Walking into the relatively small Apogee Electronics Berkeley Street Studio in Santa Monica Thursday night, whether or not the domed ceiling could contain the sheer energy of Fitz and the Tantrums was definitely in question.
Having toured consistently since releasing their 2010 debut Pickin’ Up the Pieces, the band found it difficult to get back into the studio to work on a sophomore album.
“We were so busy on the road; We’d go play an indie record store in the afternoon and then do a meet-and-greet and all this stuff, that there was no free time for us to ever write on the road,” said singer Michael Fitzpatrick.
The L.A.-based group eventually found time to write, pumping out between 35-40 songs over a five or six week period. Fitz and the Tantrums whittled those down to the 12 tracks of pure soul, funk and 1980’s-inspired pop that make up More Than Just a Dream, which dropped Tuesday.
The packed (delightfully cramped?) house, all guests of venerable Los Angeles radio station KCRW, was treated to the first time many of Fitz and the Tantrums’ fresh tunes were played live.
Right off the bat, the band got the crowd moving, especially once they brought out “Break the Walls” two songs in. The vocal chemistry between Fitzpatrick and fellow singer Noelle Scaggs is highlighted by the clap-along refrain that got many in the audience swaying their hands back and forth over their heads.
Perhaps the best-known new track was “6am,” which has seen action on the airwaves for the past few weeks and was recently performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
“6am” best highlights the ’80s direction the band went in for this sophomore effort, something Fitzpatrick takes pride in. During an interview with KCRW’s Anne Litt, the DJ listed some of the bands with whom Dream producer Tony Hoffer had worked.
“Beck, M83, Phoenix…” she noted, before Fitzpatrick was quick to add another of Hoffer’s projects, saying, “Depeche Mode.”
“Because we knew we wanted to go in a bold new direction, we had to let ourselves experiment as much as we could and try as many different things to see what bubbled up as the sonic and lyrical theme, and the emotional core as to what this record would be,” said Fitzpatrick.
True, the head-nodding synthesizers lent a chillwave vibe to “6am” and could open the door to a disco-ready remix in the near future.
“Out of My League,” another one that is getting radio spins, received several knowing shouts of approval once keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna plinked the first few notes and John Wicks kicked in a driving drumbeat.
That beat slowed to a darker groove for the first-ever live performance of “House on Fire,” but kicked back up again once they pulled out album gems “The End” and a raucous “The Walker,” the latter of which had several people attempting to mimic Fitzpatrick and Scaggs’ choreographed dance.
During the interview portion of the evening, Fitzpatrick was sincere in his gratitude for KCRW’s role in building the band’s audience.
Armed with a new album’s worth of material, it’s time for Fitz and the Tantrums to get back on the road and build that audience even more.
“Keepin Our Eyes Out”
“Break The Walls”
“Merry Go Round”
“Out of My League”
“House of Fire”
To catch Fitz and the Tantrums on tour, visit their official website for a list of dates.