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Before Fitz and the Tantrums hit Tampa, singer talks tireless touring and all-ages fans

Published Jul. 17

Maybe it's because Michael Fitzpatrick found fame in his late 30s, later than most rock singers. Maybe it's because he toiled in a half-dozen failed bands before he found the one that worked.

Whatever the reason, he and his band, Fitz and the Tantrums, aren't keen on turning down work.

"Collectively, the six of us have well over the 10,000 Malcolm Gladwellian hours of practice put in," said Fitzpatrick, the L.A. band's founder and namesake. "Our drummer says there's that get-out-of-line theory: If you get out of line, you lose your chance, you lose your turn. So we just keep at it."

Since breaking into the indie pop world with their soul-inspired 2010 album Pickin' Up the Pieces, Fitz and the Tantrums have toured like stallions — opening for Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars, headlining arenas and amphitheaters, and playing just about every festival and public party that'll have them. Even after scoring hit singles like The Walker and HandClap, they rarely leave the road for that long.

"I don't make music just to sit on a hard drive," he said. "I want people to hear it and love it and connect with it. I want to have our music heard around the world. That's one of the greatest gifts."

Fitz's new tour pairs them with Young the Giant, and comes in support of their forthcoming album All the Feels, due in September. Before it hits Tampa's Yuengling Center on Thursday, Fitzpatrick called from Oklahoma City to discuss the band's work ethic, all-ages appeal and more. Here are excerpts.

I almost did a double take when I saw that it's been three years since your last album. It feels like you guys are always around, like you never have a down cycle.

We live for the road. That's where we have the most fun, and it's how we built this band from the beginning, just word of mouth, even before that first album ever even came out. This is the beginning of a heavy tour cycle. We've been home, luckily, more than not for the last year, year and a half, while we were making the record. It's picking up now.

How old are your kids?

My kids are almost 6, a 2-year-old, and I've got a 5-week old at home. I was in South Korea when the third one was born.

Oh, that's a bummer.

My wife might kill me. But this song HandClap from the last record had become such a moment in Korea that it eclipsed even all the K-pop, and it traveled to China, and has almost 2 billion streams in China. We had booked this tour to go to these festivals in China and Korea, and there was no backing out. We thought we'd be fine; the baby was supposed to come a couple of weeks later. My wife's like, "I'm not feeling good, I'm going to go get a checkup," and 40 minutes later, she's FaceTiming me with the baby in her hands.

Did you have a say in how Kidz Bop changed the lyrics to HandClap?

Oh, I didn't even know that they did it.

They do that with every song. It's like, "You've been sinning in the city" is "You've been singing in the city"; "You're like a drug to me" is "You're like a gem to me." They don't have to run all that by you?

Maybe they had with the managers. But I get it. Look, especially as a parent, you don't want those lyrics, maybe, in kids' mouths. That's the crazy thing for us, especially starting from more of a '60s-soul place. The demographic of our audience, you can't put your finger on it. It's kids that have tortured their parents by listening to HandClap 2 billion times, teenagers who grew up with Out of My League and The Walker, 20-somethings, 30s, 40s. Our audience is the whole age spectrum. And that's pretty rad, because you don't see that. When we come out on stage and there's an older gentleman standing next to two teenagers standing next to a goth guy who's fully pierced and guylinered, singing every word to every song, I just want to stop the show and be like, What's the deal?

It was only a couple of years after your first album that you ended up on an LL Cool J track with Eddie Van Halen. Being from L.A. and finding yourself on a track with Eddie Van Halen, that's gotta be a head trip.

That day was a total head trip. We're sitting there, laying down the vocals, and all of a sudden, Snoop Dogg walks in to hang out. Rolls a joint — surprise, surprise. And then Eddie Van Halen's laying his guitar down, and it's like, What is happening right now?

Where do Fitz and the Tantrums fall on the list of great L.A. bands?

I would never be so presumptuous as to say. Hopefully, history treats us kindly and puts us somewhere nicely in there.

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

If you go

Fitz and the Tantrums with Young the Giant

Coin opens. $40 and up. 7 p.m. Thursday. Yuengling Center, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. (813) 974-3004. yuenglingcenter.com.

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