Happy Dance

FitzandtheTantrumsBrought to you by Fitz and the Tantrums.

by Lindsey Lowe


Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how much great music is out there—so many incredible sounds by so many cool people. No way can I hear it all! (Granted, I also get overwhelmed by all of the choices at Chipotle. And on Etsy. And in the cheese section at the Piggly Wiggly. Come to think of it, maybe I just have problems making choices.) And there are also so many of these terrific bands coming through Birmingham that it’s hard to know where to spend my dollars and my time. However, when I saw that Fitz and the Tantrums were coming, I had no issues committing. Seriously, there are six million bands out there, and I listen to these guys at least once a day. Their music is better than cookies and YouTube videos of puppies when you need a pick-me-up. Needless to say, I was pretty thrilled when they agreed to chat with me. I’m excited to share our conversation with you, and you should go see them—you’ll feel like old friends! They’re playing at Iron City on October 10. Be there or be…less happy.

Lead vocalist Michael Fitzpatrick has been putting the “Fitz” in “Fitz and the Tantrums” since he formed the band in 2008 to deal with a breakup (in fact, their first EP was titled Songs for a Breakup: Volume 1.) He partnered with Noelle Scaggs (vocals); James King (saxophone and flute); Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboard); Joseph Karnes (bass); and John Wicks (percussion and drums). “When we play live, Fitz and Noelle go to the ends of the earth to make sure that every single person in the audience feels connected to what we’re doing,” says Ruzumna. “And all of us throw down 150 percent to make the energy explosive and contagious.

“Everyone in the band has a pretty massive resume. James King has played with everyone from De La Soul to Tony Bennett. John Wicks has played with Money Mark and Michelle N’Degocello,” Ruzumna says. His own career was born when he began writing, recording, and touring with Macy Gray, and he has written with the likes of Cee Lo Green, Bruno Mars, Joss Stone, and Rod Stewart. Though he had music experience—he knew how it all worked—joining the band was still a gamble (it always is.) But you do what you’ve got to do, and from the beginning, Ruzumna knew it was right. “When I first met Fitz, I was struck not only by the music, but by his intelligence and charisma, and it definitely seemed worth the gamble to be part of the band and travel in a van for years to try to make it work,” he says. “Even from the earliest shows, at tiny venues where there were maybe 30 people in the audience, I could tell something special was afoot.”

You can certainly feel the energy, that something special, in their music. Their most recent release is More Than Just a Dream (with Elektra Records), their second full-length album (the first was 2010’s Pickin’ Up the Pieces). And they’re now touring around the U.S. Ruzumna says that the band is excited and proud to share their music with the world. “When you’re making music, all you can do is make something that you think is great. You have to truly love it before you can expect anyone else to love it,” he explains. “After that, hopefully other people connect with it too. More Than Just A Dream was all about taking chances, and we are really happy that people have come along for the ride.”

The band has been met with much success; on this tour, for example, they’re playing Lollapalooza in Chicago, the Austin City Limits music festival, and Music Midtown in Atlanta. And it happened pretty quickly, which Ruzumna says they’re grateful for. And they know it’s never a given. “Being a musician is a tough job. There is no security, and you can toil away for your whole life with absolutely no guarantee that it will ever pay off,” he says. “There are a lot of musicians who can play circles around me who are still gigging in tiny basements for gas money. It’s no joke. Anybody who is making a living as a musician is unbelievably fortunate.” Still, dreamers never stop dreaming (if they’re lucky), and these guys certainly haven’t. “We are really excited about all the success we’ve achieved and we are really thankful for it. We’ve already had a lot of dreams come true, and if we can keep doing this for awhile, it’ll be amazing,” he says. “Also, we really want to take this thing all over the globe.”

Do yourself a favor: The next time you want to climb under your covers and tell the world to catch you three Grey’s Anatomy marathons from now, but you can’t, listen to “Fool’s Gold,” (off the new album) and just try not to dance. And then catch these guys next month, which will guarantee you’ll be dancing for days: “I would say take a nap before the show, ’cause you’re gonna need all of your energy once the show starts,” Ruzumna advises.


9/18: David Ramirez at Sound & Page. For fans of Great Lake Swimmers, Josh Garrels, and Ben Rector.

9/20: Mandolin Orange at Bottletree. For fans of Shovels & Rope, Horse Feathers, and The Oh Hello’s.

9/21: Rick Springfield at Iron City. For fans of “Jessie’s Girl.”

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