Fitz and the Tantrums’ ‘The Walker’ has the world humming

By MIKE CHAIKEN
EDITIONS EDITOR
As soon as the models stepped onto the runway at the recent graduation for Plainville’s International Institute of Cosmetology at Plantsville’s Aqua Turf, the disc jockey cued it up.
The sound was unmistakable, thanks to the idiosyncratic—and incredibly catchy—opening musical refrain of someone whistling. And it immediately set the mood for the event.
The song?
Fitz and the Tantrums’ single, “The Walker.”
The track seemed to be everywhere these past few months.
Fitz and the Tantrums comes to The Dome at Oakdale on Friday night.
If you turned on the television, you would have heard “The Walker” in the commercial for the animated film “The Box Trolls.” When Major League Baseball promoted its 2014 post-season, you would have heard “The Walker.”
And there were probably a myriad of other little moments when “The Walker” reached your ears— such as the recent hair and makeup fashion show in the prestigious banquet hall in Southington.
Even if you didn’t hear it coming through a pair of speakers, “The Walker” may have been rattling through your head all the same because of its insistent presence.
“That’s a dream come true,” said Joe Karnes, the bassist for Fitz and the Tantrums, when asked how it felt that “The Walker” seems to be everywhere.
Joe, who was calling from Los Angeles, added, “I am really grateful for when it happened to us.”
Rather than it being a one-off novelty from a one-hit wonder, “The Walker’s” success came along on the band’s slowbuilding success already underway. It was the second single (following “Out of My League”) off the band’s second album, “More than Just A Dream.” It also was another feather in the band’s hat of hits, which also include “Moneygrabber” and “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” from its first album, “Picking Up the Pieces.” And “The Walker” set the stage for Fitz and the Tantrums’ next hit, “Fool’s Gold.”
“We worked so hard to have this happen,” said Joe.
“The Walker” has become part of the pop culture lexicon of 2014, being used—as noted— by other creative individuals to fuel their own art.
To have other creative individuals inspired by the band’s music, said Joe, “that’s amazing.” And when you see what other people do with your music, said Joe, it helps you see your work in a different light and it helps keep it fresh after having to perform it night after night in concert.
Joe said Ellen DeGeneres’s Oscar awards promotion was his favorite use of “The Walker.” In the promo, said Joe, a flash mob gathers around Ellen. Individuals join in one by one as the comedian strides across the screen accompanied by the opening whistle refrain of the song.
The song, which was written by Michael Fitzpatrick, Noelle Scaggs,  and James King, went through a couple of different permutations before its final version, said Joe. But despite the experimentation, he said, the song eventually circled back to the way it was originally written.
Along the way, however, Joe said the opening whistle riff was a stable part of the song.
Joe said when he first heard the whistling riff, his ears perked up immediately. He said he told Fitz once he heard, “Dude, this is something special… It’s fun, and really catchy.”
Catchy is the keyword. With “The Walker,” Fitz and the Tantrums came up with a classic ear worm and one that is instantly recognizable.
Given “The Walker’s” ear worm status, Joe was asked if he had any personal favorite ear worms.
“Right now, I’m on a David Bowie kick,” said Joe. “‘Modern Love’ (from the album ‘Let’s Dance’) is going through my head every day.”
Another favorite earworm for Joe is M83’s “Midnight City.” He loves the weird keyboard riff from the 2011 track. It doesn’t seem as if it would quality as ear candy, but the effect is all the same. MGMT is another band that provides a lot of ear candy for Joe to mull over.
As for that next record, Joe said Fitz and the Tantrums (which is also Fitz and Noelle Scaggs on vocals, James King on saxophone and flute, Jeremy Ruzumna on keyboards, and John Wicks on drums and percussion) is still several months away from actively pulling together tracks for a third album. When the band is on the road, Joe explained, it’s pretty difficult to find the energy to do any writing in earnest and have the energy to do a show at night. When the band isn’t on stage, he said a lot of their time is spent exercising or  napping.
But, Joe said, “It’s (the next album) definitely on everyone’s mind…. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.” And there are little musical tidbits being squirreled away here and there for future use, he said..
“This record opened the door for us,” said Joe. And with the record, the band, which started off as a neo-soul band before morphing into a more 1980s influenced sound, has managed to avoid pigeonholing itself.
“I’m excited (to see what’s next),” said Joe.
Fitz and the Tantrums is definitely a band that has made the road its home and its live shows are its calling card.
Joe said the band will be touring through to the holidays, take a break, and then will take it easy except for a few one-off gigs here and there.
Next year, the band will still be on the road, said Joe, but not as much as it had.
“We still have to make a living though,” said Joe.
Fitz and the Tantrums perform at The Dome at Oakdale in Wallingford on Friday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m.
For more information, go to Oakdale.com or FitzandtheTantrums.comFitzandtheTantrums

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