Contemporary as well as retro, Fitz and the Tantrums debut at Tahoe
Fitz and the Tantrums sound like a soul band in the Apollo Theater and have ascended like an Apollo spacecraft.
“The last 15 months have been amazing – a lot of magic and serendipitous stuff,” said front man Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick. “It took a lot of busting our butts to get where we are. It’s been a great year for us.”
It’s indeed been a storybook rise for the six-piece band which created a formula for a singular sound: It feels new and it feels old. And there is no guitar to be heard.
“There is definitely the influence of soul music from the late ’60s but there’s a little bit of ’80s Brit pop mixed in,” Fitz said. “There’s a little bit of hip-hop, elements to the backbeat and a little bit of indie rock.”
The band coalesced just three years ago. It played nightly in clubs throughout Los Angeles, sometimes before 20 people, sometimes 500, Fitz said. Its big break occurred at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
“We got there broke, out of money, out of options,” Fitz said.
A producer flew the band to New York the next day to sign a record deal. Soon after, Fitz and the Tantrums were touring with Maroon 5.
It has played on all of the late night television shows and even appeared on Rachael Ray’s cooking program, raising the question, Who has the best food spread for the guests? It’s a tie between Conan and Leno, Fitz said, who prefers to go by the nickname.
“Everybody calls me ‘Fitz’ because there are too many Michaels in the world,” he said.
Also in the band are singer Noelle Scaggs, James King (saxophone, flute, trumpet, harmonica), Joseph Karnes (bass), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards) and John Wicks (drums and percussion).
When the saxophonist calls Fitz, the caller ID reads “King James,” he joked.
“He’s a musical genius,” Fitz said. “He plays all of the saxophones, clarinet, flute, piccolo. He’s just a deep, deep musician with perfect pitch. A real musician’s, musician.”
Scaggs has plenty of stage presence.
“A lot of people underestimate the work or the technical skill of playing tambourine more than just holding a beat,” Fitz said. “She really elevates it to the deepest art form that it can be. Usually any drummer of percussionist will leave the show in love with her, and also because she’s easy on the eyes.”
Fitz has skied but never performed at Tahoe, so Saturday’s show at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe will be the band’s debut here. The venue will have a rare 7 p.m. start with an opening band, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
“We really try to put on a knockdown, sweaty dance party every night,” Fitz said, “so I like the idea of the visual of us throwing tantrums.”
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