Seldom does a band find itself opening for Maroon 5 only a few months after forming, but the members of the soulful indie-pop band Fitz and the Tantrums found themselves doing just that.
However, this seemingly quick success has not equated to apathy on the band’s part.
They have had quite a busy five years, releasing an EP and two full-length albums, making various television appearances, touring and opening for Bruno Mars and other musical acts.
In 2011, they were named a band to watch by Rolling Stone magazine. One of their latest singles, “Out Of My League,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.
“Everything’s happened so fast for us that we haven’t really had a chance to take a breath since it all started five years ago,” drummer John Wicks said.
The band is now on the road with Capital Cities for their fall co-headlining Bright Futures Tour.
The sold-out tour has brought them to Marathon Music Works today.
“It’s a nonstop dance party,” Wicks said of the show. “It’s just a couple of hours where you can be a dork, let it all out, have fun and not be insecure or wondering if someone’s looking at you.”
The band learned a lot about how to engage an audience from watching Bruno Mars wow the crowds night after night on their recent summer tour, Wicks said.
“The best thing that came out of playing for Bruno Mars was watching him every night and his amazing band and seeing how they’re able to connect to those huge stadiums of people and make it feel like it’s a small club,” he said.
Fitz and the Tantrums’ latest album, “More Than Just a Dream,” was released in May.
“It’s a record you can play anywhere at any time and it’s enjoyable,” Wicks said.
He said he also hopes listeners will understand that the album is a progression of the band’s sound.
“We didn’t sit still and rest on our laurels with the first record,” Wicks said. “We didn’t just make this a part two.”
Just as their rapid success is unconventional, so too is the band’s creative process when it comes to crafting new material.
“All of us just kind of go into our respective corners, like our little home studios, and write there and bring things to the table whenever we go into the recording process,” Wicks said. “It’s kind of like this little poker game at first where everyone’s getting their stuff together at home, brings it to the table and hopes that it works.”
From there, the band together develops the individual ideas until all pieces reach completion.
While some bands may spend an inordinate amount of time rehearsing, Fitz and the Tantrums rely on a more authentic and candid approach when it comes to performing.
“I think the band has rehearsed maybe a total of eight times our whole five years together,” Wicks said.
In fact, the band played their first show only one week after forming. It was at one of these earlier shows that a famous face was found in the crowd – Adam Levine of Maroon 5, who had come to check them out after hearing about the band from his tattoo artist in New York.
“Two weeks after that, we were on the road with them,” Wicks said.
Wicks described opening for acts like Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars to be a “disbelief sort of thing.”
“We kept looking to see if people were clapping for someone behind us. We still do that,” he said. “We are playing these venues where we kind of feel like we have no business being there yet.”
When it comes to realizing that the band’s building momentum would not be short-lived, one particular memory stands out for Wicks.
Fitz and the Tantrums was billed to play a month-long residency at a Los Angeles club.
Wicks pulled up to unload his drums for the first show when he noticed a line had already formed around the block.
“I thought maybe they were doing two shows there or maybe there was another band,” he said.
As he was unloading his drums, he heard a few people from the line call out his name. “I was like, ‘Wow, how do you even know my name, or who the hell I am or even recognize me?’”
Still unconvinced that the entire crowd was there to see Fitz and the Tantrums, Wicks carried on with his unloading. Only when the show began did he finally realize the crowd indeed was there for them.
“Everyone knew every word to every song we played and it was completely packed, hot and sweaty,” he said. “We all got offstage that night and went up to the green room and no one said anything. We all had this dazed look on our face.”
Every show for the remainder of their residency sold out.
“That first night was the moment I realized, ‘Oh boy, we’ve got something going here,’” he said. “It was really special.”
Wicks said he hopes in five years to have the same momentum internationally as they currently do in the U.S.
“I don’t want to sound cheesy and say that we want to take over the world, but I kind of do,” he said. “I want that same connection with people over language and geographic barriers. I want to be able to connect with those people and have the same experience that I get from traveling to different U.S. cities, but I want to have that same experience abroad.”