PICTURED: Fitz and the Tantrums Photo by Luke Dickey
by Alan Sculley, Last Word Features
NOTE: The Friday, March 13 show at the Ventura Theater has been cancelled due to ongoing concerns related to COVID-19.
Like many artists before him that had felt pressure in trying to follow up a hit song, Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums readily admits that he struggled with expectations to come up with a song for the band’s next album that could measure up with “HandClap,” the multi-chart hit from the band’s self-titled 2016 album.
“It’s tough because as much as you say, ‘I’m going to put that song out of my head,’ it’s always this quiet little monkey on your back,” Fitzpatrick explained in a recent phone interview. “And if you try and set that as the benchmark, you’re almost guaranteed failure because it’s just automatically sucking the oxygen out of the room.”
Fitzpatrick was finally able to eject that burden when he thought back to how “HandClap” was written in the first place.
“What I had to finally do was come to the realization that we didn’t try and write ‘HandClap’ when we wrote it,” he said. “When I wrote ‘HandClap,’ I was frustrated with my own process and I just sort of tried to put my intellect to the side and just come from more of a visceral, primal place, which is how I achieved that [song]. So, definitely after a couple of times of that looming over my head, I finally just had to be, like, ‘you know what, you didn’t think about it when you were creating it. You just have to put that out of your head.’ ”
Making the follow-up album to the self-titled release was not quick and easy for Fitzpatrick, the band’s singer and main songwriter. It took more than a year and Fitzpatrick wrote some 80 songs in order to arrive at the selections that are on the album All the Feels, released in September.
Things didn’t really come together for All the Feels until past the half-way mark in the writing process, when Fitzpatrick got together with fellow singer-songwriter K.Flay and songwriter/producer Tommy English and they came up with the song “123456.” It was released in March 2019 as the first advance single from the new album. (Two more songs have since been released, “Don’t Ever Let Em” and “I Need Help!”)
With “123456,” Fitzpatrick started to see a lyrical thread around which he could build the entire album.
“ ‘123456’ is a very emotional song to me,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m not sure that everyone gets the depth of the emotion to me, but that was like a song for me that was really about celebrating that moment where you finally gain a little confidence back after kind of a dark period of insecurity and unsuredness. You wake up finally with a little bit of confidence back in your step and you just want to hold onto that as long as possible. For me, that’s directly tied into my process of making an album. So, when I hear that song, it moves me because it was one of the big turning points of my emotional well being in making a record.
“I really started to see this theme of self-care, of self-love, of just processing all of these emotions, even the process of creation,” he said. “Then that sort of became my filter for everything and what made the cut or not was, does this make me feel something? Am I talking about something that matters to me? That really became sort of the benchmark.”
If Fitzpatrick explores some weighty topics on the new album, he and his co-writers also continued Fitz and the Tantrums’ tradition of making fun music. That tone was established after Fitzpatrick formed the band in 2008 in Los Angeles with Noelle Scaggs (vocals/percussion), James King (saxophone/multi-instrumentalist), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards), John Wicks (drums) and Ethan Phillips (since replaced on bass by Joseph Karnes). It has remained a defining feature of the music as the group has evolved from the retro-soul feel of its first album, 2010’s Pickin’ Up The Pieces, through the thoroughly modern top 40-friendly sound of the self-titled third album and “HandClap,” which went top five on a trio of Billboard magazine charts — Adult Top 40, Alternative Songs and Hot Rock Songs — and took the group’s career to a new level.
The buoyant sound Fitz and the Tantrums have fashioned carries over to the group’s energetic live shows. Now with four albums of material in the catalog, Fitzpatrick feels he can put together a strong set list for the concerts his band will play while touring to promote All the Feels gets going.
“There’s a smattering of all of the standout songs from all of the last three albums,” he said. “And then it’s always exciting, you’re bringing some of your new babies on stage with you. So we’re going to be playing a bunch of songs from the new record as well . . . We’re going to be playing bigger venues. We’ve got a bigger show that’s even more over the top. I’m really excited to get out there.”
ee Fitz and the Tantrums on Friday, March 13, at 8 p.m. at the Majestic Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut St., Ventura. For tickets and more information, call 805-653-0721 or visit www.venturatheater.net.