Interview: Liz Enthusiasm (of Freezepop)

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    Yesterday, CoS’ Allison Franks offered her take on Freezepop’s performance in Richmond this past Thursday, but that was only part one of her evening. Before the show, she had a chance to sit down with the Boston outfit’s frontlady, Liz Enthusiasm, aka Jussi Gamache, for a discussion on a wide array of topics…

    CoS: Your latest album Future Future Future Perfect really took Freezepop in a new direction, sound wise. Any specific reasons why the album turned out so dark?

    Liz Enthusiasm: Yeah, I don’t think there was any specific reason for that or anything, it was just kind of a natural progression. There was a big jump in between the 1st and 2nd albums too, so. It’s one of those things that kind of seems like a big thing for us, but if you look at the difference between the 1st and 3rd albums, yeah that’s kind of like a big shift, but once you take the 2nd album into consideration it connects the dots, I guess. So yeah, there wasn’t a real reason. The boys write the music and stuff, so it was just sort of what they were interested in doing really.

    CoS: Now that you are signed with Cordless, do you think the band will start whipping out more records and start treating Freezepop as a full time job?

    L.E.: That’s a tough one, yeah. We’re sort of at the point now where we are about to renew our contract and we are pretty notoriously slow. We are actually going to put out an E.P. with them in a couple of weeks, but other than that we sort of started writing new stuff and it’s still really slow going. We aren’t going to do it full time, just cause I mean the Duke has a full time plus job that he’s not about to leave because he actually really enjoys it and Sean and I hold freelance and we also really like doing that. To do this band full time, we would have to be touring for probably like six months out of the year, just cause there is no money in putting out albums or anything like that. So, we’d have to be on the road like a lot, a lot more than we are right now and it’s tough. I mean we have fun on the road, but we try to do it where we are out for like two weeks at a time, maximum. And then we have to get home to our pets and our friends and you know, just our regular lives.


    CoS: Sorry if that was brash, how are things coming along with your graphic design work these days?

    L.E.: It’s good. It’s definitely on the back burner sometimes when I’m doing the music stuff, but I really like freelancing because it gives me the freedom to go on the road for a couple of weeks and then come back and start doing that stuff again. So yeah, it’s fun. I like it, it’s a good balance.

    CoS: Your music has been popping up a lot in video games lately, any reason for that?

    L.E.: Yes, it has! The Duke actually works at a video game company so we sort of had years and years ago, before Guitar Hero and everything, and they were putting out smaller games, and they needed music for it. He was hired to write music and then it’s like we’ll put some Freezepop songs in there. It was definitely one of these things where “we should do this” and he kind of pestered the right people and they were like “Alright, alright.” And the response to it was so good that we were able to keep doing it and then we had the opportunity to be in Guitar Hero. Nobody really knew the game was going to be quite so huge, so it was pretty lucky I guess.

    CoS: You are talking about Harmonix right?

    L.E.: Harmonix, yeah. So, it was sort of the right place at the right time kind of thing, cause now it would be pretty impossible for an unsigned, independent band to get into these games.

    CoS: Are there any particular games (of any genre) you’d like to see your music featured in?

    L.E.: I don’t know, I mean the thing is I don’t even know that much about games, personally. We do like to branch out and be featured in different kinds of games, but the music ones are kind of the more obvious fit for us.


    CoS: And how much of your fanbase do you think discovered Freezepop this way?

    L.E.: A lot, like I would guess probably around 75%, I would think. Most of them are from Guitar Hero II, but then there are also old schoolers. Now it’s sort of a point of pride, people being like “I’ve known about you since Frequency,” you know and so those are the old schoolers.

    CoS: I’ve noticed that you have a way of writing fun and flirty lyrics that are quite hilarious and cynical at times. How do you come up with this stuff? Are you drawing from any particular influences?

    L.E.: Sometimes they are true stories, sometimes they’re fictional and sometimes it’s a phrase that I kind of find funny and decide to write a song around that. Yeah, it kind of comes from all over the place. I wish I had some kind of formula cause then it would actually be really easy to write more songs, but it’s actually really hard. That’s why it takes us three years between albums. It’s tough to find the inspiration and kind of make it sound like a Freezepop song without making it be a cliché Freezepop song. So yeah, it’s kind of a balancing act.


    CoS: What’s so great about your music is how happy it makes you feel afterwards. Is this something you keep in mind while recording or is the outcome completely accidental?

    L.E.: Lyrically, I’m just not really a sad person. We try to kind of keep it light-hearted and funny without being kind of overtly jokey. I’ve kind of learned over the years, like some of the stuff on the first album, I kind of got sick of performing after awhile cause you can only hear a certain joke so many times before it’s like “Oh, a song about robots, ok, ha-ha that’s cute whatever.” So, yeah now we are trying to keep it like not “new,” but something kind of new I guess.

    CoS: Is there a funny story behind “Do You Like My Wang?” I take it the Duke was behind that one.

    L.E.: Yeah, the Duke is behind that one. I don’t know actually. Yeah, I wish I knew. I know he sort of wrote it as part two to “Chess King,” so that was kind of his thinking. I don’t know if it’s based on a true story at all, but there it is. I don’t know.

    CoS: What is it like being the only girl in the band? Do you ever feel forced to objectify yourself in any way?

    L.E.: No, not really. It’s not like I’m in a band with like 10 dudes or anything. The dudes aren’t very fancy dudes or anything, we hang out, we have a good time. I mean in certain photos it’s like I’m standing in the middle and that’s just kind of how it is you know, but I think it’s more cause I’m the singer, as opposed to me being a girl specifically.


    CoS: How did you manage to get your very own signature lipstick by Camp Cosmetics? That’s like every girl’s dream!

    L.E.: Yeah! I know, right! This guy who owns a cosmetics company in Chicago, he’s like a make up artist and he has his own line, right, and some friend told him about us and he’s like “Oh my god. I love you!” And so we corresponded a little bit and then he was like I want to make you guys lipstick and I was like this is so perfect, cause I’ve been kind of looking for my perfect hot pink for awhile and then he’s offering to make whatever color I want, which is so great. So yeah, he made it for us. We kind of sent back and forth samples for a little while and then he got it perfect and I was like, “That’s it, that’s great.” I finally got to meet him actually earlier this year, when we played in Chicago and it was awesome. He brought me a lot of makeup and I was like “This is fantastic!” It was really lucky and I was like, “This is why I joined a band! This is great.”

    CoS: In every Freezepop photo, all of you look utterly fabulous. Are you more of a designer-only or vintage kind of gal?

    L.E.: Oh, I definitely mix it up. I like vintage a lot and I can’t really afford fancy designer stuff. Honestly, a lot of stuff we get from H&M or even Target sometimes. Yeah, I’m definitely not afraid of shopping at the mall. I like shopping at the mall, a lot in fact, but I also like vintage stuff just cause then you can have something that not everybody else in the world has. So yeah, I mix it up, but I mean we like wearing fancy clothes and things, cause we are sort of from that whole school of glamorous pop stars. It’s kind of evolved a little bit over the years, but it’s fun. Back when I joined the band I was like, “Oh, it’d be fun to dress up fancy and play some shows” and you know that was about my expectations at the time. I didn’t know it was going to be quite this big.

    CoS: What impulses fuel your work? (Don’t be afraid to say anything silly either, like the scent of gasoline or something).

    L.E.: Oh, I don’t like the scent of gasoline. I like the scent of chlorine, though! Chlorine, that’s a good smell. Um, what else….sugar, getting hopped up on sugar, that’s a good thing. Yeah, I don’t know playing with my dog, bright colors, orange, pink. Yeah, I don’t know.


    CoS: Given the band’s eclectic taste in equipment, how would you say this affects the stage setup for your performances? Do you have to rely on previously recorded material?

    L.E.: Well the keytars were actually, I mean the boys used to use a lot of other bigger keytars, I mean keyboards on stands. We started using the keytars just cause they could run around more and it just made for a more interesting show. Like the live setup is actually pretty different from the studio setup cause the boys each have like a million billion keyboards. And we don’t use the QY70 that much anymore that was more for like when we do the old songs.

    Oh, so the Duke isn’t touring with us right now cause he’s kind of stuck in Boston at his day job. So, we have a rotating cast sort of, Seth Demastus Kennedy is sort of like our permanent “fill-in” kind of guy. He’s toured with us, pretty much like on and off for the past four years or so, but pretty steadily for the past year. And right now we are also touring with this other band, Boy in Static, and so they kind of jump in and switch out on different songs with us as well. So, yeah the Duke is stuck in Boston and he can’t really take much time off now so we are sort of forced with the decision of like, well we could tour without him or we could just not tour for more than one week intervals. It’s tough to fill his shoes, but Seth has done a very lovely job of it.

    There was a point to all this, oh yeah, so my whole original point was that we don’t use the QY70 that much anymore. It’s one of these things were like everything we bring we have to carry with us, so there’s definitely like an impetus to pack light. If we play a Boston show, the boys’ll bring out more keyboards and sometimes the Duke brings his Theremin, it’s pretty exciting. This is sort of our set up right now, it’s pretty easy, we’ve got a couple keytars, some drum pads and that’s pretty much it.


    CoS: Are you comfortable with the level of success that the band has built for itself? Are there times when you wish you could go back to playing at really small intimate venues?

    L.E.: Well, like I was saying it’s definitely a lot more than what I had anticipated upon joining the band. I just kind of joined it as a fluke, cause I thought it sounded fun. As we’ve gotten more and more exposure, it’s been like “Oh wow this is kind of cool, let’s keep doing it and see how much further we get.” So, it’s almost like a little game in that respect. I’m pretty happy with it. Obviously, we want to sort of keep pushing and see what more we can do, but yeah, I’m pretty happy with it. I was never set out for world domination or anything like that and we are very much a niche sort of band. Not everybody is going to like us and I think the thing we are really happy about is that the people that do like us, like our fans are really super hardcore about it. We are not the kind of band to have casual fans, the ones who like us really, really like us, which is nice.

    And we could do that if we wanted to, like we’ll still play parties and stuff, yeah like once in awhile and it’s fun. I think the weird thing for us is like a couple times a year we’ll play at a convention or something, like we played at PAX in Seattle a couple months back and that was a huge, huge event. It was like we were famous for a couple days. It was seriously, insane. And the show we played was like 5,000 people and it was just so much bigger than we’re used to. It was novel, it was really fun, but it was just so outside of our normal everyday way of being. So, I think we are in a good position right now. We can actually get decent-ish shows and we have a booking agent and a manager now, so we aren’t doing everything ourselves. We are pretty happy with where we are at right now.

    CoS: If you were given the opportunity to meet anyone (alive or dead), who would it be and why?

    L.E.: Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran because I have a humongous crush on him. There it is.

    CoS: You sound like you had that one planned out.

    L.E.: Well we have been listening to Duran Duran in the car all day anyways, so. I’ve just had a crush on him forever and I still have not yet gotten to meet him. So, maybe one of these days…


    CoS: So, what’s next? Are there any last minute plans before ‘09?

    L.E.: Well, the E.P. is going to come out in a couple of weeks. It’s mostly remixes of “Frontload” and also a couple other remixes, a new song, an acoustic version of “Plastic Stars,” it’s kind of like a weird mix of things. And there’s gonna be a video for “Frontload” coming out with it too. Yeah, so this tour lasts for like another week or something and we don’t really have anything else big booked beyond that. I think we are just going to sort of hang out at home for a little while and try and write new stuff. At a week and a half we kind of hit the wall and we’re like, “I’m ready to go home now.” We like touring for short little burps at a time. It really kicks your ass after awhile you know? You are just like, “Oh my god another show, I’m so tired.”

    CoS: What can we expect from your performance later tonight? Will there be any special surprises?

    L.E.: We try to do a sort of mix of old stuff and new stuff. We just want it to be a fun thing, so we just hope the people dance. When the audience dances a lot it makes our job easier cause we really kind of feed off that energy, so yeah, it’ll be fun. We’ll have people kind of switching in and out, yeah.

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