On Tap Writers Joyelle Ronan and Destinee Harper with Fitz and the Tantrums // Photo: Joyelle Ronan

Fitz and the Tantrum’s Noelle Scaggs Talks New Album, Political Lyrics and DC

Fitz and the Tantrums has been bringing their unique sound to pop music for more than 10 years now.

On November 7, Fitz and the Tantrums performed a private concert for Hilton Honors members at The Conrad Hotel in DC. Mark Weinstein, Hilton Senior Vice President & Global Head of Customer Engagement, Loyalty and Partnerships, described the concert experience as “amazing artists that are used to selling out major arenas in a private, intimate setting delivering an exclusive concert experience for Hilton Honors members.”

After the show, I sat down with co-lead vocalists and percussionist Noelle Scaggs to talk about their new album All the Feels, using political messages in music and her favorite things about DC. Fitz and the Tantrums will return to DC on Friday, February 14  at the Anthem for their Twin XL tour.

On Tap: How would you describe Fitz and the Tantrums’ sound? How has it evolved over time?
Noelle Scaggs: I put [our sound] in the category of alt-pop, I think I’ve always put it there. Our earlier works were more in the world of new age – alternative meets Motown kind [of] vibe, that blue-eyed soul period. As we’ve progressed as a band, like our second album through the third and now All the Feels, we’ve progressed more into our pop element. We always keep things that inspire us in our music. Fitz and I always sing in tandem. That’s always been our dynamic together, and of course all the guys in the band – the way that we do our production – we’ve always really wanted to push ourselves to modernize our sound as much as we possibly could.

OT: How does the band’s new album All the Feels differ from previous ones?
NS: I would say it’s the most worldly conversation. Our third album, our self-titled album – that record for me was probably our most challenging album, because we were still trying to figure out what we wanted to do creatively and going through this crazy writer’s block period. With All the Feels, it felt like all the songs were really flowing and it came down to what songs we were going to run with. There was a flow this time around and a global conversation. It’s really tapping into our personal experiences and not being afraid to share those stories, not being afraid to have political messages in our songs as well. That’s something we’ve never really done before.

OT: What songs on the album feature political messages?
NS: The song “Hands Up” is actually about today’s political environment and resisting what you see morally wrong in this world. We have another song called “Kiss the Skyand that entire song is about gun culture in America and the lust for it. It’s my interpretation [of] if a gun was trying to woo a buyer, it would probably be saying these things. But it just sounds like a party song; it has a temptation about it. That’s something that I wanted to talk about and found an interesting way of doing [so] on the album.

OT: How did you guys decide that  “All The Feels” was going to be title track?
NS: I think it’s an all encompassing song. The entire record itself is about our own inner turmoils that we go through, our lives on the road and things that we see in the world. I think “All The Feels” has this very triumphant build up, which is honoring that humanity we get disconnected [from]. We’re always on our phones and stuck in the world of bad news. We forget to sit back and take a breath, reconnect with our families, friends and ourselves to have those moments. That’s what this song is all about, a lot of the record is about that – mental health, getting through life and trying to find gratitude and positivity where you can.      

OT: Favorite track off the new album?
NS: It’s kinda crazy because when you’re putting together an album, you go through so much blood, sweat and tears in trying to figure out what you’re going to put on it. I have a few favorites. “Dark Days” is a song myself and Fitz [Michael Fitzpatick, lead vocals] wrote together and it talks about the earlier part of our career when there were a lot of people that doubted our abilities as a band and didn’t think that we would make it as far as we did. So that song is really important to me on that personal note. “All The Feels,” obviously. “I Need Help” is probably one of my real favorites because it touches home for me. I’m bipolar. I deal with mental health. I’ve dealt with it my entire life. That song talks about asking for help, being able to reach out when you need it, not being afraid of that and taking away the stigma of vulnerability.

OT: The new album has 17 songs, I read that it started off with 80. Is that true? 
NS: Yeah. You write songs, you write half songs, you write songs that you come back to and you try and try and it doesn’t happen. Then you sit on this one song, think it’s going to make it, and then you take it off. It’s a crazy process figuring it out.

OT: Both the music and lyrics from “All The Feels” tend to be upbeat and uplifting, is it a conscious effort to promote a message of positivity?
NS: Yeah, absolutely. I think from the start of this band, we’ve always put out the energy of allowing the audience to become a seventh member. I’ve always performed very energetic shows even before this band, when I was doing my own thing. I love the energy. I think in our music, we always wanted to have a nice juxtaposition, we can have really biting lyrics about the break up in a relationship and how we felt about our exes but also have this joyful experience in the music that allows the audience and listener to let go for a minute. Like “yes, I can identify with what you’re saying and also dance this off and feel better in the morning.”

OT: What’s it like to make that connection with fans?
NS: It’s interesting because we have a lot of fans who come up to us talking about songs they’ve played at their wedding. I remember earlier in our career, [a fan] was talking about “Moneygrabber,” and I was like, “Do you know what that song’s about” and they said, “It was our wedding song!” I said, “Okay, hope it works out for you!” It’s just one of those songs that is a complete breakup song but because energetically, it’s all about the movement and the experience of enjoying the music itself. It just makes it one of those songs that everyone wants to play at their wedding, I guess. Even people that have been in the hospital or going through crazy times in their lives, our music has in some way been able to break through that and get them through whatever they’re going through. I think that’s a blessing that we’ve been given to offer that to people.

OT: Next year you guys are set to headline a North American tour, what’s your favorite thing about being here in DC?
NS: There’s just a vibe here that I really love. There’s this elevated sense of community and people wanting to be connected to the world and having important conversations. For me, it’s being an African American woman, I come to DC and I feel like I’m surrounded by family. It’s really different from my experiences in a lot of cities where sometimes I’m the only person in the room. I just really love DC for giving me balance, diversity and experience. People come out here to do things, not just sit around. You can feel that when you come out here.

To learn more about All the Feels and Fitz and the Tantrum, check out their website here. For information about their Anthem show in February, visit here.