If you don’t know who Noelle Scaggs is by her name alone, I guarantee you know her music.
Scaggs is the sexy co-lead singer of LA based indie soul outift Fitz and the Tantrums. You’ve no doubt heard their ridiculously infectious hit single, MoneyGrabber, that’s been all over radio and TV for the last year. Now the band’s finishing up its latest album with all-star studio man Tony Hoffer, who recently produced M83‘s blockbuster album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.
Cross Midnight City with MoneyGrabber and you may have the catchiest damn song ever.
I had the chance to catch up with Noelle to talk about her band’s July 5th gig at Crossroads, about why retro ain’t all that fly, and about what gets her dripping with sweat.
I was also lucky enough to score several sets of tickets for Fitz’ show to give away to loyal KCC readers.
MD: How’s the new record coming, is it going to be different from your last release?
NS: The first record was recorded at Fitz’s house and we did a lot of the pre-production stuff at Fitz’s place just getting all the writing done and all the production as far as the composition is concerned. We’ve been recording this record at the Sound Factory with Tony Hoffer, who is amazing. And it’s been a really cool experience to have that 3rd party person to break us outside of our box and our shell and bring ideas to the table. He’s a musician in his own right, so he’s really knowledgeable in how to bring all aspects of the production elements, which is what we were looking for. It’s been a really cool experience having that person there to say how they would do it differently on this particular take, maybe we should try this, change this word. It’s been a really cool kind of creative happening.
MD: Why did you choose Tony for this record?
NS: You look at Tony’s resume -and we’ve been a big fan of his work as a producer for years- he’s just a really cool person to be around. We wanted to make sure the person we worked with would get along with everybody. You hear all these horror stories of a producer not getting along well with certain aspects or not getting what the band is trying to do, or trying to change this or that. And then you end up with a product that you’re not completely happy with.
So we wanted make sure that whoever we brought to the table would love what we do, know how to push us forward with the sound, know how to work with a band of musicians that know their stuff. And we got a really great package out of Tony.
MD: Is the new album a departure from your last album?
NS: I wouldn’t call it a departure. We’ve been able to expand our sound as we’ve developed our live show. A lot of the songs, you’ll hear some elements from Pickin’ up the Pieces. It’s definitely veering away from being this kind of retro thing which is what we didn’t want to get boxed into. We didn’t want people to perceive us as just this retro-soul band. We are a melting pot of this sound that we grew up with and we just modernized it. So that’s what we’re doing with this record. We have some familiar things- like from Pickin’ up the Pieces– and then you’ll hear more of the ’80s elements. We’ve been messing around with adding some synth things into the tracks. Definitely still pop oriented songwriting and we’re just really expanding on that. Not everything’s all about love and heartbreak – you’re going to get a good story out of every single song.
MD: Some music critics have labeled the latest soul revival as some sort of ironic hipster inside joke. What’s your take?
MS: Yeah, I mean it’s funny because someone asked me about this yesterday. And when you start giving into critics, people who don’t necessarily make music themselves but review it and have their opinions on what’s gonna fly and what’s not, some of those bands are true. Some of those bands are kinda come-and-go bands. But it’s the ones like, say, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings that basically have taken an inspiration of music and made it their own. You know the Dap Kings sound the minute that you hear it. Then there’s some other bands that do it so verbatim that they can’t get out of that box. And there’s nothing wrong with that if you’re really good at it and you enjoy it. And you have a fan base that’s behind you and you’re making music that you love and you’re building your career off it, the critics at the end of the day don’t matter.
With us we never wanted to be into that retro pocket. It came along with Breakin’ the Chains of Love having that very, very Motown inspired sound with organs, and everything being really piano driven, and having these juxtaposed lyrics with this kind of like, happy music. That’s still a very big part of us and we know where we’re rooted, but we didn’t want to do what everyone else is doing. We really wanted to make it our own and create our own sound so that we have longevity in our careers. At the end of the day it’s all about making really great songs and that’s the goal for us as a band.
MD: What can people expect at your Crossraods show on July 5th?
Very energetic, we’re definitely one of these bands that is all about putting out as much energy as we’re getting from the crowd, making the crowd part of the show. We’re all about crowd participation and people kind of losing themselves. We just have a lot of fun on stage. Every single night we all leave the stage just dripping with sweat. It doesn’t matter where we play, it could be a festival, small club, a bar – it doesn’t matter.
So here’s the deal, folks. Leave a comment below and tell me why you deserve the tickets, simple as that. Or, hit me on Twitter @MattyKCC and I’ll pick the most deserving using my sophisticated mathematical formula and let you know by Sunday-ish.