Fitz and the Tantrums Frontman and Young the Giant Drummer Talk About Their Co-Headlining Tour That's Coming to Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica

Concert Preview

click to enlarge Fitz and the Tantrums - Luke Dickey
Luke Dickey
Fitz and the Tantrums
Two bands from Southern California known for their high-energy live shows, Fitz and the Tantrums and Young the Giant have teamed up for a co-headlining tour that brings them to town on Sunday, June 30, to perform at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.

A neo-soul group, Fitz and the Tantrums are currently finishing a new album and have just issued "123456," a jittery pop gem with a propulsive bass line.  The alternative rock act Young the Giant is touring behind last year’s Mirror Master, a well-crafted album that veers from atmospheric pop tunes like "Superposition" to heavier, guitar-driven tracks such as "Oblivion."

In separate phone interviews, Fitz frontman Michael Fitzpatrick and Young the Giant drummer Francois Comtois talked about the tour.

How will the two bands complement each other?
I think it’s going to be an awesome co-headlining tour. We’ve known them forever just from the festival circuit and running into each other on tour. We became friends several years back. You want to be out with people you love and are friends with because the road is a hard place to be. Musically, it will be a great pairing. We have COIN opening for most of the dates. I think we have crossover fans and then we have some that might not know each other’s bands that well. For both bands, musicianship is high on the list. They’re incredible musicians. It’ll be a great summer night of rocking out and dancing.
Comtois: We’ve known each other as artists for a very long time. There’s so much touring going on nowadays, it’s pretty much impossible not to run into each other at some point. Both bands take production very seriously. We make sure that if you’re coming to a show that you you’re going to walk away feeling that you go something out of it. They’re fantastic musicians and great songwriters, so it made sense for us.

Does the fact that both bands from California have anything to do with the fact that you’re touring together?
That’s how we came to know each other. You can never leave where you are from completely. It wasn’t in the forefront of the decision but we do think we’re going to bring our Cali vibes across the country.
Comtois: I wouldn’t say so. Most of the times we met up haven’t been in the L.A. area. We have some common places we like to go to, but it’s not something we took into consideration.

What kind of music did you listen to while growing up?
I think like anybody from the iPod generation, you’re no long attached to any one style of music. You can listen to a ’90s hip-hop track and then a pop song and then an electronic song. And that’s been my thing always. I love so many different types of music. I’ve never been beholden to one style of music. That’s influenced the sound of our band. It’s a modern interpretation of all those influences coming to together into one album and one song.
Comtois: Oh, I listened to a broad mix of stuff. I listened to lots of French pop and French folk. My parents introduced me to Queen and David Bowie early on. My mom was a huge Green Day fan, so I listened to all of their early stuff. More importantly, that made me curious about different artists and groups.

How did the band first form?
As with most great albums, it all starts with a broken heart. I was trying to work through that and started writing some songs. I had acquired this crappy organ for 50 bucks and could tell that there was something unique about what was happening. I brought in my classmate from college, James King, and quickly started working. After you’ve been doing this for a while, you can recognize when there’s a chemistry between people. We went in for one rehearsal. It was instantaneous. The energy was there. We played one song and I was blown away. I booked us a show for the next week. We have not stopped playing since then. That was ten years ago.
Comtois: Basically, we were all doing the high school garage band thing. We were in 10 or 15 bands that we shared members with. At a certain point, we decided to form this group, and it turned into something we never imagined it would. We took time off school and decided to put together an album. That was 11 or 13 years ago.

You’ve got such a great live show. Talk about what your first-ever gig was like.
It was pretty darn good and that’s a credit to the guys in the band. They’ve dedicated their whole lives to learning their instruments. When the six of us get together, all of that cumulative time put in, you can see the benefits of that. It wasn’t a perfect show but had that raw kinetic energy and I could tell from the reaction of the crowd that we were onto something.
Comtois: I replaced the bass player for the first iteration of the band. I thought I was only going to play the one show, and it went really poorly. It was not a good show. We had technical issues. It was when you had to sell tickets and if you didn’t sell tickets, you had to make up the different. Over the course of a year or so, we started writing our own music, and it became a lot more fun.

You recorded your first album about ten years ago. What was that experience like?
That was pretty easy. We didn’t have any money or a label or anything. We just made it in my living room and it launched our whole career. We did the second record on an indie label and were lucky enough to sign to Atlantic/Elektra for it. "HandClap" was on this whole other level for us. That song has streamed 1.7 billion times in China and I can’t wrap my head around it, and the respond from the audience was insane. Korea was one of the best shows we’ve ever had in our lives. The crowd knew all the songs. They knew the new songs. It was crazy. We’re now releasing songs leading up to the release of the album this fall. We’re going to play some songs that aren’t even out yet. This is one of those exciting things when you’ve worked so long on a record and finally get to play the songs for an audience for the
Comtois: That was a little bit of a learning experience. We went from producing and engineering our own stuff in our parents’ houses with basic rigs. All of a sudden, we were paired with Joe Chiccarelli at Sunset Sound Studios, and I had a lot of butterflies. Working with someone who had such high standards showed us what it takes to make it, and that was a great first experience. The record turned out really, and I really wouldn’t do it any other way but I had some serious anxiety attacks going into it.

Talk about your approach on your latest album.
We always try to push the sound and find new hybrids and new connections. There are lots of diverse influences. I wanted every song to dig deep on an emotional level. It was a hard record to make. It took a year. Part of it was that albatross of "Handclap" and have that hang over our heads. I had to put that out of my head. There were ups and downs and I wanted to talk about real shit like insecurity and depression. At the same time, people know us a band that makes you want to dance and go dance. It was like, “How did you write about those thigns and still make people want to shake their booties?” “123456” is about when you get some confidence back after suffering insecurity and you wake up and feel the confidence and security in that day and want to hang onto it and let it carry you. We just released “I Need Help,” which is pretty pure and honest. As men we’re told, don’t ask for help. Do it all on your own. It’s not weak to ask for help. I put my heart on my sleeve for that song, and I can see it’s connecting with people. That shit it real. I don’t think anyone can not relate to that idea. With "123456," we worked with John Hill. I wrote it with K.Flay. That was that moment when I was so eep in the middle of making that record that I couldn’t tell my head from ass anymore. Sitting with K.Flay, who was toward the end of finishing her record, she got it. She could feel my pain. We started working with the beat and that sound, and we all felt like it was pulling me out of my funk. We were all dancing in the room to it. That’s where the energy took us. That’s the magic to me of music and the power of it. I was so sick of being in the grind and not knowing what’s what anymore.
Comtois: It was a continuation of the past two records. We wanted to look at different ways of writing. We were more open to working with different producers, and discomfort can be great for creative minds. In the past, we always stuck with one producer and we wanted to jump around this time around, and that helped keep us on our toes. We are very ADD when we write music. We jump all over the place and we have so many different influences and moods, and I think that shines through.

The band has had a good ten-year run with a pretty stable lineup at a time when bands come and go pretty quickly. What’s been the key?
Being a band is tough. It’s a marriage. You go through all your ups and downs. You love each and then you can’t stand each other. The reality is that when you’re out on the road, it’s your little tribe. Everything changes every day — the city and venue and faces you see. You’re not sleeping in your bed and you’re not at your home or with your wife. You’re just out there. It’s a tough thing to explain to people who don’t live it. It is truly a nomadic lifestyle. We’ve had people who had heartbreak in the middle of a show. You’re sitting there driving after the show and someone just lost their father and they’re sitting there weeping. It’s making me emotional talking about it. That moment that happened — we just all held him in some random limousine bus with a stripper pole in the bus. It was so fucking random. We all just held him because we were the only people he had in the moment. Ten years in, you fuck up and make mistakes and argue and eat like shit. You party too hard. You’ll kill yourself so you better figure out how to do it in the right way. That’s been the real benefit to something like this tour when we’re playing songs you haven’t heard yet. We’re do grateful for everything we have. We know how lucky we are. That’s been one of the hallmarks of this band. We have gratitude and a love an appreciation for each other. We want to make this thing fun. We love Young the Giant as musicians but even more so as people. Life is too short to be around shitty people. They’re amazing people. Sameer is such a light and we’ll give our combined audiences a kick ass show that’ll celebrate life.
Comtois: The biggest thing is that we have remained friends throughout all of this. It’s a lot of time away from home and family. It’s a lot of people with different opinions about how to do things. If you’re not able to communicate and have everything come from mutual respect and understanding, it’s so easy for things to run away. We were friends before we were bandmates. The fact that we’ve come from the same place has had a lot to do with our longevity.

Fitz and the Tantrums, Young the Giant, COIN, 7 p.m., Sunday, June 30, Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, 2014 Sycamore St., 216-622-6558. Tickets: $29.50-$54.50,

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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