When Liz Enthusiasm was asked to join Freezepop in 1999, she was cool to the idea, and a bit suspicious.
“I had never been in serious band,” says the singer-lyricist born Jussi Gamache from her home in Boston. “I wondered, `Why is this guy getting in touch with me? I’m a graphic designer, not a musician.’”
“This guy” was Kasson Crooker (aka Freezepop producer-vocalist-programmer The Duke of Pannekoenen), and he was part of a fairly well-known Boston alt-rock trio called Splashdown.
And though Enthusiasm, a 1994 Boston University grad, was “happy” doing graphic design for her alma mater’s alumni publication while working on a master’s degree (which she got in 2000), she eventually signed on with the Duke’s electro-pop outfit.
What helped Enthusiasm overcome her standoffishness?
First, she found out that Crooker’s call was arranged by her roommate, Sean T. Drinkwater (aka Freezepop synthesizer player-programmer-vocalist The Other Sean T. Drinkwater). “He and The Duke knew each other from the Boston music scene,” says Enthusiasm. “He answered the phone when Duke was trying to reach me. That was back in the days when we didn’t have cell phones.”
Though Enthusiasm claims “joining a band is something I never aspired to,” she admits, “I always had fun on stage in the (hobby) bands I was in, especially a cheesy `60s-style girl group that played original music.”
At first, Freezepop was just “a fun little side project” that was run out of the Duke’s Yamaha QY-70 battery-powered sequencer. “Then, we were kinda like, `Let’s see what happens. Let’s do this and this and see how big we can grow,’” says Enthusiasm.
Two self-released albums - 2000’s “Freezepop Forever” and 2004’s “Fancy Ultra-Fresh” - helped turn Freezepop into a major player in video-game soundtrack circles. Since 2001, Freezepop’s music has been included on such hit music-heavy games as “FreQuency” and “Karaoke Revolution” (both used “Science Genius Girl”); “Dance Dance Revolution ULTRAMIX 3” (“Stakeout”); “Rock Band” (“Brainpower,” “Super-Sprøde”); “Guitar Hero” (“Get Ready 2 Rokk”) and “Guitar Hero II” (“Less Talk More Rokk”).
Now Freezepop is trying to connect to a wider audience with a new album of catchy, `80s-tinged synth-pop, “Future Future Future Perfect,” which was released on Sept. 25 on a label, Cordless, distributed by Rykodisc.
“So far, video games are the main way people hear of us,” says Enthusiasm. “But we’ve gone way beyond initial expectations.”
And, no doubt, it hasn’t hurt that Crooker is audio director at Harmonix, which makes “FreQuency” and the “Guitar Hero” series.
“We’ve been told by some people, `You guys don’t even play guitar. What are you doing in this (`Guitar Hero’) game?” says Enthusiasm. “I don’t know if we really have a good answer to that. On the first (`Guitar Hero’ soundtrack), we added a guitar part to our song. Until they make a `Keyboard Hero’ game, we are limited in our options.”
In the beginning, says Enthusiasm, the music “was a lot more minimal. Now the production has gotten more complicated and polished.”
Although she doesn’t write music, Enthusiasm pens almost all of the lyrics. “I try to keep them lighthearted, but not overtly jokey. Then I give them to the boys and they move things around and make things fit. ... We walk a line. We want it to be fun, but not novelty music.”
Freeezeplan succeeds brilliantly on “Pop Music Is Not a Crime,” which calls to mind the infectious confections of M (“Pop Muzik”), Lipps Inc. (“Funkytown”) and The Buggles (“Video Killed the Radio Star”).
Enthusiasm denies Freezepop intended to echo those `80s synth acts. And for the lyrics, “I was thinking, `What do I write a song about now? Where do I go from here?’ I’ve always struggled with (writing). I’m not one of those super-prolific people. I was poking fun at the fact that most of our songs are not about heavy subjects.”
Maybe heft isn’t Enthusiasm’s strong suit. But the synth-pulsed “Less Talk More Rokk” and the revved-up “Brainpower” are surely worth 100 intellectual exercises.
The former, sung in an inviting yet insistent coo, was inspired by a sweltering summer basement party in Boston. “The party was crappy, but the bands were awesome,” says Enthusiasm. “I live in a student ghetto, so the neighbors don’t complain.”
On “Brainpower,” Freezeplan sounds like The Donnas gone disco. “We jokingly refer to it as our punk-rock song,” says Enthusiasm. “It’s a true story. I did get drunk and say that Brainpower would be a really funny name for a band! ... It’s also a cool thing to shout at shows.”
“Thought Balloon” is a decided change of pace, a positively charming tune about a tongue-tied single pining for another, while “Do You Like Boys?” is provocative in its sexual ambiguity.
“It’s a cover song,” says Enthusiasm of “Boys.” “It was written by friends of ours in the Danish band Si Senor. They have a guy singer, but the song works with either gender.”