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BUMBERSHOOT PREVIEW: Fitz and the Tantrums pack a lot of soul

Posted September 2nd, 2011 by genestout

Fitz and the Tantrums

Fitz and the Tantrums

By GENE STOUT

Fitz and the Tantrums may be the best band you’ll see this weekend at Bumbershoot.

The indie/neo-soul band from Los Angeles has been on a rocket-ship ride since the release of its explosive hit single, “MoneyGrabber,” a tune that often leads to love at first listen.

Fitz and the Tantrums, led by singer-organist Michael Fitzpatrick and singer Noelle Scaggs, will be the first act in a power-packed double bill Monday, Sept. 5, at the Bumbershoot main stage at KeyArena. The headliner is Hall & Oates, billed as Daryl Hall and John Oates for the duo’s high-profile Bumbershoot appearance. (Read more about the festival below.)

Though Fitz and the Tantrums and Hall & Oates hail from different generations, they are joined at the hip when it comes to a love for exuberant pop-soul.When Fitz and the Tantrums performed last October on Hall’s radio show, “Live From Daryl’s House,” Fitzpatrick wandered through the farm house in upstate New York and discovered Hall’s mother in the kitchen. “Fitz, come over here,” she said. “You sound just like my son.”

Fitzpatrick’s sexy singing partner, Noelle Scaggs, still chuckles at the story.

“They have a very similar timbre in their voices,” Scaggs said in a phone interview from a coffee shop in Silver Lake, near downtown Los Angeles.

“There were even points when they were singing together and I was looking at Fitz and just laughing because he sounded just like him.”

The group’s “Live From Daryl’s House” segment drew more attention to the group than its appearances on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Conan” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

“ ‘Live From Daryl’s House’ did more for our career than anything else we had done on national TV,” Scaggs said. “We’ve gotten more fans from that one particular show than we have from all of the other stuff.

“It’s been a wide demographic of people, like whole families. It’s like the grandmother turning on the grandson or the grandson turning on the dad. It’s been a really interesting vibe that we’ve gotten from people. And they all equally love our music and what we’re doing. And they respect and love that we acknowledge that they’re the reason we’re in the position we’re in.”

Fitz and the Tantrums recently returned from Europe, where the group has gained a strong following in the Netherlands. A show at the iconic Paradiso club in Amsterdam drew a capacity crowd.

“We had no idea that we’d have that kind of turnout,” Scaggs said. “We were really, really excited about it.

“We’ve had a relationship with the Netherlands for about the last seven months because one of their major radio deejays started playing ‘MoneyGrabber’ six months prior to us even considering going to the U.K. or to Europe.”

Fitz and the Tantrums are riding a new wave of interest in pop-soul music that combines elements of nostalgia and rediscovery.

“I think people are looking for authenticity in music,” Scaggs said. “They’re looking for something that they can really connect to.”

Scaggs thinks that so many new pop artists produce bland, formulaic music.

“It doesn’t seem like they’re challenged in the studio. Everything sounds exactly the same. There’s the same Auto-Tune filter on all of the vocals,” she said.

“You’re going to these concerts and there’s a whole lot of dancing and not a lot of singing by these artists that are selling millions of records for their voices. It’s interesting. I think now when people go to concerts, they’re looking to shake the artist’s hand and look into the eyes of that artist and not feel like they are below them.”

Fitzpatrick formed Fitz and the Tantrums in 2008 after buying an old Conn electronic organ for $50 and writing a song, “Breakin’ the Chains of Love.” The group quickly grew to six members with the addition of Scaggs, who had worked with The Black Eyed Peas and Dilated Peoples. With only one rehearsal completed, the group played at Hollywood’s Hotel Café.

“Our voices meshed really well together,” Scaggs said of her and Fitzpatrick. “We just clicked and that’s a rare find when you come into a new situation, but we felt really comfortable.”

After the Hotel Café show, the group got a series of serendipitous breaks. The group was tapped to open a string of dates for Maroon 5 in November 2009. The video for “MoneyGrabber” was incorporated into the opening scene of a sixth-season episode of TV’s “Criminal Minds.” And the song “News 4 U” was chosen as the promo for the seventh season of “Desperate Housewives.”

Though Fitzpatrick (or “Fitz” as he is known) is the band’s leader, he and Scaggs are pretty much equal partners on stage. That’s perhaps why the pair’s latest cover song, the Eurthymics’ “Sweet Dreams,” works so well for them.

“I quickly found my footing being his partner on stage versus being a backup,” she said. “When you see the live show, you really see the male-female dual shift that we have here. It changed the whole perspective on the way the band was formatted in the beginning.”

Like so many groups today, Fitz and the Tantrums have embraced social media in order to promote themselves and connect with fans.

“Fitz and I and our band mates are the ones who handle our Facebook page and Twitter accounts,” she said. “We don’t have interns or marketing people doing all this stuff. So when you write us and you get a response back, you’re getting it from either myself or Fitz or someone else in the band. I think people are really looking for that in music.

“And I think that’s what this soul revival movement has done for people, especially people who grew up with classic Motown or grew up with singers, grew up going to shows where everybody had talent and they didn’t just have talent in one area – they were great musicians, great singers, great performers. It’s like what I used to watch when I was a kid.

At the Bumbershoot main stage, concertgoers will experience a very stylish performance.

“We all dress pretty nice,” Scaggs said. “Fitz is always in a very cool suit. We’ve all got our own vibe, but we all dress really well. It’s a very exciting kind of show. We’ve really put a focus on making the fan the seventh member of the group with a lot of clapping and a lot of dancing and making it a very joyful experience.”

Check out the band’s website here.

Bumbershoot is Saturday, Sept. 3, through Monday, Sept. 5, at Seattle Center. Seattle’s long-running cultural smorgasbord features hundreds of performances in a myriad of genres. Visit the Bumbershoot website for ticket prices and complete schedules.


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