TAP Exclusive Interview: Michael ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick of Fitz and The Tantrums

By Laura McWhorter

They say good things come in threes. Chipmunks, amigos, Austin Powers movies… In keeping with this rule, Fitz and the Tantrums will be making their third appearance of the year in Boston this Friday, November 11th. The L.A. outfit has been mercilessly touring for 15-months in support of their breakout album, ‘Pickin’ Up the Pieces’ and each time the show only gets better. We had the pleasure of catching up with Michael ‘Fitz’ Fitzpatrick last week to talk about the touring, the fans, the tunes and…Katy Perry?

I caught you guys at the WFNX show at Paradise Rock Club. That was a really great show.

Yeah that show was crazy. That was the loudest crowd we’ve ever had. I think we were all kind of stunned. I walked out off stage and I knew we were booking a fall tour and I called our booking agent and I said, ‘We’re gonna need a bigger venue next time,’ and he says, ‘I don’t know…’ and I was like, ‘Trust me.’

Do you adjust the stage show for these bigger venues?

No. We always put on that same show whether we’re literally in a 200-person club or playing at Lollapalooza. We always try and put on a big, extroverted, fun show. The only thing that changes is the bigger the stage, we might have to move around a little more across the stage but we really always try to put on the same show.

Do you prefer smaller venues or the bigger stages like the Lollapaloozas?

No, those are fun and incredible and definitely dreams come true but I will always love a hot, sweaty nightclub. Just that energy at like Paradise Lounge…you just can’t contain that in the same way in an outdoor setting on a big stage. There’s a lot more people but there’s just something about when everyone’s packed into that venue. There’s just nothing like that.

Are there any venues you wanna play that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

I grew up in L.A. so for me a dream come true would be to get to play the Hollywood bowl at some point. I would not be mad at that.

How do you get ready for a tour? You’ve been touring for a long time. Are there things you do to keep things fresh and make sure it’s always dynamic and different?

We’re always trying to push the show more. We’ve included new songs in the set. We’ve added some cool covers. Just for us, I think the nature of the way that we play the songs – we’re not just playing them perfect arrangement on the record. Every night has an improvisational element to it in terms of somebody’s doing a solo, someone has a bari sax breakdown…So, every night has a unique thing. It’s never gonna be exactly the same format so that always keeps it fresh for us and forces everyone to keep themselves on their toes.

Speaking of covers…can you give any spoiler alerts for any new covers on this tour?

I don’t know if we did it the last time but we do a ‘Steady as She Goes’ cover. Did we do that?

You did indeed. I danced like a moron to that one.

Yeah, that one we had just started to introduce. That was one of the first shows we did that. We’ll probably do that again and see if we can come up with a new one as well.

Are there any other artists you’re bumping right now to yourself?

We have this band that we’ve got out on the road with us called Walk the Moon that we really love – just loving their music…They’re definitely a band that we’re super into. Tune Yards is another band that James, our sax player, turned me on to that everyone’s really digging.

What’s the most embarrassing thing on your iPod?

Extraterrestrial by Katy Perry. It’s a good pop song. I think more people like it than admit.

Not unlike Miss Perry…you guys are blowing up pretty quickly this last year alone. When you win a Grammy…who’s the first person you thank?

Without sounding cliché…really would just have to thank the fans. Because although it seems from the outside that our ascension has been really fast, we’ve also been just working our asses off for three years straight … And we started to get more mainstream exposure in the last 8-9 months but really before that it was just about fans that were passionate telling five of their friends and dragging them all to the next show and converting them and them telling five people. That really has been the only reason that we’re having this success – real music lovers, real people, finding out about us…falling in love with our music and having this need to just tell everybody about us and we haven’t asked them to do that and it’s been incredible.

You guys are one of the more gracious bands that I’ve been able to interact with. What goes through your minds when you play a huge show and it’s the loudest crowd you’ve ever seen like at Paradise? Is that something you get used to?

I think it’s a matter of staying grounded and staying appreciative. And we as a band from the very beginning it was important to all of us to be humble and appreciative. We’ve all been in the business for quite some time and we all know what a good fortune this moment is. And it’s really hard to ever get to this level. Most people will never see this moment so it’s really important for us, as people, to just be very grounded and never forget that every day is a gift. And I think that people really respect us even more. They love our music, they love our performance and our musicianship…but they respect us as human beings and that’s equally as important to us.

In 20 years, if people only remember Fitz and the Tantrums for one song… Which would you be proud for it to be?

So hard to say! They’re all our babies and we love them equally. So hard for me. I feel like I’d be hurting the feelings of my other songs. If I had to pick one it would probably be ‘Don’t Gotta Work it Out’ or ‘MoneyGrabber’. Hmm…’Don’t Gotta Work it Out.’

I said in my review of their most recent show at Paradise Rock Club that you should see these guys. Now’s your chance, kids. They’ll be at House of Blues Friday and unless you can think of a better way to spend your Friday night than having a great time dancing along to great music with great people…I can’t stress enough how much you don’t want to miss out. Have I ever steered you wrong before? (Note: I know I usually write reviews and I’ve never technically ‘steered’ before…but you just kind of have to trust me.)

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