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On the Fitz: Pop, soul sextet set to take LC Pavilion

Pop and soul band Fitz and the Tantrums Credit: Courtesy of BB Gun press

Pop and soul band Fitz and the Tantrums
Credit: Courtesy of BB Gun press

Nothing happens by accident. 

Fitz and the Tantrums, a six-piece band of music industry veterans, proves a formula of experience, artistry and understanding can set the stepping stones for success. The band’s tour promoting its sophomore album, “More Than Just A Dream,” is set to hit Columbus on Wednesday.

Although the band formed in 2008, each member is well-seasoned in the industry. Their previous experiences and understanding of musicality and their audiences came in handy when the band created its first album, keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna said. Ruzumna said the industry experience added to part of the band’s success because it allowed the members to execute their vision clearly and concisely.

“It helps a lot that we’ve all been making music for a long time professionally. We weren’t just a bunch of 19- 20-year-olds starting out. We have all been doing things in the industry for so long that by the time we came together, everybody really had a focus, intent and professionalism that usually don’t necessarily happen when you first start a band,” Ruzumna said. “Coming together more seasoned adds to part of our success because we were able to get right down to business and play together right away and sound good right away. It was like showing up to work in a suit and tie.”

The band debuted its first studio album, “Pickin’ Up The Pieces,” in 2010. It was described by critics as having a Motown and retro-soul sound, while the second album was a little more contemporary.

“The second album had more of an ’80s (vibe),” he said. “To me, we’ve always had an ’80s influence in that if you listen to the songs on the first album, in particularly the percussion, you see we’re very ’80s pop and soul.”

Notorious for purposely avoiding the use of a six-string guitar, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” was No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart. Billboard introduced Top Heatseekers in 1991 to highlight sales by developing breakout recording artists. 

Ruzumna said that although guitar and vocals usually sit side by side, eliminating the string instrument gave vocals more prominence and opened more room for other components to shine. Ruzumna said this technique allowed him to grow as a musician, as his keyboard playing took a stronger lead without guitar.

“If you’re a guitar player or a keyboard player in a band, you can play off of one another, hide behind one another, and share the duties with each other,” he said. “As a keyboardist in a band with no guitar, you’re forced to take on all the duties, all the chords, all the different textures and things like that. It was kind of a learning curve.

“It started out as an experiment ­— like ‘Let’s see if we can make a really beautiful, cool sound without any guitars,’” Ruzumna said. “At the same time, as we went along, we realized it created a wider space for vocals and less clutter.”

Ruzumna said he felt the first album was a true indie album.

“I feel like the first album was very different,” he said. “It really was an indie album because it really was made in a living room. It was like we lived on a remote island in a way, doing everything ourselves.”

Columbus band Captain Kidd has a sound they’ve described as being similar to Fitz and the Tantrums. The Los Angeles sextet’s songwriting is something that Captain Kidd guitarist Eric Blaha said stands out.

“A lot of people don’t understand writing good pop music is really difficult,” said Blaha, a fourth-year in marketing. “I think that’s something nobody likes to stop and say.”

Nate Baumgard, who plays guitar and sings for Captain Kidd, agreed. 

“People think pop music is easy to write because of the structure. It can be if you’re amazingly talented, which most people aren’t — we’re definitely not there yet,” said the fourth-year in geographical information systems. “The thing that makes pop music hard to write is there is no formula to making a good melody.” 

Fitz and the Tantrums’s trip to Columbus is expected to have a strong reception, said Marissa Luther, PromoWest marketing director.

“They always put on a good show. Their music is really upbeat and fun to listen to,” she said. “The crowd interaction is great and the (audiences) dance all over the place. When they first came out, not many had that sound, so you go into the concert ready and prepared to dance.”

The consistent trait in all Fitz and the Tantrums concerts that will never change is the high energy level and tons of sweat from dancing, Ruzumna said. 

“We recommend people bring a change of clothes usually,” he said.

From stage presence to visuals, the band tries to reach out to everybody in its audience during the show in order to connect and create an unforgettable experience for their viewer, the keyboardist said. Ruzumna said this year, the band amped up concert production and has a few surprises up its sleeves for fans. 

“We are beefing up this show. There will be surprises — I’m not going to ruin them, but we’re definitely taking time to take the show to another level,” Ruzuman said. “We’re always trying to make everything visually interesting as well as phonetically. So there’s a few more things happening visually.”

Fitz and the Tantrums is set to hit the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion on Wednesday. With fees, tickets are $33.35 and doors are set to open at 7 p.m.

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