Fitz & The Tantrums are on the verge of flaring up mainstream America. Ever since releasing their debut album Pickin’ Up The Pieces this past August, the California-based collective has supported Maroon 5 on tour, performed their single “Money Grabber” live on virtually every late-night television talk show and secured a slot on the upcoming Dave Matthews Band Caravan festival. On top of that, VH1 named them this month’s artist “You Oughta Know.”
Truth is, they are a group everybody needs to know about and for good reason. Inspired by the Motown and Stax era, this genre-bending sextet masterfully blends the classical elements of rhythm and blues with soul, and also provides a modern pop twist that will enliven the semi-drowsy musical landscape. Adding to their uniqueness are the brilliant vocal exchanges between energetic front man Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick and extravagant co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs.
While Fitz believes the Tantrums’ style isn’t so avant-garde, he acknowledges that their fusion isn’t too commonplace. “It’s not like what we’re doing is that radical,” the 35-year-old says. “But at the same time, it doesn’t fit in the nice boxes that’s R&B or pop rock, so it’s good to see people feel the music, see what we’ve been able to do and taking a chance on it. It’s a really special moment for us to have such a large institution like VH1 get on board.”
Apparently, it seems like everybody has been jumping on board.
The History Begins with an Instrument
Following a bitter break-up with his ex-girlfriend in 2008, Fitz needed to find a way to vent his agony, frustration and despair. Not too long after, his ex called him and told the singer about a neighbor who was selling a particular instrument -- an instrument that would change the course of his life.
“I was trying to find a way to get over it a little bit and I got possession of this old church organ. Sometimes you get hold of an instrument and it’s just so vibey,” he recalls. “I sat down that night and wrote the first song, which is called, ‘Breaking The Chains Of Love,’ and that really was the beginning of everything for the record.”
Then, he made five phone calls to other musicians and formed the Tantrums. Soon, the group released their 2009 EP debut Songs For A Breakup Volume 1, developed a core following in the Greater Los Angeles Area and made a couple of trips to SXSW. In fact, they were one of the buzz bands at the 2010 edition and signed with Dangerbird Records days later.
Although the band was excited to be working on new material, they didn’t have the luxury of entering a major studio to record their full-length debut Pickin’ Up The Pieces. So instead, they did the next best thing: turn Fitz’s house into a recording studio.
We didn’t really have any money, so we were forced to do it in our living room with one fucking mic.
“We didn’t really have any money, so we were forced to do it in our living room with one fucking mic to get stuff done and we turned all these adversities into attributes for the record,” Fitz explains. “It really shaped how we recorded the record and how it sounded. I listen to that record and I hear my living room on that record. It became another personality on the record, and it turned out to be a good way to be creative. It was a great environment to be creative in.”
Behind the Creativity
That creativity shows all throughout the genre-bending pop collection. Driven lyrically by heartbreak and love, Fitz & The Tantrums give each composition an identity of their own. Aside from smash singles “Breaking The Chains Of Love” and “Money Grabber,” other highlights include retro-flavored “L.O.V.,” the sing-a-long handclapper “Dear Mr. President” and the soul-piercing “Winds Of Change.” Recently, they also dropped a fascinating cover of the Eurythmics hit “Sweet Dreams” as an exclusive download, which can be found on their website FitzAndTheTantrums.com.
Fitz & The Tantrums are extraordinarily special, but aside from their darling musical hybrid, Fitz and Scaggs further bring the sounds of the well-polished group to life. Their dynamic vocal exchanges grab attention, demand respect and intensifies the troupe’s overall message. It has brought out the best in both singers and, as a result, has the tendency to make the on stage chemistry rather heated.
“We’re always kinda crossing right on the edge competing with each other and pushing each other to be the best performers we can be. I know for myself that I’ve really grown as a performer because of being next to her,” Fitz says. “Our live show is very high energy. Her and I dance and sing the whole time. We’re always trying to make the audience the seventh member of the band. There is a lot of singing a long and, because of the nature of those songs, we never know if we’re gonna fist fight or make out. One or the other is gonna happen at some point.”
That tends to happen when a group like Fitz & The Tantrums begin to flare up.
The Band Members
- Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick - Vocals
- Noelle Scaggs - Vocals
- James King – Saxophone
- Joseph Karnes - bass
- Jeremy Ruzumna - Keyboards
- John Wicks - Drums
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