Back in the Spring of 2011, when I was contemplating retirement from teaching due to disability, I was really struggling physically, mentally and spiritually. It was one of the lower times I have ever felt in my life, and I have been fighting that dark monster of melancholia for years. As a former distance runner, I had always lived by a quote from the great American distance runner of the early-1970s Steve Prefontaine (and those of you whom I coached, you will know this quote): “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift.” That quote always seemed to push me beyond what my talent would have normally limited my body from doing. If you wanted to sprint next to me, I’m going to find another gear to shift to to beat you. Or, if you are going to turn this race into a duel of who can handle the most pain we can inflict upon ourselves, I was going to win that way too. But, now, on an hourly basis, I am battling myself to see who is weaker: my self or my body. I’d say I’m batting about .500, which would make me a multi-millionaire in baseball but only makes me a decent distance runner.
Anyway, I have always turned to music for comfort in times of need, whether it was during my parents’ divorce or my current chronic pain, music is what I now turn to for mental and physical help. So, back in the Spring of 2011, I was hearing a song that was in fairly heavy rotation on the local “alternative” music station by a new band called Fitz & the Tantrums, which I thought was a humorous name by playing upon the synonymous terms of “fits” and “tantrums”. The song was the great “Money Grabber”, which reminded me so much of Daryl Hall & John Oates that the song not only convinced me to purchase the FATT CD, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, but also resume my Hall & Oates fixation. I could not believe that a young band was digging back into the Motown/Stax/Philly Soul/Hall & Oates organic rock & soul amalgamation of the 70s and 80s, but, man, did my wife and I welcomed it!
In the summer of 2011, my older song, his now-wife, my wife and I all went to see the band play a small club in Indy. And, I discovered that this LA band was even hotter live than on disc. FATT had the packed crowd in this club dancing and partying hard. I had to admit that FATT put on one of the better shows that I had ever seen. And, they created their sound without a guitar yet did not rely on samples and synthetic sounds. No, the sextet had two vocalists (Fitz and he counter-point, the ever-dynamic Noelle Scaggs), a saxophonist/flutist/keyboardist James King, keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna, drummer John Wicks, and bass god Joseph Karnes (who has many a time conjured the ghost of Hall & Oates longtime bassist/collaborator, the late Tom “T-Bone” Wolk). During that concert, the band played a soulful version of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, which clued me in to how they would going sound on their next album.
Finally, in 2013, FATT finally released their sophomore album, More Than Just a Dream. On this album, the band slowly turned into an early-80s version of Hall & Oates, when their music had small new wave textures and a slight reliance of the pop sounds of that era. And, although FATT slightly left that organic soul sound off their new album, they were still flexing their soulful muscles underneath the 80s new wave sounds they incorporated into this set of songs. While, “Money Grabber” will always be my favorite song, the band finally created their first 21st Century-sounding song, “She’s Out of My League”. On the tour behind this album, FATT graduated to the next biggest venue in Indy, the standing-only “Egyptian Room” of the former Murat Temple. And the Egyptian Room is about three times larger than the venue the band previously, The Vogue. In between albums, the band had gained a pop foothold in Indianapolis after playing a packed yet well-received free Super Bowl concert in the blocked streets of downtown Indy.
Which leads us to their current album, Fitz and the Tantrums. On this album, they have become a wonderful 21st Century pop band. And, the hits have been coming. How do I know without really looking at Billboard charts? Just listen to the songs that are used on commercials. Their songs are everywhere. And, this success could not have happened to a seemingly better set of people that the six musicians of FATT. They have all bounced around the LA session scene for a long time, that when these musicians all got together, others were hoping for them to have success. So, the band is not an overnight sensation. They have worked for this success and, hopefully, more that will follow.
That is why Fitz and the Tantrums are probably may favorite artist of the new century. FATT, thanks for creating music that continues to keep me out of the dark clouds that frequently try to move in on me. Your music really does bring me some So-Cal sunshine.