The Hippo


Nov 20, 2019








Fitz & the Tantrums. Courtesy photo.

Fitz & the Tantrums

When: Sunday, June 19, at 8:30 p.m.
Where: Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Boulevard, Hampton Beach
Tickets: $26 at 

This year’s Fitz
Band’s evolution continues with new self-titled LP

By Michael Witthaus

 When the breakout “MoneyGrabber” raced up the pop charts in 2011, Fitz & the Tantrums instantly became a band to watch, but the SoCal neo-soul group was a new sensation in name only. Only frontman Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick was a relative newcomer when the band formed in 2008. Noelle Scaggs led her own band for 10 years before becoming co-lead vocalist, drummer John Wicks has two decades of studio credits and keyboard player Jeremy Ruzumna’s resume includes co-writing the 1996 Macy Gray smash “I Try.” 

As members of Fitz & the Tantrums, each has surpassed early career milestones. The promise of more is evident with the imminent release of a new self-titled album. A tour to support it kicks off June 19 at Hampton Beach’s Casino Ballroom. Ruzumna reported in a recent phone interview that advance tracks from the disc like “It’s Complicated” have been well-received at shows. 
“I have a term that I made up called ‘IHN’ — involuntary head nod,” he said. “It’s when you play a song and you look around and realize that everybody is just unconsciously nodding their head to the beat. ‘It’s Complicated’ is really like that.”
The new single follows the infectious “Hand Clap,” released in early spring. The chorus for that song — “I can make your hands clap” — neatly sums up their musical mantra. The new album is a continuum from their debut, which Scaggs recently said was inspired by “the music we grew up on: Motown, Stax/Volt and New Wave,” and their 2013 follow-up, More Than Just a Dream, which reflected their incendiary live shows.
“It’s another step in our evolution,” Ruzumna said. “The rhythms on this album hit way harder, and it just feels like there’s this thing that we are always moving toward, with every song and every album.”
Ruzumna reflected on FATT’s nascent beginnings and eventual success.  
“I had a psychic premonition that this was going to happen, just something about how everyone in this band is a pro that has been doing this for a long time with a lot of other projects before this,” he said. “From out the gate it was like discovering a band, and then Fitz is so determined and so skilled at what he does. I felt going into this like we had all these great elements and we can do anything.”
When they began touring, it became instantly clear that Fitz was perfect for the stage, despite spending most of his professional life up to that point as a studio engineer. 
“From the very first show, he was so explosive and so natural at it,” Ruzumna said. “When you get on the road, you have to pick a certain attitude, a certain lifestyle, and all the coping mechanisms. He just took to it so naturally; it’s really crazy to watch. You’d think he’d been doing it his whole life.”
An appearance on Live at Daryl’s House provided an early boost — Fitz, Scaggs and horn player Joe King joined the Hall & Oates singer’s web series for a mix of originals and covers. 
“During that time, we were really just taking every single opportunity [like] some guy’s garage with a video camera and a website to play two songs on the piano acoustically; we said yes to every single little thing,” Ruzumna said. “When that Daryl thing came along … we could see that the guy had a vision with the show, [and] immediately, we started seeing the effects. Within a day, we had people coming up to us saying that’s how they discovered us.”
Ruzumna’s personal influences began with movie scores. Early on, he wanted to be Marvin Hamlisch. He then found modern funk, calling Prince “his gateway drug to soul.” Later, he had a chance to sit in with the Purple One a few times. 
“He was a big Macy fan, so we ended up jamming,” he said. “It was definitely a highlight of my life to play on stage with the guy a little bit and to talk to the dude.”
MTV-era bands like Human League, Heaven 17 and Style Council also figure into FATT’s wide-ranging sound.
“It’s funny now when you see young bands channeling the ’80s and they’re being like, ironic hipsters about it, but we’re not really being ironic,” Ruzumna said. “That’s what we love and what we grew up on. If we’re writing anything that sounds like [that], it’s not in any way a conscious decision. It’s just something that we naturally gravitate toward.” 

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