Atlanta Music Scene

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Fitz and the Tantrums talk 'HandClap' and what to expect at their Atlanta show


Aiming to “make your hands clap,” Fitz and the Tantrums will perform at the Tabernacle Monday, with singer-songwriter Barns Courtney opening.

James King, a co-founder and multi-instrumentalist with the Tantrums, talked by phone recently about the band’s latest album, “Fitz & the Tantrums,” and the upcoming show. This interview has been edited for length.

Q: You and Michael Fitzpatrick are the two co-founders of the band. Can you explain how that went down?

A: Michael was an old buddy of mine from my college days. We had worked on and off on different projects throughout the years. After school ended, we just stayed in touch. (Around) 2008, he said, “Hey, would you like to play on some of these original songs that I’ve recorded?” I said, “Sure,” and we kind of went from there. I arranged a lot of horns and suggested some collaborators that he might be able to use. (We) were really just thinking of it as a recording project — as a vanity project. It turned into a real casual live show that we managed to put together for about 30 of our closest friends in L.A., and it kind of exploded from there.

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Q: Why did you let Michael get his name in the band? Did King and the Tantrums not have the same ring to it?

A: No, I don’t think so (laughs). I don’t think it (gives off) the same imagery.

Q: Why was the band’s third studio album chosen to be self-titled?

A: We had about a dozen working titles, and none of them really stuck. None of them really described where we were coming from, and I guess, in the end, where we were coming from is us trying to be our own band — our own entity. Maybe it was like an, “I am here” kind of statement, like “This is what we’ve accomplished. This is who we are. This is us.”

The band will probably make your hands clap. Photo: Joseph Cultice.

Q: Your song “HandClap” is steadily rising up the Billboard charts. Why do you think this song is doing well?

A: I guess it’s sort of an earworm. People come up and sing it to me. It’s kind of crazy (laughs). It’s sort of a party anthem. I guess that’s where we’re coming from on this record. We just want to make people feel good. There’s a lot of heavy vibes out there — in the world and the country, for sure. Just to come out and say, “We want to make your hands clap” may be a low-brow kind of thing, but that’s what people need. They just need to have fun, and that’s where we’re coming from.

Q: What is your favorite track on the album?

A: I really like “Complicated.” It’s kind of a sultry affair. When we play that one live, I get to do the cabasa part — the “ch ch ch” scratchy part on it. (I) put my hips into it. It’s kind of fun. We put a little spin on it during live shows. We go off on the saxophone for a while, and we take everyone by surprise. We take everyone on a little journey.

Q: Do you do that on a lot of the songs in your live sets?

A: People tend to comment a lot that they didn’t expect to have that type of a sonic experience at the show, based on listening to the album. We try to put sort of a live spin on it and use our collective years of experience doing other bands and making this a stand-alone, live experience.

Q: Have you ever been to Atlanta before?

A: Many times. We love coming down to Atlanta. Man, this must be maybe our fifth or sixth time down there. It’s been a few years, but we’re always excited to come back.

Q: What balance of new and old material should fans expect at the show?

A: A pretty good balance. I don’t think that anyone who listens to the previous two albums will be disappointed. We touch on just about all of it. We are pushing this third record, but we don’t forget our other material and our other fans. There’s something for everyone there.


Fitz and the Tantrums. 8 p.m. Nov. 7. Doors open at 7 p.m. $40-$75. Tabernacle, 152 Luckie St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-659-9022,

About the Author

Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers the Atlanta Music Scene and entertainment news for print and online.

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