Who?! I hear you ask, well Fitz and the Tantrums are an LA based soul pop band that have already been tipped by both the Guardian and Rolling Stones as ones to watch this year. Between them they have worked with the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Cee-lo and Macy Gray. In less than 18 months they have gone from jamming in their living room to headlining a sold out US tour, performing on some of America’s biggest TV radio shows including the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live, and in their crazy journey have gained high profile fans like Taylor Swift and Kings of Leon.
FAB: In your own words, who are Fitz and the Tantrums?
You can kinda describe us as a soul, pop, indie band. We’ve implemented the Motown sax vibe, with the British invasion, with a little hip hop and have created our own style of music. No guitars by the way!
FAB: You’ve all come from different backgrounds in the industry, but how did you come together as a group?
Fitz and I met through our saxophonist after Fitz had created our very first song Breaking the Chains of Love after a terrible break up he had had with one of his ex-girlfriends. He actually went to college with James King and knew that he was one of the most sought after horn players, so he called him up to see if he could vibe with him on some tracks. They ended up creating the EP together. I got a phone call a few months after they had finished the project and they wanted to do a live show, I’d just finished doing a tour with James King 6 months beforehand. I got the music and I talked to Fitz on the phone. Next thing I know we’re at a rehearsal and I’m looking around and I know all the guys, some way or another we’d all known each other from the scene in LA. Then from the first rehearsal to the first show and now almost three years later, here we are.
FAB: Did you come together with the intention of forming a group or was it just meant to be a one off project?
I think the synergy was there. Musically we knew something was really special about it which is why he wanted to do the show immediately. It was like, “Let’s see how this sounds live and if we get the same vibe that we’re getting off the recordings then, hey, maybe this is something we should maybe pursue.” It was just like a natural progression. I don’t think any of us really understood what was going to happen; I think we were just going with it. And every serendipitous moment from our very first tour with Flogging Molly which was like, “OK we’re going on tour with Flogging Molly and Hepcat?!” two completely different spectrums of music and then playing to their audiences and winning them over. Then opening for Maroon 5 later, and then opening for Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and all these kinda natural progressions happening within a year and half period. It’s really, really crazy. And just in this last year alone we’ve had some amazing success in the States. We’ve sold over 80,000 records in the States so far and then jumping around through the Netherlands and getting mad love from Holland and now breaking here and hoping to have the same kinda success. It’s just been a wild ride.
FAB: You’re described as white soul act, what is it about soul that you are so drawn to?
I think all of us have a crazy background with music. I mean, I myself was in a band called The Rebirth for many years; we did really, really well overseas. I’ve always been in that spectrum of music, my dad was DJ and we’ve all grown up listening to that music. All of these guys are really well versed, they’ve played with everybody and I think we’re all inclined to listen to that sound. A lot of that period of music, whether it was The Beatles or the Motown sound, all of that stuff was the most incredible song-writing, it was about authenticity. Even going into the 80s it was just this natural build with people trying things and all of these new sounds being created that are inspired by one thing or another. I think we all just naturally have grown to love it; we listen to so many different types of music.
FAB: So do you think that soul music and the soul era influence your style?
Yeah absolutely. I think that was one of the main things we thought about as we were introducing the band. We wanted to make sure that we looked as good as all of the things we listened to. You have people walking around in T-shirts all day, you just really wanna have your own thing and it makes you stand out on stage. Take Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings for instance they are always dressed to the nines, they just look really good.
FAB: The name Fitz comes from a nickname for Michael Fitzpatrick but where does “the tantrums” come from?
Tantrums was actually just thrown in, kind of like a play on words. When we were trying to come up with a name, we were trying to come up with something that was a good reference to how we are live. We are a really, really energetic band, just all over the place and we really wanna inspire others to be like this when they come and see us play. So it was just like a name dropped in the hat, a really good friend of ours came up with it. She was just like, “What about Fitz and the Tantrums?” It just worked because it became a play on words.
FAB: A lot of your songs are about relationships, where do you get inspiration from for your songs? Is it from real-life experiences?
Most of the record is very personal, especially with Fitz. It’s about that heartbreak, the tear in the relationship and the things that happen. Initially that’s the story of the entire project, with the exception of the song Dear Mr President which in turn became this political cry out, like don’t forget your people, don’t forget who put you here and just work hard for us. It’s all based on life experience but there’s juxtaposition with the music, it’s happy and got this vibe that you wanna dance to. We get a lot of people saying it’s their morning wake up song when they listen to Moneygrabber and they say, “I wake up to this every morning!” And then they have their toddlers doing YouTube dances and we’re like, “You’re singing cheap time whore, do you understand what this means?!” But it really, really works.
FAB: So do you see yourselves staying on the same route musically or will you branch out?
I think we could definitely open up the spectrum of music. I don’t know what we’re gonna do. We often jam out and lately there’s been a lot of things intermixed with other things, so who knows what’s gonna happen with the music. But we wanna keep ourselves open with the music. We’ve been able to create our own thing even with having this familiarity there is a modern twist to it. Nobody is really doing what we’re doing, so we’ll really be able to open up our palette later on.
FAB: There’ve been musical comparisons to Mark Ronson but who would you compare yourselves to?
I don’t know. We get a lot of Talking Heads; we get Hall and Oates due to the timbre of Fitz’s voice. He sounds very similar to Daryl Hall, it’s really funny. We’ve gotten this different blend of artists that weren’t just 60s Motown. Breaking the Chains of Love for instance was very inspired by the Motown drumming sound. Then we have another song Don’t Gotta Work it Out which has a more hip hop inspired beat. So it’s all kinda different.
FAB: Are there any other artists, producers or bands that you would want to work with?
I would absolutely love to work with Radiohead; I think that would be an amazing collaboration with us. Fitz has had talks with Mr Hudson but I’m not sure if that’ll work out or not. I know our drummer John and our keyboardist have both worked with Cee-lo so it would be awesome to work with him.
FAB: So what’s the most FAB thing about Fitz and the Tantrums?
I think it’s just the fact that we’re not trying. It’s a very natural thing, we all have fun playing together and it really does come off on stage. Normally when people see us live they fall in love with the entire package. It’s one thing to listen to the record and enjoy the music but to have the full experience is a completely different thing.
FAB: With the album’s UK release this week what do you want people to feel after they listen to the album?
I want them to feel excited, to feel motivated to tell others. If it’s music that they enjoy and their supporting it, I want them to tell their friends and family about it. Without our fans we’re nothing. What initially put us on the map was the word of mouth and people taking chances on us. So I hope we have that same situation here where somebody here’s the record and they’re like, “Oh my god! Has anybody else heard of this band? You gotta listen to them!” That’s what happens with an independent project, we’re nothing without our fans talking about us.
FAB: You just performed at V Festival, how was that?
V festival was fun. It was a 25 minute set which is really crazy for any band to play because you’re just starting to get into your set by the third song. But the crowd that was there were really into it. We had people floating in and they were jumping up and down with us by the end of the set and wondering where we came from, we got really good feedback.
FAB: What’s next for Fitz and the Tantrums?
Well we’re not gonna stop touring probably until the end of November. We’re going back to the States and hopefully, if this hurricane doesn’t hit, we’ll be playing in the Maryland area with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Then we go back home and play Jay Leno again, this will be our second time. We’re going back on the road in September and touring all over the place. And hopefully we’ll come back to the UK, if not October than early November.
FAB: Did you ever expect any of this?
No it’s crazy! It’s really funny because I went on to our publicist’s website yesterday and they have this write up just to update people on what their clients are doing. I’m reading this and I’m like, “Oh my god, we’ve done so much!” And they were just writing about the last 6 months, maybe even 3 months, it’s incredible to see. I think for me the biggest jump was when we played Lollapalooza in Chicago and we were playing in front of 30,000 people and they were there to see us. There was this crazy buzz and all these crazy interviews we were doing, Rolling stones, Billboards, Google music! All of these things it’s just mind blowing.
FAB: Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
In 5? I don’t know. I’m like counting, how old am I now? I definitely wanna see more records with this band; hopefully we have the career to span out to at least three or four more. Definitely wanna do some other collaborations and a little thing for myself as well. Fitz wants to produce for other people. I think we just really wanna build a successful career and have some longevity. I think in 5 years, if we’re in that really good place then I’ll be really happy.
Check ou their new single Moneygrabber