In this day and age it’s becoming harder to remember when you actually first heard a specific song.
When I was younger I would hear a song for the first time in the car or in a movie and you would forever associate it with that moment. The last time I can actually remember hearing a song for the first time was when I first heard a song by Fitz and the Tantrums. I heard their song “Money Grabber” the same way most people my age find new music, online. I was doing the dishes while listening to Pandora. I don’t even remember what station it was, but I do remember “Money Grabber” coming on and I had to stop what I was doing.
They were called Fitz and the Tantrums. Even their name was cool and it perfectly fit the music they made. They were unlike anything else that I have listened to before. It sounded like the kind of music I grew up listening to mixed with what I listen to now. After hearing one song I was hooked. I wanted to hear more from them. Fast forward a few years later and I am at one of the biggest festivals singing along with Michael Fitzpatrick, Noelle Scaggs, and the rest of the Tantrums as they broke out hits “Break the Walls” and “The Walker,” from their latest album More Than Just A Dream. Seeing them live was an experience in itself. Everyone in attendance was singing along, and even the security guard got in on the action and helped get the crowd to start clapping along. I was able to speak with Michael and Noelle before they played their amazing set at The Governors Ball. They spoke about how they developed their sound, which Motown artist they would want to perform with, and where that awesome name came from.
Fitz: Honestly, it was heartbreak. Music is the remedy that soothes the soul. Those first few songs were written out of a need to not lose my mind. We quickly put the band together, had one rehearsal, played a show and haven’t looked back since six years later.
Noelle Scaggs: It’s true, when Fitz and I met it was because of our saxophonist James King, who recommended me for the very first show. I had taken two years off of music. I was doing things on and off, but I had just stopped for a bit, I needed a break. Then I got the phone call from Fitz and heard the first few songs off the EP. The song that really sold it for me was called “Darkest Street.” I loved the way the horns blended with his voice. It was a really a really nice approach to the soulful factor of the sound. When we finally met and sang together, we gelled. It was one of those instant things. Because of my former experience with bands I knew that when you find something like that you tend to want to stick with it and play more together and do more things. It naturally happened for us that we were getting all these opportunities and it seemed like the path was moving in the right direction.
PB: Your sound has this retro feel to it, but is still rooted in the alternative and indie sound of what you could called modern music. So how did you decide on creating the sound?
Fitz: We definitely wanted to make a big step and a half forward from our first record to our second record, More Than Just a Dream. That meant a lot of experimentation. We wrote something like 40 songs in a month and a half to find the path of what this new record was going to be. One of the main goals was to take chances on this record and create a cross-genre record, a hybrid of all our different styles and do it in a way that still felt organic and true to us. That meant a lot of experimentation. At the end of the day we wanted this record to be something where you couldn’t use one word to describe it. From song to song it literally takes three to four to five words and we love that about this record.
Noelle Scaggs: What I really like about music is when it reminds you of something, of when you were growing up and takes you back to a good moment. That’s what this band is for me. The fact we were able to bring our own voice into the music we were inspired by in a really amazing way. [It] is really inspiring to keep going and create another record to see how much further we could spin it and take it. It was a lot of fun.
PB: So describe the songwriting process — who writes the song?
Fitz: It’s all different. We are all songwriters in our own right. Noelle and I work alone and bring it together. A lot of musical parts the guys get together and jam out and create these stems and decide what will become a really amazing song. It’s always different, something that starts as a ballad can turn into a very quick song just by changing the drums. It’s all various to go about it. For me, the melody and words have to come together or (laughs) it takes so long for me to try and fit them all in.
PB: If you could share the stage with any Motown artist.
Both: Oh, that is tough.
Noelle Scaggs: I was I would’ve been around when James Brown was still performing. That would’ve been an incredible just to watch him to see how serious and tight he had everybody. To see him tax the musicians…he was very on it as far as people having their shit together. I would’ve loved to have been a part of that.
Fitz: I’ll back that.
PB: We know where Fitz comes from, but what about The Tantrums? Was it just a cool name? Or is there more to it?
Fitz: Actually a friend kinda threw it out there and we thought it fits the essence of the music and the live dynamic of what we do because we’re trying to push the energy to the point of almost running off the tracks. Just always having that insane energy. It was also a great play on words and really caught the spirit of the band. So we rolled with it.
PB: What song on More Than Just a Dream, is the song that means the most?
Fitz: Oh man, that’s like asking which child is your favorite. They all have different elements. Some of them I like the recording more and some of them I love performing more because they have a different energy or the way the crowd interacts. Obviously, “The Walker” is a great one for us to perform. “6 AM” is a great duet we’ve been performing for a long time. Our next single is going to be “Fool’s Gold” and I love performing that one and seeing how emotionally connects people are to that song.
Noelle Scaggs: It’s pretty much the same for me. Although, I do like playing “Break the Walls” live. It’s such a motivating song. The lyrics behind it are so incredible and that idea of breaking down barriers and having your voice be heard, I love that aspect of it. I love singing that song because of it.
Al Mannarino is the music editor of Pop-Break as well as the host/producer of the News Over Brews Podcast. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History and is currently a Promotions Assistant for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino