When Fitz and the Tantrums arrive at the Del Mar Racetrack for a show June 26, chances are the six band members won’t be caught off guard; at least not the way they were when headlining opportunities started coming their way after the August 2010 release of the band’s debut album, “Pickin’ Up ThePieces.”
“Things kind of accelerated for us so fast at the beginning that we literally didn’t even have enough material to play a headline show,” singer/keyboardist Mike “Fitz” Fitzpatrick said in a mid-May phone interview. “So we had to like write a few more songs, get creative with some unique covers, and it was definitely like all hands on deck to get it done.”
What’s providing the comfort for the band as it begins a summer of touring is the presence of a newly released second album,
“More Than Just a Dream,” which changes the game when it comes to the live show.
“I think we’re all very excited to showcase these new songs from the new record and have the real body of work that we can change up our set from night to night,” Fitzpatrick said.
The new songs figure to do nothing but enhance the Fitz and the Tantrums live show. That’s because the band went into “More Than Just a Dream” wanting to create an album that reflected the energy and excitement of the group’s live shows.
The live chemistry of the group has been apparent from the day the band members first played together, according to Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick began putting together the band in 2008, after he wrote the song “Breakin’ the Chains of Love” on a newly purchased Conn electric organ.
His first recruit was college friend, saxophonist James King, who recommended powerhouse female singer Noelle Scaggs and drummer John Wicks. The drummer knew the two other musicians who completed the lineup, bassist Joseph Karnes and keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna.
“We had one rehearsal, and the chemistry was there from the first performance of the first song,” Fitzgerald said. “I left the rehearsal space and went and booked us a show because I could tell (we clicked).”
The rocking soul sound Fitz and the Tantrums created on “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” connected with audiences. While not a huge hit on the charts, the single “Moneygrabber” did reasonably well at radio, going top 30 on “Billboard” magazine’s Hot Rock and Adult Pop charts.
With “More Than Just a Dream,” the group not only wanted to better capture its live energy — extensive touring behind “Pickin’
Up the Pieces” was also a major factor in building the band’s fan base
— Fitzpatrick said the band also wanted to push its sound further than on the debut album.
“We knew that we wanted to make a bold record,” he said.
“It felt like if we had just gone and made ‘Picking Up The Pieces Part 2,’ it would have been a very safe thing and then people would have chastised us for just making the same record again.”
To help achieve that goal, Fitzpatrick said the band was determined not to set any limits on the kind of songs the band could create.
“There was a rule that nobody was allowed to say ‘That doesn’t sound like us,’ ‘We can’t do that,’” Fitzpatrick said.
“Everything was on the table and we literally wrote like 35 to 40 songs in a month and a half, two months, to let ourselves cross the spectrum between very safe songs to in the middle to super out there.
Then what happened was these 12 songs just sort of floated to the surface and showed themselves to be this cohesive theme, sonically, spiritually, all of it was just like the right balance between like everything we wanted to say on this record.”
Fitzpatrick and his bandmates have reason to be proud of “More Than Just a Dream.” The songs are more diverse, cohesive, and if rooted in retro sounds, have more of a forward-looking quality. They range from the percolating soul-pop of “Out Of My League” (a single rising toward the top 10 on several “Billboard” rock charts), to the bubblegum soul of the bouncy “The Walker” (a whistled melody is a focus of this should-be hit single) The group’s knack for buoyant pop melodies is also apparent on songs like “Spark,” “Break The Walls” and
“Fools Gold,” sounds like a lost Hall & Oates hit thanks in part to Fitzpatrick’s voice, which resembles of Daryl Hall’s.
Meanwhile the band builds in some nice changes of pace with the mid-tempo “6 AM” and “Keepin’ Our Eyes Out,” which moves smoothly between perky piano melody and epic pop sections.
“I couldn’t be more happy or proud of the boldness, the chances,” Fitzpatrick said of “More Than Just a Dream.” “They kept me up at night, the risks we were taking, but that let me know that we were like challenging ourselves as artists. That was maybe one of the most important things to me.”