Fitz and the Tantrums’ James King Talks New Album, Touring, ‘The Walker’ + More
With only two studio albums under their belt, Fitz and the Tantrums have made numerous television appearances, topped radio charts and have already carved their name as a headlining band. The group is currently on the road in promotion of their new album ‘More Than Just a Dream.’ We caught up with the band’s saxophone and multi-instrumentalist James King who spoke all about the new record, tour life, their latest single, ‘The Walker,’ and much more.
Talk about ‘More Than Just a Dream’ and what this title means to you personally?
With the first record, we were out together for so long and it felt like we were in a cocoon. It’s always surreal to be out on the road for months and months at a time. In that whole way I guess it felt like a dream and we come home to find out that everyone knows who we are. That part of it is really humbling and that was our attitude in making the second record.
How was the recording process for you on this new record?
It was great, it was a lot of experimentation and trial and error. We had little fragments of ideas that we had come up with on the road before we got home and worked on the record. As soon as we got in the studio the ideas really started taking shape fast and we all just threw ourselves into it.
Talk about the new song ‘The Walker’ musically and lyrically.
I think the ideas for the lyrics came from a character in L.A., who we all knew, he passed away. He was this guy who would walk around the neighborhood on the East side of L.A. and we’d see him everyday. He wore nothing but running shorts and he would always be walking at a really powerful pace and he was just one of those people that really stood out in the neighborhood. He lived in Silverlake or Echo Park and you’d see him about four or five times a day, he was just all over the neighborhood.
It turns out he was a doctor and he eventually ended up dying under dubious circumstances. I’ll leave it at that but he was kind of this mythological figure in L.A. The musically vibe of that song came straight off of that, you look at him and it’s just this driving force that comes into your head. There’s a dark aspect to it that’s underneath that people may or may not pick up on.
What about who you are as a musician and a person can we hear on this new record?
Yeah my role has expanded quite a bit since the last tour from being a saxophone player to having more of an all encompassing role. Some people ask “Where’s the saxophone on the album?” besides that obvious bridge break in ‘The Walker’ there’s not too much saxophone on this record. I was there and contributing in all the compositional aspects in the studio and it translated to a more Jack of all Trades role onstage. It’s been fun for me to stretch out into other roles like the keyboard and guitar and help with the background singing and being a go to guy for a lot of the songs.
This band has gotten so popular from television appearances and radio. How have you and the rest of the band handled all of this and how do you deal with this attention? Does if affect how you make your music?
It’s strange, it’s divided to on the road and off the road, this kind of personality. For me, as soon as I get off the road, I’m pretty exhausted. My sense of time completely changes because I’m not trying to pack so many things into a day. My wife and I got back from a three week vacation in Greece, where everything goes really slow and you have to adjust to a village lifestyle which was a complete shock. It made me think in comparison to tour life, anything is slower than what’s going out here on the road. You can pack so many things into a day and I think we’re packing all of them.
If you could tour with one band that you haven’t been out on the road with yet who would it be and why?
Oh wow, well we’ve gotten to do some really prestigious festivals in the last year and we’ve met some great people who are at the top of their game right now. I always like going out with someone who people call a “Legacy act” like Stevie Wonder who has all the prestige and legendary status. He’s also at the top of his game and still inspiring people. That’s the kind of person I’d want to be around and emulate.
With all of this touring what is one thing you must bring on tour with you, no electronics.
Can it be something as simple as a book? I think a good book is something people need to get re-acquainted with these days. On some tours I bring out this giant novel determined to finish it and then I end up on Facebook wondering where the time went. [Laughs] So I’m trying not to do that on this tour and learn to peel my eyes away from the screen for a few hours every day.