LA Neo-soul band, Fitz & The Tantrums, have been making waves that break the spell of the typical ever since their 2010 debut release, ‘Pickin’ Up The Pieces’, and you better believe that the undercurrent of revivalism has pulsed through their recent self-titled release. It is apparent that Fitz & The Tantrums maximizes every level of their mind, body, and spirit through their artistry and the cosmic force of co-lead vocalist, Noelle Scaggs, sultry vocal prowess is potent and felt deep within the soul of listeners worldwide. I caught up with the soulful woman to discuss her roots as a musician, the fierce electricity that Fitz & The Tantrums bring to life on stage, tattoos and more.
You recently played your first show of 2017 with Big & Rich for the Coors Light championship party. Tell us about the chemistry amongst the two groups and what fans of Fitz & The Tantrums have to look forward to pertaining to touring/festival appearances in 2017.
We had a great time with Big & Rich in Tampa, I got to catch the end of their set, great energy with the crowd. We are always pairing up with different kinds of artists in various performance settings, and have been fortunate enough to share stages with fun artists like Big & Rich who are more Country Pop driven to AWOL Nation who are Alternative Rock. It has kind of become a calling card for us since the early days of our career as a unit, in that we work well with any genre of music. I think this is due to the fact that we always have given ourselves the room to experiment and not be pigeon-holed into one particular kind of sound, musically speaking. Looking at our earlier works with the first album Pickin’ Up The Pieces included our influences of soul music from the Stax and Motown period mixed in with New Wave 80’s elements, and our second bringing more of that new wave sound into something more modern as we were developing our sound within those inspirations, gives a bit more perspective on how we are able to mesh well with so many different types of bands and artists in a live setting.
Is there a follow up to your most recent self-titled release in the works? Fill us in on what’s on the radar.
We try to stay creative as possible, especially during our time off. However, this new album has only been released in June of 2016 so we have a long way to go in promoting this album. We are currently on our second single Roll Up, and Handclap (first single) is still rising up the charts at top 40. We have some time off after this month and will be performing on the Late, Late Show with James Corden on January 19th, Bottle Rock in Napa in May which will be the first festival we have starting this Spring and a ton of other coming events I cannot mention yet. We will be busy as usual!
Let’s talk tattoos. Noelle, tell us about any personal pieces that you may have and the artist that brought them to life.
All of my tattoos have pretty much been drawn out prior to me getting in a room with an artist. I have 8 in total most of them on the same arm, each one I’ve had done at different periods of my life, my first, an image of father time in the shape of a crescent moon which at the time represented my growth into becoming a woman of 18, thinking of it now, it was also my act of rebellion with not being allowed to have a tattoo before I moved out of my family’s home. That piece sort of sparked off the idea that I would only get tattoos when I passed certain milestones in my life. My two largest most significant tattoos were created by Ross Jones out of San Francisco and Loco out of Miami Springs, each of them are influenced by Egyptian hieroglyphics, an area of history and mysticism I have always been fascinated by since I was in grade school, mostly because of the powerful women often depicted in the deities and royalty. I got the Ross Jones piece shortly after our first appearance/performance at Coachella which led to being a pretty amazing year for us when More Than Just A Dream was later released. I got the itch to finally get the Goddess Isis’s wings tattooed on my arm after that weekend. The wings represent protection, they were often depicted on clothing she wore in her human form or attached to her arms as she fanned renewed life back into her fallen king Osiris in the afterworld. I thought that was hella romantic, and wanted something that represented continuous protection for my career and my partners in crime as we tour this crazy world of musical mayhem.
Broad question. What is your perception of the cultural impact of music?
I think the power of music, in general, transcends beyond all the bullshit in the world. It has a subconscious pull on the living spirit, be it sung or played, it impacts emotion and lends courage when it is otherwise absent. Music breaks down barriers in that it comes from the unknown. I can’t explain why I am the only one in my immediate family that sings, but I know that the gift I have goes beyond just me. I think it is this unexplainable gift of music that gives it the power to transform the living beings it touches, there is honesty within it, and I think it makes people comfortable enough to be influenced by it culturally. Hence why we want to dress like the artists we love, or why music is played in social settings, it breaks barriers where they would otherwise be built up. The quality of the music being played matters of course, but be the song good or bad to the audience, it still evokes emotions and reactions and that is powerful within itself.
Noelle, as the only female within the group, how has the dynamic added a dose of creative flair to your universal artistry and chemistry as a group?
Over the course of my career, even prior to Fitz, I have always been the yin to the yang in a male-dominated project so to speak. In this band, I have really been able to maintain the strong/outspoken side of myself on record and our live shows. I have my softer side depending on the songs of course, and how they should be conveyed emotionally, but for the most part a lot of our songs have been songs about heartbreak and struggles in relationships, redemption, and personal growth, so my character as the artist Noelle of Fitz is the same as the artist Noelle without Fitz; a confident woman without fear of showing it. I think the thing that makes the chemistry work so well between myself and Fitz are our voices and the differentiating characteristics of our vocals and our approach to our contributions live as individuals sharing the spotlight. We are both strong individuals so the passion that exudes from our songs naturally find their way into the live show, be it giving each other the middle finger at the end of our song, 6 am or dancing provocatively together in our song Complicated. I think our fans love seeing the male and female dynamic play itself out at our shows.
As a musician and artist, you are exposed to a multitude of emotions and experiences. What is it that makes you feel alive and most vulnerable?
The most alive are those moments on stage with all the exploding energy coming from the audience, myself and the guys on stage with me, the moment that all of my personal difficulties fall away. The most vulnerable are those creative moments, when I am trying to find the words to the story that will be told to the person in that audience that is dying to connect with something outside of themselves.
Your stage performance is deemed as electric, Noelle. Tell us about your first encounter ever on stage.
I was 10, it was the month after I was teased by a boy in front of the entire school, who mistook a seam in my training bra showing through my shirt for that of someone who stuffed her bra. I never thought I would show my face again, never really spoke to anyone out of fear of being teased like that again, and pretty much hid in my room until a school talent show appeared. I sang a song by En Vogue called, Just Can’t Stay Away, a cappella, in front of an audience of maybe 60 people, one of them the teasing boy and his mother, another my own mother, I was terrified, I had no idea if I could actually sing, I just liked doing it. It ended with a standing ovation and the 10-year-old girl who didn’t know she had a voice until she stood on that stage. Music gave me courage that day, and the teasing boy didn’t matter much to me after that.
Being a part of the music industry, you are exposed to what is deemed as the glitz and glam. How do you maintain your center in the midst of chaos?
I think I try and make it a point to not get caught up in the hype, to stay in gratitude for what is happening knowing that at any moment things could change. I have my own personal struggles to work through in just being human living a life of being ’on’ for outside forces on a daily, so reminding myself of why I am doing what I do, and being thankful for being able to do it, without getting caught up in short-lived moments are what keep me grounded.
If you could choose one Fitz & The Tantrums song that means the most to you, which song would you choose and why?
It would have to be Out Of My League. It was the first song I wrote on my own for the band, it was a song that I didn’t originally create with us in mind, but with the help of Fitz and the rest of the guys became the song that helped change the trajectory of our career commercially. I am really proud of that song, it speaks volumes for everything I’ve learned in working with Fitz and how he pushes me as a writer, how he has taught me to consider every possible avenue, even the ones I would never have thought I could pull off.
Last but certainly not least, any closing messages for your fans?
Listen to our songs, lose yourself in our shows, copy and paste.