Five Questions with Fitz and the Tantrums

A couple of years ago it was nearly impossible to escape the Motown-reminiscent hook of Fitz and the Tantrums’ single, “Moneygrabber.” But, as the band’s explosive 2011 show at The Orange Peel proved, this was way more than a one-hit wonder. Now touring in support of recent release, More Than Just a Dream, Fitz and the Tantrums (led by powerhouse duo Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs) returns to the Peel on Tuesday, Nov. 5 in an all-ages co-bill with Capital Cities. Beat Club also performs. 7:30 p.m., $25/$28.

In advance, keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna talked to Xpress about some changes in the band’s sound, how they keep the spirit of fun in their music, and one crazy appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Xpess: Your songs are so high-energy and hooky — do you test them on a live audience before you commit them to an album?
Jeremy Ruzumna: Yeah, we’ve been doing that for a long time. Back in the day, when we first started playing “Moneygrabber,” we knew from the first time that we played it that people were really reacting to it and it gave us a clue about what our audience was into. And our song “The Walker” — the second single off the More Than Just A Dream album — got an immediate reaction from the audience from the first time we played it live. Like from the first bar, everyone was already jumping up and down.

I know you’ve talked in other interviews about how the first album was more ‘60s and More Than Just A Dream has an ‘80s feel. But there’s also something on all of your work that’s definitively Fitz and the Tantrums. Can you explain what that essence is? It’s true that aesthetically the two albums have a different sound from each other. But there are common threads between the two. First is the love of good songwriting and great hooks. We always strive to make each song great and memorable and never have any filler on our records. Second is Fitz’ voice. On this album he’s definitely going for it in a new and exciting way, vocally, but you always know it’s him.

From your live shows to your videos (like “The Walker”) there’s a real sense of fun. Is it important to you to convey that? And how do you yourselves keep the spirit of fun alive in the face of all the hard work it takes to be a successful band?
It’s definitely hard work doing what we do. I don’t know if people see that. Being away from our friends and family pretty much all the time, along with all the work involved, is really tough sometimes. But when we get up on stage we always have a great time. Being up there is the release and the reward for all the work and time and effort we’ve been putting into this for so long.

You’ve been making the rounds of the TV shows, from Late Night With Conan O’Brien to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, promoting More Than Just A Dream. What of those has been your favorite experience so far? Any backstage secrets you can share?
We did Late Night with Jimmy Fallon awhile back during the Super Bowl, when he had set up camp in Indy. And we had a full show that we had to get to immediately after Fallon. Fallon was so much fun because as you get up onstage, The Roots are jamming and the whole thing is a crazy party vibe. Then we did the performance and literally ran offstage, through the audience, and about four blocks to the main stage where we jumped up there and launched into a whole set with no sound check. It was awesome.

With all of your time on the road, what’s a city or town that really surprised you?
We love Asheville, N.C. It’s such a pretty town and has a really cool, laid-back vibe and it’s like this little oasis of coolness.



About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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