The Black Sheep Interviews: Fitz & The Tantrums
- Article by Jessica Sommers
- August 31, 2012
Noelle Scaggs, lead female vocalist for the indie soul band Fitz & The Tanturms, may be technically considered a “tantrum” in the band, but her powerhouse voice makes her the feistiest of them all. We had the chance to chat with the singerabout performing love songs, being the only chick in a gaggle of guys, and, of courseRyan Gosling. Check out their hit album, “Pickin’ up the Pieces while you wait for their newest album in 2013.
The Black Sheep: How did you get to know Michael Fitzpatrick, and how did Fitz & The Tantrums get started?
Noelle Scaggs: Michael had been going through a really bad break-up and he wrote the song “Breakin’ the Chains of Love,” which was kind of his first song he had written with this Motown style. He called up John Wicks, a mutual friend of ours and our current drummer , to help develop more of these types of songs, which turned into our first EP, Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1. So I went to the rehearsal studio and the first rehearsal we all just really jelled, mine and Michael’s voice jelled really well together. It felt like we had been performing for a long time.
The beginning stages were really cool because it was a rare happening, you know, finding musicians who can really play and you have this moment of knowing this works. You’re not really sure where it’s going to go, but it really worked out. And everything with the band kept falling into place. We just kept getting offered gigs , and then came people who wanted to manage us. We had been together for six months before we go an offer for our first tour, with Hepcat and Flogging Molly, then came touring with Maroon 5. It was really special .
TBS: A lot of your songs have to do with love and heartbreak. Tell me a little bit about the songwriting process.
Noelle: On the new record we’ll all just get together and kind of jam out. The guys will send a track and Michael and I will build from them; I’ll create the lyrics and sometimes I’ll do the melody, or we’ll go back and forth. It’s just a melting pot of ideas that happen. I’ll write some stuff at my house and send it to Michael, he’ll vibe off of it and decide if he likes it or not, and vice versa. It’s a very collaborative effort. With Picking up the Pieces, because of the situation of Michael coming out of love, the entire story of that record was about breaking up and trying to get through that process. When I came to the table and brought that female dynamic, it became the two sides of the tale instead of just being about the male heartbreak. You get that female side as well which really dominates on stage. [Michael and I] have a really cool dynamic.
TBS: So how do you like being the only girl in a group of guys?
Noelle: I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m used to being the only woman in a lot of bands. In my former band I was the only woman as well, and I was the front woman, so I’ve gotten used to it. You do have those times where you miss having a woman around. Thankfully, one of our managers is a woman and she comes on tour with us, so it gives me a nice break from being around all the guys all the time. But these guys are really amazing people, they’re really mature, it’s not like I’m touring with a bunch of teenagers who don’t really understand the business. We’re all good friends, we all respect each other, and, for that, it’s really cool. They’re very sensitive to me being the princess of the group.
TBS: Fitz & The Tantrums have this unique soul, Motown kind of sound. What are some bands that have inspired you?
Noelle: It’s a cross between the vintage soul and the BritishInvasion pop stuff. There’s The Talking Heads in there, too. It’s a very cool melting pot of influences. You can pick up your Marvin Gayes and Otis Reddings , but at the same time there’s this really cool kind of push on the sound. We definitely modernize it, see what we can do with the elements that we have – we don’t have guitars in the band, so for us it’s really driven towards the rhythm section and the horns, with the baritone and tenor sax. We definitely created our own vibe.
TBS: You personally have collaborated with a ton of different kinds of artists. Who are some of your favorites?
Noelle: I really enjoyed working with will.i.am. He’s a really interesting character in the studio in that kind he just lets you go, he lets you flow, and the minute that he hears something good he’s like, “I want you do that.” He’s always been this really cool person to just jam out with and try to develop ideas and not really think about what’s going to happen. You just try things and have fun with it. I’ve always really enjoyed that about him in the studio, like I could just be playing around with something and he’d be like, “Go do that!”
TBS: What are some things you always have around when you’re getting ready for a show?
Noelle: Slippery Elm, it’s basically a root that comes in capsules that Michael and I drink in a tea, especially during cold season. I always, always, always have my watch. I don’t really like having my phone on me constantly, and that’s the reason why I bought the watch, so I know how much time we have before we go on stage.
TBS: If you were stuck in an elevator for 24-hours, what one person would you ideally like to be stuck with?
Noelle: From the music stand point, Thom Yorke. Also, maybe Ryan Gosling. I wouldn’t mind being locked up in an elevator with him, that’d be cool.
TBS: Drink of choice?
Noelle: I don’t really drink that often on tour, but if I do it’d be a glass of red wine.