Really. Think about it. What are the odds that 5 musicians, all struggling with medical issues, find each other through pure and unadulterated serendipity, and make fantastic music? A million to one? Perhaps even greater if you gave it some thought, or better yet have Stephen Hawking walk you through the concept of order through universal chaos, with some string theory thrown in for good measure.
Yes, they should have purchased lottery tickets.
Therein lies the story of the modern rock band Mildly Medicated, which for some reason that only the universe can explain, defied all the odds.
How It Started
About 5 years ago, friends Steve Freed and Rocky Basile, a guitarist and drummer respectively, decide they wanted to form a band. Steve has type 1 diabetes, and Rocky has a malfunctioning pituitary which caused his growth velocity to drop to zero. Steve has his insulin, and Rocky’s parents spent months agonizing over whether to break his legs and bone graft parts of his hip. Another option was to try human growth hormone therapy, which at $5,000 a month caused a massive battle with their insurance company.
Telling your son he is destined to be a little person, peaking at 4 foot 2, is actually less traumatic than wrestling dollars out of an insurance company that you’ve been paying your hard earned money to for years, but when you need it, there is no room at the inn! In the end, Rocky got his treatments, and after years of injections into his stomach, is now happy to be 5 foot 3.
During the course of all this, Ryan Chairella, a gifted and very stylistic guitarist was fighting his own demons, afflicted with bad ADD. Nothing made sense to Ryan, except for the odd situation in which he found he was able to spend countless hours practicing guitar. Math and Science, not so much, but guitar most certainly became his salvation.
Many miles away in another school system, was a downtrodden girl who liked to sing, but was always relegated to background parts because she was told she was never good enough. She was segregated by overly-protective parents because she has a form of hemophilia.
Her parents thought it best to have her eat her lunch in the principal’s office every day instead of the cafeteria with her class because it was safer that way. Amanda became the subject of ridicule, further disenfranchised from her classmates, who referred to her as Aman-Duh. She took solace in music, but her chorus director really never did see the potential in her. So much for the expertise of government workers with tenure.
Rounding out the 5th point to this medically challenged star was Rocky’s sister Jenna, who became afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome. A classical pianist, she one day found she no longer controlled her body, especially her spine, as she has spinal dyskinesia. Playing the piano became impossible. She lacked the precision required to strike the keys in the right way. She became a target at school, was labeled the “weird kid,” and her life became a depressed misery.
On a hunch, her father suggested an instrument that allowed for free movement of the body while playing, and gifted her with a Bass. Suddenly her world changed. She was good, if not even great, but playing alone in your room gets old quickly. What good is it to have a gift that you are unable to share with other people?
Forming A Band
One day while talking, Steve and Rocky decided to find other people to play with. The question was who and what genre of music did they want to pursue. They were both metal heads at the time but they knew that metal was dying and the fans were becoming limited.
Ryan happened to hear them and offered to join, and added his riffy flair to Steve and Rocky’s hard driving beats and chord progressions. At almost exactly the same time, Amanda walked in to the music school where the boys practiced and called home, and asked about singing lessons. When she began to sing, the boys corralled her and started playing some music she knew, and the foursome sounded great right off the bat.
The missing piece of the puzzle was the bassist. They tried friends they knew, but most weren’t very good, or didn’t agree on a female lead band. Steve started to lobby for Rocky’s sister, as she not only played the bass, but she shredded the bass lines with blinding speed and had an intuitive, almost precognitive ability to lock into the beats her brother was pounding out on the drums. Rocky had a fit and was totally against playing with his younger sister, but he was outnumbered and Jenna was in, despite his protests.
When trying to come up with a name, Ryan was dead set on Johnny Drywall and the Sheet Rockers, which made no sense to anyone. Eventually the band came to the conclusion that embracing their personal struggles and using them to motivate others was the way to go. Mildly Medicated was officially born.
Now while all this sounds good so far, there are unanticipated complications when traveling with a group of medically challenged individuals.
Once, on their way to a gig at Penn State University, Amanda got a nose bleed that soaked the front of her shirt. Steve, the clumsy one in the group, tripped over the biohazard container while trying to get to the cooler with Amanda’s clotting factor medicine, spilling used syringes all over the bottom of the van. In an attempt to gain control of the situation, the driver swerved the van while passing a state trooper. They were soon pulled over and the officer saw a bleeding young lady and a van littered with used syringes. Try talking your way out of that one. It took some time, some of it in handcuffs!
The story behind the band was picked up by Sirius XM radio and they became a staple on The Jay Thomas Show. Jay Thomas played their music and invited them to be the house band for the 10th anniversary of the show. What a thrill and a great honor that was!
Inspiration and Inspiring Others
They credit Jay for giving them their first big break. The band’s debut CD “Stop the Voices” is doing well in the US and in Europe, but the music industry has changed so much that artists can’t make a living on just sales. They need to tour. Now their hope is for a company to take a chance on a bunch of medical misfits that make some pretty kick ass music, and maybe inspire a few people along the way to reach for the stars and follow their dream.
Keen to inspire others who have been written off by the world, they say, “If we can do it, you can do it.”
Learn more about the band at their website www.MildlyMedicated.com