Fitz & the Tantrums frontman Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick will always remember the group's first trek to Chicago, since the sextet arrived in town for a show at Metro just one day after the epic February blizzard that brought the city to a standstill. "When we pulled up they were literally just pulling the cars off Lake Shore Drive," says the singer.
At this point, the weather might be the only thing that can cool off the Los Angeles soul revivalists, who were named Hot Band in a recent issue of Rolling Stone and are currently gearing up to play a trio of sold-out shows at Metro. Reached on the road, Fitzpatrick, 40, talked about his introduction to soul music, the Chicago coffee shop he has to visit when he's in town and why he considers himself the ultimate awkward-white-guy dancer.
I don't want to start off sounding like Joe Biden here, but three sold-out Metro shows? This is a big [bleeping] deal.
[Laughs] Yeah, it's kind of crazy. The first time we ever came to the city was the day after Snowpocalypse. Joe Shanahan at Metro took a chance on us, and we ended up selling out that night. We had some sort of amazing connection with Chicago right from the start.
How are you planning to keep things fresh for fans who head out to all three shows?
We're going to put our heads together as we're out on tour and try and come up with some new ideas. We may play one or two songs we don't usually play. We're working on some new songs now, and we'll see if we can get some of those up and running.
Is difficult to keep your energy level up playing multiple nights?
I mean, we're used to it. It's definitely an ass-kicker. It's a high-energy show and [singer] Noelle [Scaggs] and I never stop moving the entire time, so it starts to take its toll physically. As the tour goes on, I tend to sleep more and more. Some days I'm so depleted that I'm literally comatose until the moment we go onstage.
Any plans for your downtime in Chicago?
My dad used to work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, so I'm sure I'm going to go do a tour of that. And (drummer) John Wicks and myself are incredible coffee addicts, so we'll be making our way to Mecca, otherwise known as Intelligentsia.
What was the highlight of playing Lollapalooza here this summer?
We've all grown up with Lollapalooza, and for us it was a real benchmark of all the hard work we've put in over the last two-and-a-half years. We had an early time slot and didn't know if anyone was going to show up or not, and then there were like 20,000 people there to see us. It was incredible.
Considering the year you've had, I'm curious to hear about the least glamorous thing you've had to endure.
Well, the dark underbelly of touring is that it's 23 hours of unglamorous lifestyle for one hour of glory. Yesterday was the first shower I've taken in three days. You're salvaging socks and underwear and trying desperately to find a place to do laundry. It's hard work.
How did you develop your love of soul music?
I grew up with parents who were classical music freaks, and my dad would only let that be played on the radio. The first time I was able to choose, I negotiated putting on an oldies station while driving to school in the morning. It was really there that I found those songs...and I just instantly gravitated towards them.
Were you conscious of the fact that you had to put your own twist on the genre to keep from sounding like a retro act?
Yeah. I think we definitely knew we didn't want to be a pastiche, and we wanted to put our own spin on things. We didn't adhere to the form perfectly. We let our other natural influences--like '80s new wave and Brit-pop and some of those-hip-hop backbeats--kind of come through.
Your music is obviously great for dancing, but do you consider yourself much of a dancer?
I do in terms of being an awkward-white-guy dancer. Like, I can do the robot really well.
What advice would you have for someone like yourself who might lack rhythm, but really wants to get down at the show?
Don't think about it. Just let yourself go.