Fitz and the Tantrums Bring ‘The Feels’ to Sandy Amphitheater

In early 2020, Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums was looking forward to touring in earnest to promote the group’s latest album, All The Feels. But like virtually every music act, any plans for 2020 were turned upside down by the pandemic.

Now, Fitz and the Tantrums are returning to their album with a summer 2022 tour featuring Andy Grammer. Both Grammer and the band will perform for Utah audiences at Sandy Amphitheater on Aug. 18.

When his normal touring schedule came to a halt, Fitzpatrick was able to use his suddenly open schedule to do something that would not have happened otherwise—write and record his recently released solo album, Head Up High.

“I was given this amazing opportunity to just explore any idea I wanted,” he said. Freed from the expectations of what a Fitz and the Tantrums album would sound like, Fitzpatrick explored new facets of his voice and wrote lyrics about darker topics, including mental illness, death and aging. “When you’re a band for 12 years, you’ve been through every iteration of yourself, and it was honestly nice also to take a break from being a part of a collective creatively and just be able to make some decisions that were 100% mine to own and succeed or fail with.”

That doesn’t mean that Fitzpatrick has forgotten about All The Feels. In fact, now that Fitz and the Tantrums have returned to the touring routine, that 2019 album will remain a focus of the live shows, along with a new single, “Sway,” that is the group’s first new song in three years.

“I feel like we didn’t get a full record cycle,” he said. “So I’m excited to play the All The Feels album now that people have really had a chance to really live with it.”

As for Head Up High, songs from that new solo album may eventually figure into Fitz and the Tantrums’ shows, but that’s not a given, considering the band’s first priority is playing material from the group’s four studio albums.

“I might throw in one or two of those,” Fitzpatrick said of his solo songs. “It’s hard to know.”

As it is, Fitzpatrick had enough sweat, effort and time invested in All The Feels that it’s only natural he wants that album to get a proper tour cycle.

A big hurdle for the band was writing with a single Fitzpatrick felt could measure up with “HandClap,” the multi-chart hit from the band’s self-titled 2016 album. Like many artists before him that had felt pressure trying to follow up a hit song, Fitzpatrick readily admits he struggled with expectations created by “HandClap.” 

“It’s tough because as much as you say ‘I’m going to put that song out of my head,’ it’s always this quiet little monkey on your back,” Fitzpatrick explained. “And if you try and set that as the benchmark, you’re almost guaranteed failure because it’s just automatically sucking the oxygen out of the room.”

Fitzpatrick was finally able to eject that back-riding monkey when he thought back to how “HandClap” was written in the first place.

“What I had to finally do was come to the realization that we didn’t try and write ‘HandClap’ when we wrote it,” he said. “I just sort of tried to put my intellect to the side and just come from more of a visceral, primal place, which is how I achieved that [song].”

The song that finally put the All The Feels album on track was “123456.” It helped Fitzpatrick start seeing a lyrical thread around which he could build the entire album. And while a title like “123456” may suggest something as carefree and fun as a song called “HandClap,” it actually signaled that the new Fitz and the Tantrums album wouldn’t be a lightweight top 40 confection—at least on a lyrical level.

“‘123456’ is a very emotional song to me,” Fitzpatrick said. He described the song as a depiction of “that moment where you finally gain a little confidence back after a dark period of insecurity.” When that glimpse of assuredness returns, Fitzpatrick explained, “you just want to hold onto that as long as possible.”  

“I really started to see this theme of self-care, of self-love, of processing all of these emotions,” he said. To decide what songs to include on the album, Fitzpatrick asked himself, “Does this make me feel something?”

If Fitzpatrick explores some weighty topics on All The Feels, the band’s fourth album, he and his co-writers also continued Fitz and the Tantrums’ tradition of making fun, energetic music. That tone was established in 2008 in Los Angeles when Fitzpatrick formed the band with Noelle Scaggs (vocals/percussion), James King (saxophone/multi-instrumentalist), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards), John Wicks (drums) and Ethan Phillips (since replaced on bass by Joseph Karnes).

The group’s debut EP, 2009’s Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1, and first full-length album, the 2010 release Pickin’ Up The Pieces, got the band labeled as retro-soul act for a lively sound that mixed elements of vintage soul and Motown with upbeat pop and rock.

That sound started to shift toward modern pop on the 2013 album, More Than Just a Dream, while retaining some classic soul influence. The revamped sound worked well and gave Fitz and the Tantrums a commercial breakthrough. The singles “Out of My League” and “The Walker” both topped the Billboard Alternative Songs chart.

Then came the self-titled album, its modern top-40-friendly sound and “HandClap,” which went to the top five on a trio of Billboard formats—Adult Top 40, Alternative Songs and Hot Rock Songs—and took the group’s career to a new level.

Now Fitzpatrick has added Head Up High to his catalog of music. And despite some heavy moments, the album isn’t hugely different from a Fitz and the Tantrums release, considering it’s largely made up with buoyant, dance-friendly songs filled with vocal hooks, bright instrumentation (which mixes synthetic tones with some organic instruments) and upbeat lyrics. The tone of the album was very much intentional.

Fitzpatrick said that during the pandemic, everybody was bored and stir crazy and stressed and [had] financial fear.” Responding to the national mood, he wrote some music that he calls depressing pandemic songs.I literally wrote a song called ‘Virus.’ I was like, ‘I don’t want to share this song. I’m living through this song. I don’t need any more depressing shit in my life.” Instead, Fitzpatrick gravitated toward songs that offered respite and a more optimistic perspective. I need hope and positivity and I want songs that make me want to dance around the room and at least give me a temporary sense of joy in this dread cycle we’re all in.”

  • Who: Fitz and the Tantrums with Andy Grammer
  • What: Upbeat soul-pop
  • Where: Sandy Amphitheater
  • When: Aug. 18, 2022
  • Tickets and info: sandyamp.com

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Alan Sculley
Alan Sculleyhttp://saltlakemagazine.com
Alan Sculley has operated his music feature service, Last Word Features, for more than 25 years. His music features and reviews have appeared in more than 100 daily newspapers, alternative weeklies and entertainment publications.

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