By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 2007
Fully embracing synth pop but giving it a modern edge, Freezepop creates some of the most addictively catchy electronic music out there. Their music has a strong sense of fun, with cleverly humorous lyrics and bouncy synth lines. While their sound is bound to appeal to New Wave fans, it must be noted that Freezepop is NOT a retro band. They are influenced by music that came out in the 80s, but are very much building upon the past rather than attempting to recreate it.
Hailing from Boston, MA, the group is comprised of Liz Enthusiasm (vocalist), the Duke of Pannekoeken (producer/vocalist/programmer), and Sean Drinkwater (synthesizers/programmer/vocalist). Freezepop’s music has been featured in several video games, including ‘FreQuency’, ‘Dance Dance Revolution ULTRAMIX 3’ and ‘Guitar Hero’ 1 & 2. Having self-released for many years, they’ve just put out their first CD on a label, “Future Future Future Perfect” (Cordless). In an email interview, Liz and The Duke discussed their creative process, their decision to go with a record label, and more.
When I first started hearing about Freezepop I’d read that you were using the Yamaha QY70 as your primary instrument. Are there any particular ways you’d say that device influenced your sound? Are you still using it main sequencer and/or source of sounds, and if not what made you move on to other pieces of equipment or software?
The Duke: The QY70 was incredibly important to the sound of Freezepop for those first few albums. It only had a small amount of synthetic sounds that i had to use for both the instruments and drums. They’re really kind of thin bleeps and bloops which really gave kind of a light and delicate quality to our songs. The other limitation that the device imposed on the songwriting was that because i composed everything in pattern mode, there were only 8 possible sounds at once, and only 6 total patterns.
That means that you would never hear more than 8 sounds, and that’s including the drum kits (each kit would be 1 sound). This, coupled with only having 6 unique sections per song, really kept things simple and straightforward, which is pretty much what pop music dictates. So really, that box’s limitations really guided the complexity of both the songwriting and sound of the band. After 2 full length albums and an EP of songs, I really basically used up everything that box could give me. I started to record all the sounds individually so i could post-process them all later to make them sound better and more unique. By the time FX3P had been started, I decided that i’d had enough of those sounds and limitations and wanted to open the songwriting up to all the gear that i had in my studio that i’d been using for other musical projects over the years. I’ve always used Digital Performer from MOTU as my digital recording app, but now it plays a more central role as i do a lot of midi sequencing in it as well it still being the way i mix Freezepop’s song. I also have been using Reason 3 as the place where i do most of the drum programming and samples that make up the songs.
As for synths and drums, we use a Moog Voyager, Alesis Andromeda, Nord synths, Linn and MachineDrum, as well as borrowing a sid-station for a few songs (Thought Balloon and Afterparty).
In terms of lyrics, are you thinking about the balance between being humorous and possibly coming across as parodying synth pop music? Or is that not a concern?
Liz: I wouldn’t say we’re parodying anything, exactly. I am balancing several things, trying to keep it humorous/lighthearted without being too jokey/novelty, and maybe even inserting little bits of Actual Sincerity in there as well.
The music of Freezepop has appeared in many video games. Do you have a sense of how large a segment of your fanbase might have discovered Freezepop that way?
Liz: It’s a pretty large percentage of our fans. At first, we were self-releasing our CDs, everything was pretty much DIY. All the exposure we got was through word-of-mouth, or just people who actively sought out this kind of music. Once the first video games (Frequency, Amplitude) came out, we definitely noticed an upturn in our fanbase, but even these games were pretty niche-y in terms of appealing to more serious gamers. The Guitar Hero thing really moved beyond that, and just exposed us to tons of people who wouldn’t have heard of us otherwise.
Are there any particular other types of games that you might like to see Freezepop music included in the future? (Perhaps not specifically music-related games?)
The Duke: Hm, that’s an interesting question. I could see being a part of quiz or brain type games since we do have a nerdy bent to us. I’d love to include some of our more aggressive and high energy tracks getting into racing games, maybe something futuristic and scifi. Also, anything wacky and japanese i’d love to get into, like katamari or locoroco.
How did you come to release the new CD on Cordless? Was signing to a label a goal of the band all along?
Liz: No, in fact, we were verrrry skeptical about signing to a label. We were in a pretty good position, with being able to self-release our CDs, and getting our exposure from the video games. But we were impressed by Cordless’s focus on artist development, and the fact that they wanted us to remain pretty independent, and we saw this as an experiment to see what a label could accomplish for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves. Over the summer, Cordless got absorbed into Rykodisc, so now we have an even bigger pool of resources to work with. We’re pretty happy with the situation so far, and it’s definitely a big plus that people are able to buy our CDs in stores now.
What is the creative process like within the band, and has it changed/evolved much over the course of Freezepop’s career?
Liz: I write most of the lyrics. The Duke has written most of the music, although on the new album there are several Sean songs, and things have generally gotten more collaborative between us over time.
Are there any particular things about prior synthpop music that you are trying to stay away from with Freezepop?
The Duke: When starting up freezepop years ago, it was really important to me to have the songs be fun and energetic with an element of absurdity thrown in. A lot of synthpop music is so serious and dark that going this route really set us apart from a lot of other bands that were really just regurgitating Depeche Mode. I also have always been interested in trying to find sounds and production techniques that are more cutting edge, like what you’re hearing in a lot of the European electro that’s been coming out the last few years. I think just in general, not taking our selves too seriously has been pretty key.
What are you thoughts on the growth & evolution of the Internet, as it relates to being used by bands/musicians (as a promotional and/or collaboration tool)? How does the current state of the Internet compare to where you thought it might be heading, back when you first started using it?
Liz: I’m a designer, so we’ve always had a pretty strong web presence. It’s easier to get yourself out there now, any band can set up a myspace page in no time at all, but it’s still a challenge to get yourself noticed, since there are 5 million other bands setting up their own myspace pages. But it’s really important that you have this opportunity you wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s great for kids today because they have so much to choose from, they can search out stuff they like instead of having to rely on what radio/MTV was forcing on people back in the day. Plus they can download it illegally for free instead of having to really pick and choose what they spend their hard-earned babysitting money on. (Going back to question 5, that’s the downside of being on a label: people feel a lot less guilty about stealing your album. Hey folks! We’re not rich yet! We’re not even making a living from this yet! If you’re going to steal our music, at least buy a t-shirt, okay?)
Are there particular areas of the country/world that you’ve found to be particularly receptive to Freezepop’s music? (and if so, do you have any thoughts as to why?)
Liz: On the whole, Europe is a lot more pop-friendly than the U.S. Scandinavia especially loves their synthpop. Here people are much more likely to dismiss us (or at least label us as “80s”) because we don’t have guitars or real drums. We do well in big cities like Seattle, SF, Chicago, LA. And we have weird pockets of fans elsewhere like Florida, Texas, Arizona… I really have no idea why that is though.
What music have you been listening to lately?
The Duke: Siriusmo, ModeSelektor, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Darkel, Snake River Conspiracy.
Liz: Um… not a lot, unfortunately. Junior Senior. The new Cornelius album. And I can’t wait for the new Duran Duran (how predictable is that?)See all interviews →