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Wednesday July 30th 2014

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No Need to Throw a Fitz

By Kate Peterson

The soul-filled, raucous band Fitz and The Tantrums’ main attractions are Michael Fitzpatrick, who is lead vocals and keyboards, and Noelle Scaggs also vocals, and percussion. Forming in 2008, on a whim, they, along with a talented group of musicians, are relatively new to the music scene.

As the story goes, Fitzpatrick purchased an electronic organ that his ex-girlfriend saw at a garage sale, she called him and told him about it and he went over to buy it. The night he bought the organ, he wrote the song, “Breakin’ the Chains of Love.” After writing the song, he contacted his friend, saxophonist James King as he was on the hunt for a singer for his newest creation. King only knew of one singer who would fit the bill, singer Noelle Scaggs. The band immediately clicked.

According to Fitzpatrick, “I wanted a fierce, competitive co-singer. According to King, there was only one person, Scaggs. We had an instant connection, and we push each other live.”

Fitzpatrick and Scaggs have a real connection both personally and professionally that is apparent on stage, and in the studio. It comes through in the music and makes it exciting to see one of their shows.

They have accomplished a great deal since their 2008 beginning; they made three albums, were listed in Rolling Stone as a band to watch, played on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Conan,” “The Tonight Show” and “Jimmy Fallon,” toured with Hepcat and Flogging Molly, then Maroon 5, opened for the ska band the Specials, and performed on a web series called “Live from Daryl’s House with Daryl Hall of Hall and Oats.”

Currently, the band is a sextet. They are so conscientious about their stage presence that the musicians line up symmetrically.

Prior to taking center stage with his own band, Fitzpatrick had been a producer, helping others make their records.

“It was frustrating, working for others. I wanted the time and commitment to be for myself,” he said.

Today, with Fitz and The Tantrums, Fitzpatrick is able to focus more on his own work. And he is quick to note the strong influence soul has played on the band’s music.

“All of us have had a love affair with soul music,” he said. “The song writing, it is the best part of song writing. In the craft of making music, more often than not, we go back to soul.”

When you watch the band’s videos, you cannot help but notice that Fitzpatrick’s look and style are influenced by David Byrne, frontman for the band the Talking Heads.

Their first show was an achievement, according to Fitzpatrick, “I didn’t know I could do it. I had never done that before. We knew we were on to something when we saw the faces of the crowd. Then the crowd propelled us to engage more with the audience.”

Style, talent and professionalism resonate in their performances, something Fitzpatrick noted is intentional.

“Yeah, that is it,” he said. “A live experience has to be a complete thing and that includes looking the part. I am not young anymore.”

While the majority of their music is written by the group, every once in a while, they play a cover song. A recent and popular choice has been the Raconteurs, “Steady as She Goes.”

“Our rule about cover songs is that we have to make it 100% our own,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have no guitar players so it is a challenge. The goal is to make it ours. That song has become a calling card for us.”

The song, “Moneygrabber,” is a popular song of theirs and we could not help but ask whom that song was about.

“I made most of the record after a bad breakup, and it was a wakeup call. I realized the person had ulterior motives—that inspired the song. We broke out as a band. It was all worth it in the end,” said Fitzpatrick.

Most recently the band has been putting the finishing touches on their next record and playing shows.

“It is almost done and mastered,” he said. “It is a wealthy batch of songs. Until that is done we are touring the summer festivals, which are both rewarding and challenging.”

The band has such a high-energy presence, one can only imagine it must be hard to maintain that energy night after night.

“With 15 shows in a row, you can feel like you are badly beaten up,” Fitzpatrick said. “The audience gives you the energy, and the fatigue fades away. The crowd, people going crazy, inspires us. Scaggs and I build the audience up to a climax, and then we do it again.”

As for playing on Pensacola Beach for DeLuna Fest Fitzpatrick noted, “I have never played the beach before; I am looking forward to it.”

What you can expect from their show is a high-energy, hot sweaty-mess, according to Fitzpatrick that includes the band and the audience. There is a lot of call and response. All will have a high-energy good time.

FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS
6-7 p.m., Sunday, DeLuna Stage

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