Fitz & the Tantrums' Noelle Scaggs: I'm Inspired by My 7-Year-Old Niece

Los Angeles' Fitz & the Tantrums

offer up a grassroots success story built on unadulterated creativity, elbow grease

and and just the right amount of luck. All systems were a go after the practice session in late 2008, and the band played their first gig just a week later. Six months into it, they were on tour with punk powerhouse Flogging Molly. Slots at major U.S. festivals such as Lollapalooza and Telluride Blues & Brews and an itinerary of near 200 live appearances since

January has contributed directly to the band's mounting success.

Their sound is pleasantly nostalgic, yet

maintains a necessary fresh flare of neo-soul and

futuristic lounge. In the live setting, frontman

Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick executes showmanship reminiscent of

James Brown, but with the presentation of Robert Smith and the

sincerity of his indie pop counterparts. The rest of the Tantrums' outfit

defy their backing band nomenclature and showcase a thematic equal

opportunity approach to the universal get down.

Noelle Scaggs, sultry vocalist, tambourine shaker and personification of

a new age for soul music, connected with County Grind from her home in L.A. to


about the band's unique road to success.

County Grind: You guys have

been on the road non-stop for the past year it seems. How are things going out

in California now that you are getting some time at home?

Noelle Scaggs: Things are good

here, nothing too crazy, just getting ready for the first date of the tour in

Charleston. This one is going to be a long haul. So

other than a couple one off shows around here it has been nice to just be home and catch up

on life things.

The band's story

is pretty unique in that you rehearsed one time and had a gig the next week. What

was the selling point for this music project initially that enticed you enough

to see it through from the beginning?

When I first

heard the project I was really attracted to the sound. It was something that

wasn't really familiar in the spectrum of not being exactly Motown or something

from the '80s. It had a really cool mixture and a more modernized feel. I was

also really attracted to Fitz's singing voice and the vibe that he was trying

to create. When we initially talked about doing the show I was in an in between

phase of whether or not I wanted to join another band, do a solo thing, or

maybe not even do music for awhile to focus on other things. I ended up doing

the rehearsal and that pretty much solidified it for me.

So even though

you knew most of the musicians in the room, it was almost a love at first sight

type of situation in reference to the sound?

It was like I

was walking into a room with a bunch of friends. It was actually my

first time

meeting Fitz, and that was also the case for everyone in the band other

than [saxophonist] James King. James was pretty much our connection, and

I had enjoyed playing with

him over the years, so I really knew the caliber of musicians I was

going to be

involved with. After we did the first show the feedback from people made


want to continue. We really just loved playing music and performing with


other. That is how it all began.

Did you have a

feeling that the band would ever be at the point you are now?

No, we had no

idea. I was really just going for it and because it was so easy vibe-wise, and

creatively we were all on the same page, so that made it even easier to

continue doing it. Even when things got harder for us financially we still

decided to see it through because we knew there was something special here that

we had not felt with other projects. Everything seemed to align itself and we

realize the serendipity of every moment, like being asked to go on tour with

Flogging Molly after only six months of playing, and getting a deal with

Dangerbird Records when were on our last leg financially. From there we have just

been trying to gain as many fans and make as much noise as we can.

Much like how

the band came together for the first rehearsal and then played your first gig a

week later, you guys have been gaining lots of momentum in a very short amount

of time. With all the hard work, how do you balance that out?

If you are

trying to maintain some sense of a regular life you have to stay connected to

home as much as you can. Because we are all friends, it makes it a lot easier

for us when touring life becomes difficult. I don't think anyone in the band

expected us to be gone as long as we have been. We had no idea we were going to

end up touring for the last 14 months, so it becomes important to have an

environment where we can communicate. That has been a key element of making it

through this experience as a band. The consolation is that it is a tough life

to live but it is also really fun and inspiring. Every day I get joy from

performing live and watching our fans feel inspired enough to just let go for

an hour or two. That is moving.

Have you had one

of those moments where you stepped back and realized you have made it to this


Yeah, they

happen every day (laughs). The biggest thing for me was going to Holland and

playing in front of sold out crowds the first time we had ever gone there. We

also went to Italy and came back a week later and found out we were in the top

10 of all Italian radio. When we came back from there we played Lollapalooza to

a crowd of 30,000 people. Everyone there was singing and really into

the music from song one. That moment for me, stepping on that stage, and seeing

their reaction was a beautiful thing. At that point everyone in the band realized

all of the work we had put in the last two years was really flowering.

Fitz and the

Tantrums are reminiscent of classic genres, but with a fresh approach, what was

the initial inspiration for tackling that sound in particular?

When Fitz wrote

"Breaking the Chains of Love," and then collaborated with James King, I think

they were building off the concept of things they had listened to growing up.

That also built on top of what Fitz had created in those first 20 minutes

it took him to write that song. Looking at the '60s as one of the best periods

of song writing, with songs that still stand the test of time, when we started

recording the full record we wanted to focus on balancing simplicity with the

complex nature of what we were doing. We didn't want to be a carbon copy of

anything we were inspired by. We started playing together early on it so it made

it that much easier to develop strong songs that could really stand on their


What inspires

your music beyond music itself?

A lot of the

things that come out of me lyrically adhere to my relationships in subjects

like love. Love, or the lack of, plays a big part. That isn't just romantic

love, but also love that you might get from talking to a child. A lot of joy

and inspiration for me comes out of something like speaking to my seven-year-old niece. For me in general it is about focusing on the little moments in life

that happen. That way people can identify with them. I am in turn inspired

by individuals and I think that comes out in my music.

Any new material

on the horizon from you guys?

We were actually

in the studio last week cranking out some ideas. While we are on tour, and when

we get back, we will probably do a lot of writing as well.

Fitz & the

Tantrums are finally coming down to Florida. How do you feel about tackling a new


We are really

trying to get the word out down there. I have a lot of friends in Orlando, Fort

Lauderdale and Miami so they are all excited that we are coming. We are excited

about coming. I hope we are well-received.

Fitz and The Tantrums perform at 7:30 PM Tuesday, November 1st at Culture Room 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $20. Call 954-564-1074, or click here.