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Los Angeles group makes old soul new again

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011

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Like any soul singer worth his doo-rag, Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick acknowledges plenty of Motown influence. But there’s another notable Detroit source for the music he makes with his Los Angeles-based troupe Fitz & the Tantrums.

“I love Aretha Franklin so much,” Fitzpatrick says, and I wanted this record (‘Pickin’ Up the Pieces’) to have this male mantra the way she sort of brought this female mantra of empowerment.

Obviously the record’s all about breakup and getting screwed over by somebody or some incarnation of that. So it’s just cool to play the shows and see this whole posse of dudes there and this is just, like, their album, their breakup album and their mantra.”

Fitzpatrick, whose father would only allow classical music to be played at home while he was growing up, started Fitz & the Tantrums in 2009, after purchasing an old church organ from a neighbor. The group has released an EP, “Breakup, Vol. 1” in addition to “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” and is gradually being popularized thanks to late-night TV appearances, the use of songs on TV shows and an appearance on Daryl Hall’s Web-based “Live From Daryl’s House” series.

But while vintage R&B is at the heart of the Tantrums’ sound, Fitzgerald, 35, it’s no mere retro exercise.

“We just didn’t want to make a carbon copy of those great (soul) records,” he explains. “If you want to hear a Motown or a Stax record, you can go find them. We really wanted to take (soul) as a major jumping-off point but also say, ‘Is there anything new or different we can say about soul music in 2010 or 2011?’

“So there’s a lot of ’80s musical references; I had an older brother who was big into all the ’80s music, so there’s subtle references to Talking Heads, Style Council and ABC woven in there. And the rhythm section brings a lot of hip-hop influence, too.”

Fitz & the Tantrums and Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas perform a free show on Friday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m. at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

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