Freezepop @ Fifteen: Fellow musicians reflect on the electro-pop band’s influence in Boston

The year was 1999, and musically speaking, shit was downright grim. Woodstock burned, Limp Bizkit had a Number 1 album on the Billboard charts, and we were still a few years from the disco-midnight peak of electroclash. Cringe-worthy butt-rock ruled the day, Fred Durst arm-wrestled Scott Stapp in your car’s five-CD changer, and a few states went as far as to actually outlaw electronic music that didn’t come from Germany.

Well, OK, maybe that last one isn’t technically true (the second to last one is, quite literally), but 15 years ago was a far cry from the electro-pop heyday we are currently experiencing here in 2014, where neon beats and synthy treats line everything from the Top 40 to Jamaica Plain basement shows. Somewhere out there James Murphy is singing an extended mix of “Losing My Edge” where he stops and sobs quietly after talking a bout the kids buying keyboards. Because that’s where we’re at right now, and no one is returning them to Cheap Chic on Harvard Avenue.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way, and in 1999 bands like CHVRCHES and Miike Snow and Dragonette didn’t grow on plastic-tree websites like they do now.

Somehow, though, in the muck and the mire of nu-metal, Britpop’s seventh wave, and overplayed Cher comeback singles, Freezepop were born. The Boston synth-pop band emerged from a city that would really only embrace electronic music over the past few years, and in turn influenced an entire generation of bands across the genre spectrum.

As Freezepop celebrate their 15th anniversary with a show Thursday, July 31 at the Sinclair in Cambridge with like-minded musical souls Andre Obin, St. Nothing, and Br1ght Pr1mate, we reached out to a few friends and contemporaries of the band to assess their impact on the Boston music scene and beyond, especially over an initial decade that was particularly chilly towards danceable music (even during that heralded three-month period of electroclash in late-’01).

Here are a few of the responses we received…

Chris Ewen, DJ, Future Bible Heroes, Figures On A Beach

“Freezepop came around in a time when using synthesizers wasn’t seen as a legitimate way of making music in Boston. The fact that they’ve always created gorgeous pop with intelligent lyrics, while maintaing a healthy sense of humor about what they do is what drew me to them initially… they seemed to be from a different part of the country, if not the world, and I loved it.

I remember a review of my old band Figures On A Beach in the Boston Phoenix, where our use of drum machines was referred to as generating the sound of cash registers, insinuating that we sounded “foreign,” or not American enough, whatever that means — contrived, and not being true to our adopted hometown. Freezepop made synth pop acceptable in Boston by going global, initially through their Harmonix placements and then by taking their engaging and endearing live performances on the road around the world.

Their intelligent approach to their marketing and exposure legitimized electronic pop music in a town that used to frown on bands that used any instruments besides guitars, basses and drums. They’ve always done what they do on their terms, and Boston has had to catch up with them. I admire them greatly for that. Whether it was their initial intention or not, they’ve helped make the Boston music scene much more open and creative. And they continue to write brilliant songs in the process.”

Andre Obin; musician (Andre Obin)

“What stands out to me is that first and foremost, Freezepop are FUN! In a city where everyone takes their music and themselves very seriously, it’s always been refreshing to witness Freezepop’s willingness to be goofy and boisterous.

With that said, the music itself has never suffered; “Special Effects” is pure pop gold. They would easily hold their own opening for Duran Duran on their next world tour.”

[embedvideo id=”xXHwqYkMsQE” website=”youtube”]

Nico Szymanski; musician (Televandals)

“I think that Boston gets pigeonholed all too often with concern to the type of music people — from elsewhere — expect to hear from it (*cough* Dropkicks *cough*). Freezepop did quite a bit to break that mold. I don’t think anyone would have associated electro-pop with Boston if it weren’t for them.

And it’s a testament to their talent that they still continue to be relevant, especially in the electronic music scene which changes, evolves, subgenrates, explodes, collapses, and fucks your grandmother so often that even the most dedicated fan can’t even keep up with it. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that they simply make good music, while the type of music is almost secondary. It also speaks volumes to their confidence in what they do, and that confidence shows in the music.

My favorite Freezepop memory? Playing with Sean Drinkwater’s AT-AT walkers at one of their countless after parties while drinking Sailor Jerry from the bottle.”

Christopher Brown; musician (Vary Lumar)

“I don’t think I’ve ever entered a room with Sean Drinkwater in it without him offering a big smile and his hand already outstretched for a shake in my direction. And yet, and I can’t be alone in this opinion, he’s a guy for which I have a massive amount of respect. Knowledgeable as anyone about anything synthesizer-or-Vince Clarke-related and more to the point a great songwriter that consistently makes great music with Freezepop, amongst others.

This sort of description perfectly exemplifies Freezepop for me: geek-friendly, but not geeks. Approachable and nice people, but not above a smidgeon of rock star mysteriousness. Great tunes, but… well, let’s just leave it at that. Great tunes. I’m really happy to hail from the same city as Freezepop; they give us all a slightly better name by association.”

Clay Fernald; Middle East general manager, musician (Wild Zero)

“I moved into a house infamous for parties in Allston sometime in ’04. But we were the crew that played video games, drew comics and made pizza, to the delight of the neighbors.

I was introduced to a comic strip named Achewood at 51 Allston St., only to become obsessed with it. To my delight, local band Freezepop wrote a special song about hugs and this special boy Philippe standing on the drum machine!”

[embedvideo id=”oTlzUpmp8sY” website=”youtube”]

Anngelle Wood; radio host (Boston Emissions on WZLX), Rock and Roll Rumble curator

“There’s only one Freezepop.

They remain innovative and original despite a sea of impostors!

The Duke is back. I miss The Duke.”

FREEZEPOP + ANDRE OBIN + ST. NOTHING + BR1GHT PR1MATE :: Thursday, July 31 @ The Sinclair, 52 Church St., Cambridge, MA :: 8 p.m., 18-plus, $15 :: Facebook event :: Advance tickets

[embedvideo id=”WcAFkYUnSjg” website=”youtube”]

Freezepop Flyer