by DJ Mätthew Griffin
Freezepop is an electropop band that hails from Boston. Originated in 1999, they are in their 12th year, creating what has been dubbed as a retro-futuristic sound with songs that are hot in the video game arena. Their most recent album Imaginary Friends received Best Album honors in the 2011 Boston Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll and Best Electronic Act in the 2011 Boston Music Awards. But it’s their newest naughty and nice “Dopplegänger” video with its unique video controller system that has everyone currently talking about them. Here is a little Q & A with band member Liz Enthusiasm.
Noise: Who formed the band and what was happening in the local music scene around the time of the incarnation of Freezepop?
Liz: The Duke formed the band in 1999, and a mutual friend introduced us. Not a lot was happening in terms of electronic music locally back then, which is how Sean and the Duke knew each other. Everything was so rock-centric that the synth people were like kindred spirits.
Noise: How do you define the term “retro-futuristic”?
Liz: Like the ’60s version of the future. All white and shiny, with bright colors and rounded corners.
Noise: Who would cite as a main influence on your music?
Liz: The classics—Human League, Depeche Mode, Giorgio Moroder… the list could go on forever. We listen to a lot of new stuff too, but the old stuff is what I’d consider to be influential to us.
Noise: What was Freezepop’s sound like in the early days of the band and please explain the plight of putting out your products DIY style?
Liz: Our sound was a lot more minimal at first, because we only had the Yamaha QY-70 and a vocoder. Also, I couldn’t really sing back then. So the whole thing was a lot more blippy and twee.
As for the DIY thing, I wouldn’t call it plight: Sean and I already had a label with some other friends and had put out several local releases. So we already mostly knew what we were doing. It just seemed natural to do everything ourselves instead of waiting around for a label to do it for us. Between the three of us and our various talents, we had pretty much all the bases covered.
Noise: How was your freshman album Freezepop Forever received by both press and fans in 2000?
Liz: The press mostly ignored us, or were confused. I do remember the Noise giving us a nice lil’ review. We didn’t have a ton of fans yet. But, years later, we still have decent back catalog sales, so people are still into it, which is nice, even if parts of the album make me cringe a little bit (like I said, I couldn’t really sing back then). One really great thing for us back then was that the album was licensed by a Spanish indiepop label, Elefant. They had a really great roster and brought us over there for a tour, and it was the first real “breakthrough” that our band had.
Noise: Tell me a little bit about 2004’s Ultra Fancy Fresh.
Liz: I still think that album is the most classically Freezepop of all our releases. And the timing of that kinda coincided with the whole electroclash thing, so it was actually cool to like us for a few minutes there. Heh.
Noise: Freezepop has gone on to quite the cult status with a following.
Liz: Blame that one on the videogames, I guess.
Noise: How did you hook up with Rykodisc, for the 2007 release of Future Future Future Perfect.
Liz: Having been DIY for so long, we were not actively seeking out labels, and were actually pretty leery about the idea. The Duke’s previous band, Splashdown, had gotten royally screwed over by a label, as did a great many other Boston bands of that era. This was pretty much when the whole music industry had begun their crash-and-burn. So when this label, Cordless, approached us it definitely took some convincing on their part! But they won us over because of their non-traditional approach to promoting bands, and the fact that it was a licensing deal, as opposed to a full-on record deal that we were locked into, and we looked at it like an experiment, like what could they do for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves? Then when the album was soon-to-be-released, Warner (their parent company) decided to fold them into Rykodisc. It was an interesting position to be in because at the time, Ryko had some bands we really loved, but we suddenly went from a high priority at a small label to a smaller priority at a bigger label.
On the whole, it was a positive experience. We had considered staying with Ryko for the release of Imaginary Friends, but they had wanted to move forward with a more traditional record deal, and then Warner started doing more label shake-ups so we didn’t want to get locked into anything, that old nervousness returned. Plus it made more sense for us business-wise to go back to doing everything ourselves, and it gets easier and easier to do it. There are so many services now that cater to DIY musicians.
Noise: What are Freezepop live performances like?
Liz: We try to make it a fun dance party, and make it an actual show. People get bored when it’s just some dude behind a laptop. It’s funny that for a band that was founded on the concept of having one tiny sequencer, our shows have gotten so much bigger and more complicated now. We used to be able to tour in a car! I miss being able to do that, but it definitely feels like more of an experience now.
Noise: The single “Less Talk More Rokk” rose to number four on the the iTunes dance/electronic song of 2007.
Liz: Well, that’s another one to blame on the videogames.
Noise: Freezepop won Best Electronic Act in the 2011 Boston Music Awards.
Liz: That was pretty nice, since we traditionally have not gotten a ton of press-love locally. All you have to do is keep at it for 12+ years!
Noise: You guys also received best album honors in the 2011 Boston Phoenix/WFNX Best Music Poll.
Liz: Yeah, that really made us happy. It was a big shift when the Duke left the band, so we felt like we had a lot more riding on the next album. like we had to make it extra-awesome. And we really made a conscious effort to make it more of a cohesive album, as opposed to a-bunch-of-songs-from-a-certain-time-period. But it’s a bit nerve-wracking to release something like that, so the fact that our fans still liked it was very gratifying.
Noise: Tell me about the making of the video for Dopplegänger.
Liz: That was a lot of fun. We worked with our friend Mike Gill, who has done great videos for a bunch of bands. The approach was kinda “we have no budget but we can at least make it funny.” The whole filming process was hilarious, and we had some very cooperative friends (including the Duke) who made cameos.
Then we had so much extra footage that didn’t make the cut, that we made the extra good and evil versions, and had the idea for the video player where you could switch back and forth. Luckily, our newest member, Christmas, is also a genius web developer so she could actually build it.
Noise: A lot of Freezepop’s music has been featured in video games such as Guitar Hero and the Rock Band series.
Liz: Yeah, it’s been a weird and awesome little niche we’ve found ourselves in. Definitely not what you expect when you join a band, but it’s been awesome for us.
Noise: You even had a song played in an episode of the HBO TV show The L Word.
Liz: That and a few PBS kids’ shows, we’re the smuttiest family-friendly band around.
Noise: Where do you see the album Imaginary Friends going?
Liz: At least personally, it’s the album that I’m the most proud of. We just released an EP with some remixes from it too. But it’s getting to be about time we start writing the next one…