Part '60s soul, part '80s New Wave, part contemporary indie pop.
Influences spread far and wide for Los Angeles-based Fitz and the Tantrums, the sextet behind the chart-topping 2010 album Pickin' Up the Pieces. The band's sophomore record, More Than Just a Dream, came out in May, and the band opens for Bruno Mars at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville this weekend.
"Definitely expect a hot, sweaty dance party," said frontman Michael Fitzpatrick, aka Fitz.
Fitz founded the band in L.A. in 2008, when he was a sound engineer aspiring to do more, forming a group with Noelle Scaggs (vocals), James King (saxophone and flute), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards), Joseph Karnes (bass) and John Wicks (drums, percussion) — all friends or friends of friends.
It's been a quick rise to fame since then for the retro-urban act, led by a man whose soulful voice sounds strikingly similar to that of Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates.
As an unsigned band — their debut EP, Songs From a Breakup, Vol. 1, was self-produced in Fitz's home — they snagged an opening spot on tour with Maroon 5 (Adam Levine reportedly heard them on the radio and liked their sound.)
Their hit single MoneyGrabber, a super catchy, upbeat genre-bender, got national airplay, and Pickin' Up the Pieces hit No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart.
They've performed on high-profile television shows including The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live, and at enormous music festivals such as Lollapalooza in Chicago and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
They're signed to Elektra Records, and More Than Just a Dream was produced by Tony Hoffer, known for his work with artists such as Beck, the Kooks and M83.
We spoke to Fitzpatrick by phone while he was cruising the streets of Minneapolis, taking a break to buy an electric shaver while on tour.
Question: More Than Just a Dream has a notably different sound than your first record. How did that develop?
Answer: I always say our first album was '60s soul at the foreground, with the '80s as the layer right behind it. And on this record, we reversed those roles. Everyone in the band felt like, coming into our sophomore record, it would have been so easy for us to make Pickin' Up the Pieces, Part 2. But that would have felt like a cop-out for us ... . On this record we wanted to leave no doubt that we were really pushing the envelope in combining all the styles of music that we love into a bolder, more brazen version of Fitz and the Tantrums.
Q: You produced your first album. Why go with Tony Hoffer this time?
A: We were on such a crazy touring schedule, and I kind of wanted that outside voice to push us, to say, "This song is good, but this part could be better." And Tony is just known for being able to seamlessly work with multiple genres and fuse different sounds together. He turned out to be the perfect guy.
Q: You've been known to put on a pretty insane live show.
A: Our shows are a celebration. We don't stop dancing and moving the entire time. We always try to make the audience a seventh member of the band, try to get them to participate and dance. There's a lot of call and response. We've never tried to be the coolest band in the world. We just try to have fun and bring some joy to people in a concert setting. ... By the end, everyone's losing their minds with us. Or the more they get crazy, the more we get crazy, and it just becomes this insane energy loop that feeds on itself and kind of goes ballistic.
Q: Favorite song on the new record?
A: It's hard. They're all your babies. You love them all, but you love some a little more than others. I love The Walker and Out of My League. The last song on the record, Merry Go Round — that's a song I can barely listen to ... . (It's) about that crazy juxtaposition where all your dreams are coming true and yet you're sitting there in a hotel room, in the middle of nowhere, with no transportation, no friends, no family, you haven't seen your loved ones in months, and you're just sort of disconnected from reality. It can be this weird, lonely experience, and that song tries to explain what that experience is like — of being on this crazy merry-go-round.
IF YOU GO
Bruno Mars, Fitz and the Tantrums
When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 18
Where: KFC Yum Center, 1 Arena Plaza, Louisville.
Tickets: $36.50-$85.50. Available via Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.