Fifteen minutes of fame isn’t too difficult to achieve. Sustaining that fame and remaining relevant to audiences with short attention spans, however, is. Over the past three years, rising indie band Fitz and the Tantrums has experienced this firsthand.
The soulful septet from Los Angeles first emerged with Pickin’ Up The Pieces in 2010, and was lauded for its overt Motown and R&B influences. They booked a smattering of notable gigs, including big-name music festivals, but still the initial success made frontman Michael Fitzpatrick, the “Fitz” in the ban’s title, a little wary.
“When you make your first record, you have your whole life to do it, and you make it for yourself, and then you have some success, and you get some fans,” Fitzpatrick said. “Then going into the second record, all of a sudden questions creep up like, will they like this or will thy not like this?”
The concern became particularly nerve-wracking when the band decided to shake things up a bit for its sophomore effort. The band has been described using a trifecta label — soul-indie-pop — but there were many more elements of style it hadn’t yet tapped into. Fitz and the Tantrums set out on a mission to push against the constraints of its label to incorporate the different styles and influences that excited them musically.
Before putting out an album that would be a substantial evolution from their first, Fitzpatrick sought advice from experienced musicians that were on their third and fourth albums.
Fitzpatrick took their words to heart.
“Just trust what you do and if you love it, your fans are going to love it, too,” he said. “It feels great to know that the choices you made and all the hard work we put into the second record have paid off.”
Indeed, 2013’s More Than Just a Dream has spawned two big singles for the band, with “Out of My League” reaching No. 1 on alternative charts and “The Walker” receiving increasingly favorable airtime on the radio.
The album, which appeals to more genres and subsequently a wider audience, has solidified the band’s presence on the main stage. Moreover, it marks significant growth for the band, which Fitzpatrick feels has stepped into its own in its making.
“This record, even more than the first, really shows the diversity of the influences that all of us bring to the table,” Fitzpatrick said. “I love that first record from top to bottom but this record feels even more like we found ourselves as a group.”
Bear in mind that Fitz and the Tantrums is comprised of six members. Creating a cross-genre record that spoke to each musician’s aesthetic, style and influences and still felt true, authentic and real required a lot of work. Fitzpatrick described the writing process as a negotiation, a give-and-take.
“Somebody has to lead, but we have to be pliable and willing to hear outside influences and also know how to trust your instincts and really fight for what you believe is right,” Fitzpatrick said. “Ultimately, there was a lot of growth from us a band to collectively find that product.”
Part of that growth comes from recognizing that previous success doesn’t readily translate to future success, which is an oversight Fitzpatrick has observed in other artists that he is determined not to make.
“I think a lot of times, musicians will make the mistake of thinking that every idea they come up with is great, especially if they’ve had some success,” Fitz said.
The band wrote around 40 songs, which members then whittled down to the 12 on the album that survived the final cut. Those weren’t lucky accidents, though; they were carefully adjusted and rewritten to improve upon a first effort.
“The revision always feels like the better idea,” Fitzpatrick said. “I personally also believe that doing the wrong thing first really informs you what to do to make it correct.”
The success of the album’s venture into multiple genres means there’s room for even more expansion and exploration in future endeavors, Fitzpatrick said.
“We set up so much that I feel that now after being able to do everything so fully on this record, it leaves the gate wide open to let us do almost anything we want,” he said.
The L.A. natives return home for a sold-out show at the Palladium on Sat., April 5 before departing for an appearance on The Late Show with Seth Meyers in New York and then embarking on their summer tour.
“It definitely is emotional and a special thing.” Fitzpatrick said. “This is where we started, where almost everybody in the band grew up. This is a really tough town to crack and every time we’ve come back and done shows, we get to play in bigger venues.”
The size of the Palladium, which holds up to 3,800 people, is another sign that Fitz and the Tantrums is here to stay.