Fitz & the Tantrums' Michael Fitzpatrick: I've been known to sing in the shower
It was blatantly obvious from the moment Fitz & the Tantrums' sterling 2010 debut dropped that the LA-based group was going to be huge. Pickin' up the Pieces, released on Dangerbird Records, was pure, unadulterated pop with a brassy coating of vintage soul sounds that drew comparisons to blue-eyed '80s acts like Hall & Oates. The record's infections hooks and mass appeal catapulted the band onto larger stages, and their relentless touring ethic has earned them a well-deserved reputation as dynamic live performers. Catching the attention of Jive records, the band went major earlier this year with their blockbuster follow-up entitled More than Just a Dream.
The new album has already stirred a bit of controversy amongst their fanbase by mostly dispensing with the vintage trappings of their debut and shooting for the moon with a full-on, contemporary stadium-pop sound to match their newfound popularity. Gimmie Noise caught up with lead singer and songwriter Michael Fitzpatrick to discuss the band's new songwriting directions and his showering habits.
Gimmie Noise: When I first heard "Out of my League" I immediately thought of a scene in a John Hughes movie where a character belts a song into a hairbrush in the mirror or a shower. Are you a shower-singer?
Michael Fitzpatrick: I love it! I've been known to sing a little bit in the shower... That song and this record are supposed to be mixing genres that make you feel like a flashback and new all at the same time, so I'm glad that it conjures up those movies for you!
You mentioned that writing Pickin' up the Pieces was a cathartic experience that helped you get over a breakup, were you working out any similar issues for this record? Where did the lyrical inspiration come from?
Fitzpatrick: Well, on this record there's definitely songs about love and heartbreak, which is easy because I've just never been lucky in love, but it's also about other things, because we've been on the road a lot as well, so subject-wise it's a little bit broader of a record. There's themes like the loneliness of being a traveling nomadic musician. On "Merry Go-Round" there's sort of ideas about working through...these inhibitions, these things that hold you back, to "The Walker" which is just a song about having the faith to walk to your own drum in life, and in the same time has the double-meaning of some of the darkness of obsession and compulsion.
"Break the Walls" and "Spark" kinda sound like a preemptive "talk to the hand" for the haters. Did you consider the reaction More than Just a Dream's stylistic shifts would create while making it?
Fitzpatrick: Well definitely, but I think that was also just that we've had a lot of success, but we've had to earn it, every step of the way. There have been people that have wanted to write us off all along. I think that's what "Spark" is about, that idea that we're here to stay. But I know that we all wanted to take chances and make a pretty evolved record, and therefore when you get into that you're obviously going to ruffle some feathers. To me, that was just a positive sign that we were growing as a band. It would have been too easy for us to make a really safe record like "Pickin' Up the Pieces, Part Two" and not push ourselves or grow. I think we would all have been disappointed with ourselves if we had done that.
What about musical inspiration? Pickin' up the Pieces felt like a '60s-and-'70s soul homage, but this one's a lot harder to tack down. Who were you listening to while writing these songs?
Fitzpatrick: I think there's always a ton of references on the first record that were subtler and I think we're just a little more brazen with it now, the mixture, that cross-genre nature of the record. I think we've also been influencing each other from our diversity of listening, from a Deerhunter track to a Major Lazer track to a Jeff Buckley track. It takes the whole gamut of everything.