Some of you may know the band Freezepop from their appearance in various rhythm-based games, such as the Rock Band series, Amplitude, and FreQuency - or you may just know them from being a native of Boston. What everyone should know about Freezepop is that they are awesome.
After catching them on tour, I was able to snag an interview with bandmates, Liz Enthusiasm and The Other Sean T. Drinkwater, regarding their videogame appearances, upcoming album, and some other random tidbits.
If you haven't seen Freezepop live in concert, you definitely have to try and catch them some time. They're a one of a kind band that just oozes energy and good times and I can't recommend them highly enough. Their latest album, Imaginary Friends, releases on December 7th.
Game Rant: Now that you added a fourth member to the band, how do you think it affects the band's overall sound? Performance wise, I definitely think it adds a new dynamic.
Liz: Oh, definitely. Really, the main reason we expanded to a four-piece lineup was so we could have a fuller sound and more energy when playing live.
Sean: Expanding to a four-piece is something we'd been toying with on-and-off for a while. Bananas had been touring with us here and there for years and he actually played a few shows with the original lineup that I think we all enjoyed. We did the last two Pax shows as a four-piece and it certainly added something for bigger audiences. It's nice for me because I get to focus a little bit more and be a little bit more choosy about where I play. We're like a mini orchestra now. Sometimes there will be a minute or more where someone doesn't play anything but when everything kicks back in it's usually quite powerful.
GR: Do you miss the Duke (aka Kasson Crooker of Harmonix) in the band? (Also, what does his dot tattoo mean?)
Liz: Sure, we miss him! But he is still involved here and there, it's not like he dropped off the face of the earth or anything. As for the tattoo, he is a fan of cryptic geometric tattoos.
Sean: Absolutely. A lot of bands prattle on about their 'dynamic' and in the press most bands' original lineups are the ones which are seen as the most iconic. In this case with us, it's certainly true - in that the original lineup had a very specific feel. At the moment we're not trying to compete with the original band so much as compliment it. The Duke came by over the summer a couple of times to listen to what we were working on and offer some advice here and there. We're certainly hoping he'll do a remix at some point. I've known perhaps better songwriters and perhaps better producers but I'm not sure I've ever known anyone as good at both as The Duke. It's a long shadow that he's cast.
Regarding his tattoo I had the misfortune of walking in on one of his "ceremonies" a few years ago and unfortunately that's all I can say about it in good conscience. I've tried to block it out.
GR: Since your music has appeared in videogames, has it increased your listeners and fanbase? I'll admit I hadn't heard of you guys until you appeared in Rock Band, but now I'm a die-hard fan.
Liz: Oh yes, absolutely!
Sean: Well we went from having maybe 10,000 CDs in print to having our songs in millions of kids' laps without losing the rights to them. So, uhhh, yeah it's been a huge, huge deal for us. That being said we certainly had some other stuff cooking before the game stuff broke big, but we wouldn't have been in the same situation now I don't think.
GR: Any future plans to be included in videogames (that aren't Rock Band or other rhythm-based games) or do you want to avoid that stigma?
Liz: We are working on some Rock Band DLC and would definitely be open to other games as well. I wouldn't consider it a stigma, we've been very grateful for the opportunities we've gotten. The whole music industry is so messed up that bands need to take any avenue they can to help get them heard.
Sean: We're actually working on some game-type projects, but they aren't really contemporary rhythm games or anything (think total '80s). I think any 'stigma' that exists with regards to having gamer fans is out the window as soon as we play out of Boston and have a great show. The bottom line is you want to get your music out there to whomever wants to listen.
GR: Regarding your new album, Imaginary Friends, where did you draw the influences from? What was the creative process like? And how long did it take to produce?
Sean: Well I think there were two stages. Liz and I demoed 20 songs or so when the Duke was still in the band and chose maybe six or seven that we liked. We thought he would bring a few more songs in and we'd have an album. Alas it did not turn out this way. I think if we didn't already have certain key tracks somewhat 'in the bag' like "Magnetic," "Lose That Boy" and "Strange" that we might have either stopped or changed the name or something when he left. We were really knee-deep in a Freezepop album, though, and didn't want to see the work that we had done go to waste.
I think after he left and we decided to go forward that we felt the pressure was off in some odd way, and we had a bit more freedom to take the band in some newer directions. Not that he would have necessarily disagreed with anything we did but you never know what's going to get people excited. Certainly we were trying to make the songs a bit punchier and more sleek. I was a big fan of the second album and was drawing some influence from that to keep us from getting too far ahead of ourselves and stay somewhat anchored to the past.
With this album too, we tried to explore some lyrical themes that would flow throughout the album and make the thing cohesive as a piece. We'd never really done that before. We used a lot more analog synthesizers on this album than on previous records, although Future Future Future Perfect is certainly contemporary to this record from that perspective. In terms of music we were listening to I would have a hard time narrowing it down. I guess there's a bit more of a disco feel to certain parts of Imaginary Friends, but that came down more to simplifying the arrangements and keeping a 4/4 focus rather than coming from any intentional attempt at making disco. Also the synthpop that I really really love tends to be the late '70s quasi-disco stuff like Moroder, Kraftwerk and the original Human League. There is usually an attempt at updating those ideas when we start from scratch.
We started in November '08 and finished mixing in July 2010. There were certainly a few gaps in there for touring and Fall '09 was really spent introducing Christmas into the band and not doing a whole hell of a lot of writing/recording.
GR: From the band's original formation, how did you decide on the electropop sound?
Liz: Well, the band was originally formed around the Yamaha QY-70, and the Duke thought it was especially well-suited for making cute synthpop. It was kind of an obvious choice for us since we all loved that kind of music, and it helped us get noticed since very, very few bands were making that kind of music back then.
GR: The inclusion of a keyboard instrument in Rock Band 3 must have been an interesting and exciting prospect to the band. You did tour with it and I believe you said one of the songs from the new album would be appearing as DLC. How do you view the keyboard as it is portrayed in the game?
Sean: I haven't seen the game being played yet! That being said the keyboard is a fairly professional piece of gear. Christmas was keen on using it for a couple songs and it worked perfectly controlling pro synthesizers.
GR: When Freezepop plays videogames, or does generally nerdy things, what do you like to do?
Liz: I am probably the least nerdy band member, (I did have a soft spot for Battlestar Galactica though).
Sean: Buying synthesizers on eBay. I do also have a bit of a "science fiction collectibles" problem.
Liz: That is a big understatement.
GR: Why are you guys so awesome?
Liz: Because the only other choice would be to be less awesome, and who wants that?
Sean: We've always been pretty determined and we have really good taste. Well, usually.
GR: And the most burning question of all: Is Christmas Disco Marie Sagan single?
Liz: She is "single" in the sense of not having a ring on her finger. Beyond that, I'm keeping my mouth shut.
Sean: You'd maybe have to ask her that yourself. We can't give away a young lady's secrets.
GR: Thanks so very much for taking the time out of your schedule to answer my questions. You guys rock and I love you all.
Sean: Thank you, it's been a pleasure.
For more information on Freezepop, including a single off of their new album, tour dates, and general banality about the band, check out the homepage.