Pieces of Soul

The UK soul revival is growing stronger every day. Corinne Bailey Rae, James Hunter, James Morrison and, of course, Adele, bring r&b and soul music to their sound. Amy Winehouse, on her second album Back to Black, even worked with Americans Mark Ronson and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Now, American musicians including the Dap-Kings, Raphael Saadiq, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Alabama Shakes and others are also performing authentic r&b and soul with a fresh, new approach. Standing out among the many bands in this new American soul revival, Fitz & the Tantrums adds a distinctive pop touch.

The group boasts two dazzling singers, Michael Fitzpatrick (Fitz) and Noelle Scaggs, while James King, Jeremy Ruzumna, John Wicks and Joseph Karnes comprise the remaining members. “We all knew each other within the LA music scene,” Scaggs says. “We all have a very similar love for music.”

Fitz & the Tantrums is often identified with the soul scene, yet its recorded works and live show reflect the varied tastes of its members. “We all listen to a wide variety of music,” Scaggs says, describing the band’s sound as “modernizing Motown and the original British Invasion.” She also names hip-hop and music from the 80s, especially Talking Heads and ABC, as strong influences.

Its debut album Pickin’ Up the Pieces (Dangerbird, 2010) mixes bracing soul rave-ups with catchy pop. The hit song “MoneyGrabber” cracked the high reaches of several US charts and continues to receive widespread airplay. Still, for all the group’s soul inclinations, “MoneyGrabber” may sound to some like a blend of Hall & Oates and ABC.

Soon after Pickin’ Up the Pieces was released, Fitz & the Tantrums began playing shows and connecting with a large audience. “We had no idea we were going to be embraced the way we’ve been in such a short period of time,” Scaggs says.

She credits Fitzpatrick, the band’s namesake, with much of their success. “He’s an incredible producer and an editor of lyrics. He’s into different styles of music, but is more into pop. He’s very mellow and likes his alone time,” Scaggs says, adding that Fitzpatrick is also a prolific songwriter. Fitz & the Tantrums plans to release its sophomore follow-up, produced by Tom Hoffer (Beck, Depeche Mode, Phoenix), by year’s end. The group managed to write roughly 30 songs for its new album within just six weeks of completing a tour in January. At first, Fitzpatrick used a romantic breakup as inspiration, but Scaggs says the band’s songwriting “stems from our live performances,” which continue to create quite a buzz. “We really do love to have fun on stage,” she says. “At the end of every set we’re dripping with sweat.”

Fitz and the Tantrums LIVE
September 21
The Paramount, Huntington