In case you didn't know yet, we like Debt Neglector. The Florida-based band - consisting of Alex Goldfarb, Chris Pfister, Chris Kretzer and Zach Anderson - likes to crank out catchy yet aggressive tunes that deal with anxiety, depression, paranoia, abuse, and other warm and fuzzy subjects that’ll get your toes tapping all the way down to the ballot box to hopefully enact some change. Their debut album "Atomicland" is out now via Smartpunk Records... be a smart punk and pick it up! But first read this interview we did with Alex.
PRT: When, where and why did you decide to start Debt Neglector?
Alex: Debt Neglector started because I found myself completely bandless for the first time in a long while. I didn’t want to give up on playing music so I was open to the idea of starting something new. One night I ended up in the bowling alley by my house in Orlando with my friend Chris Pfister and we drunkenly agreed to start a band. Adding the other pieces took a little bit and we had a hell of a time finding a drummer, but things panned out and 8 months later we had our first show.
PRT: I know you have been in several other bands, but I couldn’t find anything about the other guys in Debt Neglector. Does that mean it’s their first time in a band? Or do they all play in Ghost and you’re not supposed to talk about that?
Alex: Haha! If those guys played in Ghost I doubt they’d be fucking around with me, but that would be awesome. The other guys had played in things that people may or may not have heard of. Chris Pfister was in a band called Eavesdropper and another called Bad Accent. Zach had played in a band in town called Among Giants. And Chris Kretzer played in a band many years ago called “Says I” but hadn’t played music in a really long time.
PRT: I can definitely hear some Gatorface in Debt Neglector’s songs so I was curious… how do you feel the two bands are different from one another?
Alex: I don’t think this or Gatorface come from very different places for me. I think I’ve gotten a little better at writing vocals and singing over the years so hopefully that stands out a bit. I think some of the song content is a little more personal this time around. But I think the biggest difference is that the writing process is more collaborative. Pfister will sometimes write entire songs that I just have to put vocals on. And he adds some super interesting guitar stuff to my songs that I wouldn’t think to do. The other guys bring riffs or vocal harmonies to the table and in Gatorface I kinda had to figure a lot of that stuff out myself. Since Gatorface was the first band I ever sang or wrote vocals for I think some of that stuff could have been better in hindsight if I knew what I know now.
PRT: While we are on the subject… what will happen with Gatorface now? Is that over and done with or will that band resurface as well at some point in the future?
Alex: I think that band is probably done at this point. Debt Neglector sort of scratches that itch for me, and those guys have sort of moved on with their lives and aren’t super interested in making punk records or doing shows. I think Richard especially could sense that I wanted to be doing more, I was writing new songs, and talking about more shows and I don’t think the other guys were down. After Fest 14 Richard told me he was out and I was like, “Ok it’s time to move on.” I’m super happy it happened, because while I loved playing with those guys, Gatorface ending freed me up to find some new people to play with and it’s been super fun and super good for my mental health. I’d never say never though. I love those guys and had a tremendous amount of fun playing with them. Richard and I talk about jamming all the time, but doing it in a super chill, no pressure kind of scenario.
PRT: What are some of your biggest inspirations? Both musically and other?
Alex: I think musically I look at a lot of different stuff. I’m such a fan of all eras of punk. Like the 70’s stuff in New York and the UK was amazing. And 80’s DC hardcore has always been something I loved. Minor Threat has been my favorite band for as long as I can remember. I listen to a lot of Fat bands from the early-mid 2000’s when their roster was just unfuckwithable. I’m a also a huge Descendents fan and those guys are just all virtuosos at their instruments and it’s incredible to watch. I think a little bit of everything goes into what I write and with this band I’m trying not to be narrow minded with what we’re doing. Outside of music I’m influenced by anything bizarre, gross, or depressing. Sometimes when I write lyrics I like finding the weirdest, most fucked up news stories from around the world and use the things I find in them as metaphors for what’s happening in my life or in the world. In our song “Atomicland” I literally describe the symptoms of radiation poisoning, but the whole thing is supposed to serve as a commentary on the erosion of the American dream.
PRT: Your debut album “Atomicland” is out now and it combines poppy melodies with some heavy lyrics that deal with depression and anxiety. What is it about that juxtaposition that appeals to you?
Alex: I guess I just like it because it feels kind of strange. I’m a fan of catchy music and if our songs didn’t have any hooks I don’t think they’d be very good or fun to listen to. But my thoughts about life and about the world are pretty dark. Like the world is a shitty place and if you have an empathetic bone in your body, witnessing the shitty racists, the police brutality, the poor struggling to stay afloat while our president shits in a golden toilet, the terrorist attacks, you’re gonna be affected by that. I feel like if I wasn’t singing about the things that bother me, and calling attention to them then what’s the point?
PRT: For you personally, does playing in a punkrock band and laying it all out there make for an alternative form of therapy?
Alex: Absolutely, and I just recently came to this realization. My wife always told me, “You’re not yourself when you’re not playing music.” And I listened, but until we started Debt Neglector I didn’t realize just how right she was. Doing two shows a year with Gatorface was fine, and I have a fulfilling job. I work with special needs students at a school for kids with behavior issues. But now that I’m productive again with music, making songs, playing shows regularly, getting to self-reflect and vent all of my shit, my mental health has made a pretty marked improvement. It’s wild how much better I feel when I’m staying busy with something fun and staying out of my own head.
PRT: How did you end up signing to Smartpunk? I actually didn’t even know they were a label as well.
Alex: Our friend Jordan from the band Teen Agers actually works for them. And our guitar player Chris Pfister works for the screen printing/merch company right down the hall in the same building. So ever since we made our first garageband demos, Jordan and the rest of the people from Smartpunk have been hearing our songs, coming to our shows, and supporting us. They’ve been super cool, and the fact that they decided to put out our record even though we can’t really tour more than a few weeks a year, is super flattering.
PRT: This year marks the 15th time that you will be playing at Fest. What is your best Fest memory?
Alex: Man there’s SO MANY, but the absolute best moment was at Fest 7. We were supposed to do the last New Mexican Disaster Squad set at Common Grounds and then break up. We played, and it was great. But then we found ourselves out at Spanish Gamble’s warehouse for an after party at like 4 am. We ended up doing a sweaty reunion show in their warehouse with None More Black and a bunch of bands like 7 hours after what was supposed to be our final show.
PRT: And what are three things you absolutely need in order to survive Fest?
- Water: The older I get the worse my hangovers are. If you’re gonna be throwing back PBR tallboys for days on end then you gotta stay hyrdrated or you’ll die.
- A LOOSE agenda: If you want to see a hundred bands you may not get in to see 20 of them depending on where the shows are at. Some places fill up quick. So pick your “must see” bands, get there early for them, and try to go with the flow a bit. You’ll have more fun than rushing around like a crazy person and stressing over everything.
- Food: I know people who start drinking real early in the day, and then completely forget that food is something that your body needs to survive. There’s so much good food in Gainesville, take some time to grab a nice sit down meal at The Top. Treat yourself! Chances are you’ve been waiting all year looking forward to Festing, now’s not the time to be a cheap ass or lower your blood sugar so low you drop into a coma and then miss your favorite band.
PRT: We are starting a poll here at PunkRockTheory… when do you think Trump will leave the office? And will he resign or will he be impeached?
Alex: If you had asked me this question 3 months ago I would have said “any day now.” The shit that that guy has gotten away with is astounding, but I have so little faith in our government right now I think he can and will continue to get away with almost anything. So I say he will do the full term and we all suffer and the world is a worse place because of it. I have zero hope that things are getting better any time soon. Told you I was depressing! Doesn’t mean we should stop trying though and I will gladly be proved wrong as soon as fucking possible.