Retro-futurama

Freezepop just wanna rock
By MATT ASHARE  |  September 24, 2007


VIDEO: Freezepop, "Less Talk, More Rokk"

In the hands of almost any band, “Just give us more rock” would be, at best, a wry throw-away, at worst a lazy cliché. But Freezepop aren’t just any band: since 1999, the local trio have cut hard against the Boston rock grain, eschewing the usual guitar/bass/drums æsthetic for one based purely on electronics — a retro-futuristic brand of electro-pop that conjures Day-Glo MTV spots, Martha Quinn, and hairspray-impaired Brits wielding keytars. So when in “Less Talk More Rokk,” the house-beaten opening track of Freezepop’s new Future Future Future Perfect (Cordless/Rykodisc), Jussi Gamache (stage name Liz Enthusiasm) intones, “Give us more rock” (and “intones” is the way to describe her icy sweet, not quite emotionless, almost matter-of-fact delivery), she does so with an alluring wink and a nod. “Let’s keep the party going, yo/We’ve got nowhere else to be/Someone yells, ‘Less talk more rock!’/Mostly unironically.”

Freezepop were the brainchild of Kasson Crooker, a veteran of two ’90s bands with goth leanings and ties to the Castle Von Buhler label, Sirensong and Splashdown. But what brought the band together — aside from a taste for ’80s new wave that Crooker (stage name the Duke of Pannekdeker) shared with Gamache and Sean Drinkwater (a/k/a the Other Sean T. Drinkwater) — was a piece of equipment: a Yamaha QY-70 hand-held sequencer. It’s not the most, uh, technologically advanced piece of equipment. Crooker explains, “I had gotten this little box. And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do a whole band based around this little box, with no other gear, just this one stupid little sequencer.’ Splashdown was kind of serious, and doing shows was really complicated. And I was like, ‘Let’s do something really easy and really dumb.’ And then I got introduced to Jussi through a mutual friend and I said, ‘I hear you sing and that you like Duran Duran: do you want to form a dance synth band?’ ”

Crooker and Drinkwater were already acquainted through the latter’s association with Castle Von Buhler: he was in the provocatively named Veronica Black Morpheus Nipple. And the three found that their shared fondness for classic synth-pop was matched by an appreciation for songcraft. It’s why, when the band celebrate the release of their third full-length tonight (Thursday the 27th) at the Middle East downstairs, they’ll be joined by their friend guitar-rock bandleader Ad Frank, not a bunch of other synth acts or DJs.

“We play with a lot of rock bands,” Drinkwater reflects as we sit around a table at Carberry’s in Cambridge. “And I think we prefer to book our band in rock clubs with good rock/pop bands rather than with other electronic bands, because we tend to have more in common with them. Oh, and there aren’t really synth-pop clubs.”

But over the past several years, as neo new wave has become a trend, more and more rock clubs are hosting synth-pop nights. And it’s to Freezepop’s advantage that they can do the rock-club thing and also fit in among DJs at a dance club. Drinkwater: “Our last big tour was in 2004, and a lot of the shows ended up being things like a Friday electro night, where for 40 minutes in between DJs Freezepop comes up and plays a set. We’ve done a lot of shows like that. That’s something that a rock band would have a hard time doing.”

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