more important if someone walks up to me and says, man, you know I have this situation, broke up with my girl and I listened to your song, and it really helped me. Unless you write a song and have someone come up and say that to you ... it sounds cheesy as hell, but it gets you. It's like wow! I sat in my room or in a warehouse with my guys and we created this shit out of thin air and someone 10,000 miles away is like "You helped me get through my life." That's like Wow! Holy shit. That's like being medicine. Being human medicine and that's a great job. That's a job everyone should have. If everybody's job was that gratifying then we would all be a lot happier. I'm very glad we chose this life. 

RoughEdge.com: So you feel as if you have the best job in the world?

Kelly Shaefer – Absolutely man. It's certainly not all perks that's for sure! The boot camp is brutal but once you get to the point where you get an opportunity like we're being given, we'll never take it for granted. We will never, ever not appreciate it and not think for a minute that it can't be taken away just as quickly as it was given to us. 

RoughEdge.com: You clearly have a lot of fans. They're a lot of hits on your website and you have a huge message board. 

Kelly Shaefer – It's cool man. There's been a group of a couple of thousands of kids that have stayed in contact with us through all this - since '95. You know, they're believers. People that really believed we were a different kind of band, but the industry just wouldn't allow it early on. They just wouldn't allow us to be the kind of band we are now. They wanted a fusion of turntables and all this crap. We're just drums, bass, guitars and vocals. You know, I'd much rather lay it out like that.  

RoughEdge.com - Do you respond to e-mails from fans?

Kelly Shaefer - I respond to 100 emails a day.

RoughEdge.com - Can I ask you something - I saw a message on there. Can I ask you how you responded to it? This is from Neuroticagirl, who posted a message and she says, "Although you guys are really ugly, can I (bleep) you?" How did you respond to that?!


Kelly Shaefer - That, to be honest with you, is not a Neurotica girl. There are some people in our town that are a little bitter. 

RoughEdge.com - Really?

Kelly Shaefer - Sure, there are musicians in our town that feel that they deserve it more. You know, and that probably goes with any scene. I'm quite certain that's not a girl. That's a guy writing something to try to make us look stupid. You know, if that's what the girl thought, that's hilarious. I wouldn't respond to it though. I think it's funny. You have to be prepared. If you think about Fred Durst and what that guy went through, I've always been a firm believer that you really have to be hated to be loved. And in order to be successful, there has to be an equal amount of people who hate your guts and hate everything that you do.

RoughEdge.com: Do you think there are some artists that have turned that on their head? Like Eminem ... Marilyn Manson. Do you think these artists are doing what they are doing for the attention or they just love to be hated?

Kelly Shaefer – I think they love to be hated because it makes them loved. When people hate you, they express their opinion more than when people love you. If you're mad about something, you're going to let everybody know about it, if you love somebody, you may not come out and say, "I love everyone," you know. I mean, when you're mad, you're mad and everyone knows it. So that causes other people to go well, I'm not. I love this! And so the next thing you've got a battle and people battling and that's what you need! If people form an opinion about you, then you're on the right track. So we're prepared for lots of haters and that's cool.

RoughEdge.com: So you think Marilyn Manson says what he feels or says what he knows is going to get a reaction?

Kelly Shaefer – Marilyn has been in Florida for a long time. He spent most of his musical life in Ft. Lauderdale. He always was weird and always said what he wanted to say and always didn't give a shit what people thought. We're not really like that. I mean we're not trying to get people's reactions that way. I just want to write good songs and get reactions out of people. I don't really want to knock someone's head off or cut guts out of something to get a reaction. Or drop my pants and sling my willy around. We're not really into that side of it. I want people to react to the music like you know when you hear a song and someone performs it really well, you go, God damn, it moved me, man. You know, it moved me so much that I'll always be a fan of this band. That to me is the reaction that I would rather get.

RoughEdge.com: This WWF connection. I just want to talk about this. You're on their Smackdown Records (label).

Kelly Shaefer - Absolutely.

RoughEdge.com - What does that give you as a band?

Kelly Shaefer - Well ... an unprecedented situation of marketing monsterness. You take a great rock band and expose them on television in the right way and it explodes! You know it's a quality marketing venture and a quality hard rock band. You fuse them together and it should be an explosion.

RoughEdge.com - You're not scared about being tainted with the wrestling thing? Do you like wrestling?

Kelly Shaefer – We're not scared of that, so to speak, because we feel like we have control of that. We feel like everybody involved on our team understands that it would be hokey for us to jump up in the ring and go RRRRR! We're not that kind of band and they didn't sign us with that intention. Some in the pool may have thought that along the way - WWF may have thought that way. A lot of people may have that perception but we're going to change that perception. We're not a band that's just a wrestling band. We are, however, a band that wrestles!

RoughEdge.com: Do you have any favorite wrestlers? Are you that much into wrestling?

Kelly Shaefer – Oh yeah! Been watching since we were little kids. There's no one more charismatic than the Rock. We used to watch old wrestlers like Dusty Roads, when we were little kids before the WWF was released. In Florida, wrestling was really popular go to see at the time. Rapid Assassin, Bad Bad LeRoy Brown. All these old wrestlers. I was really amazed at what it became! I remember Vince McMahon as an announcer. It's amazing. The whole company is just silly. It makes so much sense for them to market music, it's not even funny. They've been doing it for other people - why not us? 

RoughEdge.com: What do you think about the song "Bodies" and the exposure it got?

Kelly Shaefer – I'm sure I'm not the first one to say that without that exposure - with "Bodies" on that program ... they literally sold 65,000 copies and when that shit happened on there .. they (Drowning Pool) sold a couple hundred thousand copies without being involved in other programming. So, their records sales were directly affected six fold just by exposure.

RoughEdge.com: So is any exposure good exposure?

Kelly Shaefer – Yeah man. 

RoughEdge.com - Bad press is better than no press?

Kelly Shaefer – Absolutely! Like I said, if they hate you, somebody else has got to love you. Someone has to have an opposite opinion of it. So, if everybody hates it that you're on TV so much ... it's funny because everyone goes ‘I hate Creed!' Well, somebody is buying their records.

Migwell Pryzbyl – 10 million people somewhere people bought their album.

Kelly Shaefer – It almost works like that ... you need to be hated to be loved. I'm also hoping that we can raise the rock gene pool to make it a little more interesting. But the marketing aspect of the WWF Smackdown is unlimited. I don't think they realize the potential of what they can do for rock and roll bands. You don't want to hear something mellow and passive behind wrestling. When you see people beating the crap out of each other, you want to hear Pantera. Earlier on a lot of our friends are like oh, are you going to make theme music for the WWF? No. We're making a regular record for a label that just happens to be owned by the WWF. So, I think it's going to be great. 

RoughEdge.com: I wish you the best of luck.

Kelly Shaefer – There are 26 million people a week that watch that program and if 5% of those people feel Neurotica then we're good. That's the way I look at it. We're on Smackdownrecords.com. They've got our song right up there. That's huge exposure! They have four magazines that sell 250,000 every month. They're in a position to run unlimited ads. That's what it's all about - exposing people. If a band sucks and you expose the world to them, you expose them to a sucky band. But if it's a good band and you have that kind of exposure, it can't be a bad thing. 

RoughEdge.com: Ok, last thoughts ... say someone came in here and had never heard your music. Never seen you guys before. Is there anything you would want to say to them?

Kelly Shaefer – Gotta get it. Gotta turn it to 11. Gotta crank it up. It's not background music. You want to listen to it in loud volume. And you must come see this band at least once live. If you still don't dig it ... then fair enough. But I promise, by the time they leave, you'll have respect for us.

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Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:09 -0400