Free Press Summer Fest

Fitz & The Tantrums: Don't Call Them "Retro"

Fitz and The Tantrums, a group Rolling Stone named one of its "bands to watch" last year, will be gracing Houston with their presence Sunday at Free Press Summer Fest. The six-piece soul-influenced indie-pop band likes to embrace difference. Influenced by Motown and Stax, the band lacks guitars, but makes up for it in their own way.

Rocks Off spoke with Tantrums vocalist Noelle Scaggs, known for her expressive use of the tambourine, about the band's journey, and what they have in store for Houston at Free Press Summer Fest.

Rocks Off: Fitz and The Tantrums has progressed so much over these past few years. The transition period from local venues to nationwide festivals has been quite fast. It's only been since 2008 when y'all had formed as a band. After one rehearsal?

Noelle Scaggs: Yeah, it was, actually. In the beginning, I had gotten a phone call from James [horn player King] telling me to be expecting a phone call from Michael [singer Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick] since he was looking for someone to do backup singing for him for his very first show. It was at this little place called the Hotel Café here in L.A., and at the time I was in between wondering if I was going to move to San Francisco or not, going through many transitions, but I said, "Sure, I'll take a look at the music and let you know for sure if I am able to make it happen."

Long story short, we end up doing our first rehearsal for the gig. I walked into the room and realized that I knew pretty much all of the musicians that were there. It was just a really magical exchange between all of us. We really, really connected well. Fitz and I connected well with singing. There was this very cool vibe between our voices that really made the sound grow a bit more.

As we progressed more and [did] shows, we started getting more offers and then we took on management. It became this kind of slow and steady build-it-yourself project. Building the fans, fans telling other people and bringing more people to our shows. With that came all these opportunities to tour with some bigger bands.

Flogging Molly was the very first band that we ever got to open for. We had literally gone to playing at the Hotel Café, which seats about 150 people, to playing at Red Rocks for the first time, which was at least 10,000 people. It just became this really great progression to where we are now.

RO: After a few phone calls and a rehearsal, here y'all are now!

NS: Yeah, ha-ha.

RO: Now, I know the story about how Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine went to New York to get a tattoo from his tattoo artist. He happened to be a fan of y'all, told Adam he had to check out this band. Next thing you know, y'all were on Maroon 5's College Summer Tour in 2009. Dang, fans help!

NS: And that is a big credit to our fan base. We have a really dedicated, loyal group of fans. We call them "super fans," and they pop up all over the place. They just do a tremendous job of promoting our music and telling other people.

I can tell you we have one fan that literally, I think, on her own maybe put on 1,000 people. She's just one of those fans. She goes to every show that she can; she was at Coachella with a sign. She's just an awesome person.

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Taylor Moon
Contact: Taylor Moon