Interview: Fitz & the Tantrums Talk Vinyl, Influences, 'Masked Singer' & More

February 21, 2020
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(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Samsung)

Fitz & the Tantrums came to Hartford for an Acoustic Cafe performance, and Christine and Salt got to talk with Fitz and Noelle Scaggs before the performance. Hear their conversation about the best ways to listen to music, their biggest influences, Noelle's social media side hustle, and who they think is the Frog on The Masked Singer!

Christine: I was out walking my dogs today and I was listening to your whole album, and I realized when you listen to the album in your headphones it's a whole different experience than when you listen to the album in your car or anywhere else. You hear things that you never heard before.

Fitz: Yeah, you smoke some weed, and then you hear something else!

Noelle: That's the only way I listen to records nowadays, because you have to have surround sound in your ears to get the perspective of what's actually in there, because everything's mixed for streaming. I always listen to records in that way, so I can really absorb the lyrics, and I'm not thinking about things so much as if I was just in the kitchen.

Salt: You guys were talking about the sound of the album, and how you have to record things differently in the studio. You guys must have amazing ears, being professional musicians. Who do you think the Frog is on The Masked Singer?

Noelle (laughs): I don't even know!

Fitz: I have no freaking clue. I tried to watch that show with my son, and he said 'This is dumb, turn it off.' He's way more into paranormal [shows]. Whenever I'm gone, my wife's guilty pleasure, I come home and she's watching some Ghost Adventures reality show, where there's an infrared camera. And now she's turned my 6-year-old son onto it. He's all about Ghost Hunters now.

Christine: How do you go about your creative process? Are you assaulted by creativity at all hours of the day and night, and you wake up in a cold sweat, saying I have to get this down on paper, or into my iPhone? How do you handle the onslaught of ideas?

Fitz: That is totally incorrect (laughs).

Noelle: Mine is often really, really early in the morning. It's not even necessarily an idea that has to do with music... I have to wake up and I have to write it down, otherwise I can't get back to sleep. Often it hits me around 4 o'clock in the morning, and it's the worst day ever if I don't write it down.

Salt: I saw you had a picture with Grover from Sesame Street. My kids are really young right now, so I'm in that Sesame Street phase. My daughter, who's gonna be 18 months in a couple of days, absolutely loves 'Handclap' and 'Roll Up.' I know you guys are going for an older audience, but I would love to see you rocking some Sesame Street, too.

Fitz: We ain't afraid! That's the cool thing, our audience is from little kids through teenagers to twentysomethings, all the way to older people.

Christine: I feel like I'm back in high school when I listen to your music, because it has 80's vibe all over it.

Fitz: You're absolutely right about the 80's influence, that's a huge part of what informs our music. But there are six people in the band, there's so much diversity in our musical taste, so we've really created an identity by mixing all of our different influences, from 60s soul to New Wave, a little bit of Hip-Hop, Pop music, Alternative... you put it in a blender, and you get Fitz & the Tantrums.

Christine: Noelle, you're a foodie. I heard that you have a secret Instagram account that you were running privately under a different screen name, and you were added by Food Magazine. Is that true?

Noelle: No, I have a food and travel Instagram called Adventures With Scaggs, it's very much public. But I had another one that was on the side, I was talking about models that I get down with. 

Fitz: I think it's models she'd like to **** (laughs).

Christine: Who are these models?

Noelle: They're just random models I would find on the internet, nobody in particular. I'd write these little quotes and tag them in it, it became a thing for a little while.

Fitz: They're always gay in the end. And then she's sad on the inside.

Salt: Is that an outlet, especially being in the spotlight where you guys are, that you have these different accounts, these side hobbies under a separate name because it's fun to get out there and be like everybody else?

Noelle: Yeah, it's just a matter of wanting to have people see certain things, and not. I'm on the internet all the time, I share what I want to share, I put that out there, and I'm not afraid to speak my mind. It is what it is.

Christine: Are you glad vinyl is making a comeback? My 17-year-old is all about vinyl, he goes thrifting, he finds original pressings. Is that a way you want your music to be heard?

Fitz: It's amazing. When you listen to vinyl, there's nothing else like it. And the process of listening to vinyl, you're not just hitting fast forward. You have to be not lazy enough to get up to skip the needle, and then you have to turn it over. And it's listening in the order that we intended, the flow we wanted you to hear it in. Another part I love is, we work really hard on the artwork for the albums, and then you go on iTunes and it's the size of a postage stamp. Vinyl lets us see it in its largest, most glorious form.

Christine: You have great fashion, hair, accessories.

Fitz: Don't be afraid of a blowdryer. A little hair product and a blowdryer in a hotel room will get you a really long way.

Christine: Who uses more product, Noelle? You, or Fitz?

Noelle: I'm gonna definitely say Fitz (laughs).

Fitz: What?!? This is lies. Do you see how much makeup she's wearing? You cannot see my makeup, it's very discreet.