LA-based neo soul-pop band Fitz and the Tantrums make their way to Terminal 5 November 12 following a massive year touring at some of the biggest festivals around the country including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Hangout Festival and New York’s own Governors Ball back in June, not to mention the recently wrapped dates at Austin City Limits in October. Their sophomore album “More Than Just A Dream” and its pop-friendly fare have made an impact this year on culture, with their hit “The Walker” in the official promo for The Oscars with host and devoted fan Ellen DeGeneres. Fitz and the Tantrums even took center court with the honor of playing the U.S. Open’s Opening Ceremony in Queens. NYC Monthly got some time with co-vocalists Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs on their whirlwind year:
NYCM: You’ve already performed on major New York-based programs: “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Today,” “Good Morning America,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and you were just featured by the U.S. Open as the Opening Ceremonies talent at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens. What was it like playing a major sporting event being broadcast all over the world?
MF: We’ve all grown up watching the U.S. Open and to find ourselves on center court looking out of the crowd performing our songs with the light show pyrotechnics was pretty incredible.
NS: It was pretty exciting for us in the course of being invited. I still for myself – we have grown in popularity – we are still a small pea in the sea comparing us to a No Doubt or a Beyonce. We are on this steady incline of growth. It was really incredible that the coordinators enjoyed our music and shows and they were honored that we even wanted to accept the offer. To stand in the stadium and wonder where you were and go “wow” – you gain so much gratitude. I looked at our drummer John like “wow, we would never have thought we would be here like 3 years ago.” We’re part of that history now. Lenny Kravitz did it the year before us, [laughs] I remember getting his first record.
NYCM: You also remotely lit the Empire State Building prior to your performance at the U.S. Open. Does it feel like you’ve made it if you’re lighting one of the most-visited and most-recognized landmarks in the United States?
NS: Hell yeah. Absolutely. We were invited to do this photoshoot there and they literally blocked off the viewing point and then took us to the highest viewing point that you can possibly go. We are at the celebrity level and we are like immortalized. I think they are putting our photos up there. I can’t wait to go back to New York and then hopefully the photo is there. You do feel like a rock star.
NYCM: For readers who have never been to one of your shows, how would you describe the live experience with Fitz and the Tantrums and the fans?
MF: We’ve always tried to make the audience members the seventh member of the band. Our shows have always been about an enormous amount of energy and crowd participation and sometimes we found we just need to give the audiences permission to go crazy dance and have fun.
NS: Electric. It’s really about losing yourself, allowing yourself to free up your everyday thing.
NYCM: Fitz & Noelle, you have a dynamic chemistry while performing – it’s very much a thing of the past that worked well in the 60s and 70s and even before – how does having a sidekick or co-vocalist set-up make Fitz & The Tantrums different from other bands who have just one lead vocalist?
MF: Having two singers is really great, we love blending our vocals together and interacting on stage. It’s what we’ve done since the very beginning. And it’s true – it’s a rare thing to see these days but I think that’s part of what makes it so refreshing.
NS: It’s crazy – just having that male and female dynamic has started to become a popular thing. I guess we were kind of back in the forefront of doing that cause it had been so long. Now things are happening with Grouplove and Of Monsters and Men. Fitz & I from the beginning locked in, we had this synergy, magnetism that has been undeniable since the beginning. We feed off of each other on stage. I love the fact that we’re going to be this couple in the music world.
NYCM: Was there a specific sound you were hoping to achieve on your most recent album?
NS: I think we were really trying to focus on the songs translating to a more commercial pop realm. We found ourselves sort of pigeon-holed as this retro-pop outfit. We wanted to break out from this Motown/Stax sound. We thought it was a trend that we didn’t necessarily fit into. We wanted to write the strongest songs that can break through the pop realm. It’s the way Michael Jackson would have approached a song with Quincy Jones. Longevity was important here for us. We like having this modern spin on things – you can’t place us in one category.
Fitz and the Tantrums will also be performing live November 11 at The Space at Westbury on Long Island
(Photo Credit: Joseph Cultice)