Freaking out

Leo Vondracek of Hot Freaks shares his band’s love of video game soundtracks and Britney Spears.

Indie pop band Hot Freaks.

Amanda Snyder

Indie pop band Hot Freaks.

Joseph Kleinschmidt

With the arcade in mind, pop-funk, five-piece Hot Freaks enter the local music sphere with plenty of quarters and Mountain Dew in hand. Inspired by Nintendo’s back catalog of video game soundtracks — from the NES to the GameCube — the Northeast Minneapolis band might as well hone the same enthusiasm onstage as Link onscreen.

When singer Leo Vondracek first tinkered with a spare melody from “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker,” his experimentation led to a particularly energetic cover of “Outset Island.” OverClocked ReMix, a website devoted to video game music, even noticed Hot Freaks’ reimagining of the song, garnering an unexpected Internet fan base.

“It’s funny because if you look on our Facebook page, half the people I have no idea how they found us,” Vondracek said.

“Outset Island” gives a pop edge to the typical simplicity of “Zelda” soundtracks, a minimal songwriting approach Vondracek still tinkers with.

“I tried to do a hip-hop version of the ‘Bomberman’ theme — it’s got really pretty chords actually,” he said. “I’ve just learned a lot about music from having to learn how to cover those songs.”

A Super NES game called “Illusion of Gaia” makes Vondracek’s list for a potential cover, but the influences of Hot Freaks still surpass the pixilated screen. Mainstream pop adds to the group’s upbeat appeal.

“Cody [Brown, Hot Freaks drummer] and I play or played — I don’t know if we are actually a band anymore— but we had an all-male Britney Spears tribute band,” he said.

The South Dakota native plays in both the aforementioned Spearz and Golden Bubbles, groups tied to a bubble gum-pop sensibility. Hot Freaks might take from video games, but the glossy sheen also stands beside the unhinged lyrics of its lead singer. Vondracek adds vulnerability to “Zelda” and Hot Freaks originals under the surface of the catchy melodies.

Hot Freaks couple Vondracek’s darker lyrics with a dance backing, and Vondracek said he sees his job as counteracting the desperate words with bubbling enthusiasm.

“I feel like our stuff is overwhelmingly depressing — maybe that’s why I try to overcompensate,” he said.

As the main songwriter, Vondracek said the new self-titled debut album, produced by Elliot Kozel (Tickle Torture), is a chance for further collaboration. Hot Freaks now shed the obvious video game influences in favor of a more organic, group-driven process.

“It always starts with trying to finish a basic script of something on my own,” he said. “Then we as the band can direct the movie.”

The lively pop culture stew of video games and Britney Spears still surround the Hot Freaks’ sound — it’s just not the guiding principle anymore. Vondracek of Spearz may be a Spears fan but just not the biggest one.

I have a Britney Spears T-shirt, and I was the third or fourth biggest Britney Spears fan in that band,” he said.

 

What: Hot Freaks tape release with Shakin’ Babies and Rupert Angeleyes

Where: Cause Spirits and Soundbar, 3001 S. Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis

When: 10 p.m., Friday

Cost: $5

Age: 21+