FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS

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story / Robert Frezza
photos / Eric T. White

One of the many hard-working acts in the music industry is Fitz and the Tantrums, who have been touring relentlessly in support of the band’s sophomore smash album, More Than Just a Dream, since its release three years ago. The group’s debut album, 2010’s Picking Up The Pieces, saw the them dip into Motown influences, especially with their first single “Moneygrabber”. Now, with the their third self-titled album on deck (June 10), Michael Fitzpatrick, Noelle Scaggs, James King, Joseph Karnes, Jeremy Ruzumna, and John Wicks are still forging ahead sonically and lyrically, breaking creative boundaries for the public’s listening pleasure.
Ahead of the new album, we sat down with Fitz of Fitz and the Tantrums — aka Michael Fitzpatrick — to talk about the band’s sonic evolution, their critics, and how the legacy of Prince binds them together.
This is Fitz and the Tantrums’ third album. Did you think you’d make it this far?
It’s crazy. I still can’t believe it sometimes. It surprises me when I go on stage that there’s anybody there, eight years in. It’s been a crazy journey. To have a dream that you’ve pursued for so many years in your life and have it finally come true takes my breath away. There’s a lot of people who have worked just as hard as I have and it hasn’t happened for them.
How has the band evolved from the first album?
We always set a mission in our band to evolve sonically and in our songwriting. Obviously, there was a sonic shift in our second album. On our latest self-titled album some people were worried with some of the chances that we took with our last record. We were very fortunate to have success with it. It vindicated and validated all the chances we took. With this record, it gave us the confidence to push ourselves even further. I think that is one of the reasons why this album is self titled because it’s a moment that we fully become our own and we were able to draw all the musical styles and incorporate all of it on this new record.
Is it difficult to keep everyone on the same page since you have a six-piece band?
I think there’s always diversity. As much as it is a challenge to have six people to have a consensus about something, it has always been one of the great pluses. We let the diversity find itself into the music. I think that three albums in, everybody is used to that collective experience and trust the bigger picture. We always land at the finish line all together.
Noelle Scaggs has some lead vocals on “Burn It Down” off the new album. Will we see more of this in the future?
Always! Noelle is my partner in crime. She is the female to my masculine energy. She is the she said to the he said of all the stories of scorned love, love, and regretful love. So that is a natural place for that to reside.
What inspired this album, musically and lyrically?
It was the next step in our evolution, musically and to find new vocabulary of definition and sounds. Lyrically, it’s about finding our emotional markers to what we are experiencing as human beings. This album is about desire — carnal desire, the desire not to fail, the desire to have a belonging to a community.

The band didn’t waste much time putting this album together. Was the recording process easier this time around?
With the last record we recorded 35 songs in 40 days.  The week of pre-production and recording the album was done. We had a vision of this record going down the same way. Three years of touring gets exhausting.  You can get detached from reality. It’s a weird microcosm of traveling with the same ten people everyday.
So when we came around to writing the new record, we came across some writing block. We were searching for these new sounds and it wasn’t coming as easy as we wanted it to. So we decided to have some outside collaborators help us out. These producers were like a new prism that refracted the light in a slightly different way to see our reflections in the mirror, so to speak. It was a great experience on how to check in emotionally with ourselves. So, this is some of our strongest work and most emotional yet.
A comment appeared on the band’s Facebook page that states the band strayed away from the Motown sound that got you on the map in the first place. Do you pay attention to comments like that on the band’s social media?
You know the reality is once your music is out there, some people say you have changed too much, and some say you haven’t changed at all. You can never really win. What you have to do is follow your artistic bliss. What you have to do is make music that you really love.  Hopefully your fan base will follow. All we did was combine all of our sounds and influences at this point.
Are you surprised there are no other bands that sound like Fitz and the Tantrums right now?
There have been several attempts. You know, the first day the six of us got in a room there was magic and I do not think that is easily found. That was the moment that everything clicked for us.
How have the deaths of David Bowie and Prince affected Fitz and the Tantrums in the past year?
I think for all of us we were all fans of David Bowie, but more than Bowie was Prince. He was the biggest and most common influence on our band. There’s truly no more prolific musician than Prince, who never stopped making music.

In top image Noelle wears Viktor & Rolf houndstooth culottes, Margiela booties, and Nasty Gal bra; in bottom image she wears J. Trossman patent leather dress and Rodarte boots.

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