By Laura Studarus; photos by Joseph Cultice on March 5, 2013
Since the release of their 2010 album Pickin’ Up the Pieces, Fitz & The Tantrums have ridden what seems like a never-ending wave. On the strength of their vivacious Motown-influenced singles “MoneyGrabber,” “L.O.V.” and “Winds of Change,” the Los Angeles–based sextet has performed for increasingly bigger audiences across the globe, while still somehow managing to make it home long enough to write and record a follow-up.
The Guide joined bandmates Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs for a friendly conversation about their new album More Than Just a Dream. Over lunch at a bistro in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood, they discussed the marathon sprint to write their new album, how they learned to hit the high notes and what will always make them happy to empty their wallets.
If I’m doing my math right, the ’80s was an influential decade for you. What bands epitomize the decade?
Noelle: I grew up in the ’90s. A lot of mine were R & B groups, a lot of disco stuff. My father was a DJ, so I had a lot of vinyl access. So I grew up listening to singers. I got into Madonna at some point. That was my thing.
Fitz: I was at Madonna in the beginning! [Laughs.] Dancing in front of my mirror when my voice could still hit all those notes!
Given that your debut was so Motown influenced, what brought the ’80s to the surface for More Than Just a Dream?
Fitz: We could have gone and made a really safe record. Or we could have made a record that, at the end of the day, turned us on and made us excited. When we first started writing, there was a little bit of this energy where, “We can’t do that, that doesn’t sound like us.” Quickly the rule became: there is no rule. We’re allowed to do anything and everything we want in this experimental phase of writing. Obviously, both of the records have threads back to the past. At the same time, it’s always trying to be a modern, fresh take.
Is the first single, “Out of My League,” indicative of the album as a whole?
Fitz: There’s a lot of other moments on the record. One of the similarities between the first record and the second record is that they’re whole entire albums. It’s not two singles and some filler. It’s all killer, no filler.
Noelle: It’s a “something for everyone” record, the same way Pickin’ Up the Pieces was. You have moments when you just want to dance; your car pump-up song; then we have songs like “Break the Walls,” which is very much a cry out to people to open their mouths and make a statement. Then we have our dark song, “House on Fire.”
Fitz: I found you cheating on me and now I’m going to burn the house down. That’s actually one of my favorite tracks on the record.
You’ve kept a tour schedule that is exhausting just to read. How did you find time to write and record a new album?
Fitz: We set up time, for sure. When we came off the last major tour, we took two months off. The band said, “Alright, we’ve got this amount of time to write songs.” We wrote about 40 songs in 35 days.
Noelle: I didn’t want to look at another adjective! I was done! We got towards the end of the record, and they were like, “We may need to tweak…” and I was like “Nope! Not doing it!”
Are you ever tempted to put things out more often to match the accelerated demand for new music?
Noelle: Fans want to be in your life 24 hours a day, because you’re sitting in front of a device 24 hours a day.
Fitz: It’s a weird phenomenon. I see people I know online; I haven’t talked to them in months, but I feel like I’m a part of their life. It’s kinda cool, but I realize I’m making no effort. I’m not engaging with anyone. But social media has been really important for us. I’m not sure this band would have arrived to the point we are at without the Internet. A song was posted for free, a reporter in Holland downloads it, gives it to all the biggest DJs in Amsterdam and all of a sudden it’s a hit. The only reason it happened was the Internet. That, and our live shows. We’ve built up a reputation for our live shows.
Fans appreciate that you’re not afraid to create a look and a distinct live experience.
Fitz: We wanted the sound, the show, the look of the band—everything—to be an experience. And Noelle and I are total clothes whores. It’s not a stretch for us to play dress up. It’s an extension of our lives and empty wallets. F