Just how fully functional is Rock Band 3's keyboard controller? Synthpop sensationa Freezepop are utilising the peripheral onstage during their current tour, so we asked them.
It should come as no surprise that Freezepop has access to the new Rock Band 3 controller in advance of the game's release. After all, retired founding member Kasson Crooker is a project manager at Harmonix. Fellow founding member Sean Drinkwater does as well.
The two formed Freezepop in 1999 with lead singer Liz Enthusiasm, and Harmonix has played a big part in the band's rise to popularity. Freezepop music has appeared in multiple Harmonix games, including FreQuency and Amplitude, the first two Guitar Hero titles (before Activision took over) and the Rock Band franchise.
Sean recalls a shift in the fan base after Harmonix featured the song "Science Genius Girl" in 2001's FreQuency for the PlayStation 2.
"I remember being on tour in 2003, and suddenly kids were coming up to us with Frequency cases for autographs instead of CDs. I knew then that the games were having a big impact."
Things exploded further in 2006, when the band's "Less Talk More Rokk" appeared as a bonus track in the wildly successful Guitar Hero 2.
"Guitar Hero 2 was a huge turning point for us because of how huge the game was culturally and how well-suited our song was to the experience," explains Sean. "It sort of exploded for us after that. In 2006, having your song land in a million kids' laps without losing the rights or signing your life away to a huge mega-corporation was an amazing form of distribution. We couldn't be more grateful."
Following Kasson Crooker's departure from the band last year to focus on Harmonix projects, Freezepop found two new members to help fill the hole: Robert John "Bananas" Foster and Christmas Disco-Marie Sagan.
Christmas might not have discovered Freezepop through video games, but remembers the impact the music had in games like Guitar Hero. "I first found Freezepop while looking for bands similar to Ladytron, and I became a fan quickly. A few years later, I was amazed to see them pop up in Guitar Hero. It was just beautiful life synergy."
And now Christmas is performing onstage with the band, using a music controller from one of those games. The band took a moment out of their busy tour schedule to record a little video of Christmas and the Rockband 3 keyboard controller in action.
So how does the Rock Band 3 keyboard hold up during live performances? "It is awesome live!" gushes Christmas. "The key action is good and the modulation ribbon, while a bit less nuanced than a full-sized keytar, lets you have a lot more control than I would ever expect from a video game controller. It's very much like a real keytar."
Mind you Christmas normally plays a normal standing keyboard. She calls the Nord Lead 2 and the Korg R3 her "regular ladies," but she seems to hold her own on the keytar. "It's surprising how different (and more difficult) it is to take a skill you have and tilt it 90 degrees clockwise."
And what of Sean's thoughts? " It looks good and can be flown as a carry-on!"
But just because they play the songs live using Rock Band instruments doesn't mean they excel at Rock Band.
"I'm like a C on a good day," says Christmas of her Rock Band skills. "I'm glad this was not part of the auditioning process for getting into the band."
Sean admits he was terrible at all rhythm games until The Beatles: Rock Band sparked his interest in the rest of the music-game world. "I do well with the singing, oddly."
So what's next for Freezepop? The band is readying a new album called Imaginary Friends for release on December 7, with a tour planned soon after. Fans in the Boston, Massachusetts, area can catch them live on stage with their Rock Band 3 keyboard controller this Thursday, October 31 at Harper's Ferry .
Make sure you bring your copies of FreQuency.
Photo by Geordan Rosario