Before a recent radio-sponsored holiday arena show outside her native Denver, Fitz and the Tantrums co-singer Noelle Scaggs couldn't help but grin as she took a glance at the roaring crowd from the backstage area. The sound of their growing mainstream success was almost deafening. While they drew strong crowds across the country this year, hearing the crowd in her home state screaming and singing along was unlike anything she had experienced in the band's most successful year to date.
"I didn't realize we had so many fans in Colorado, and for me, [that] was the first time the crowd was so loud I was basically taken aback," she explains over the phone from her current home in LA.
Their sophomore effort, More Than Just a Dream, was released in 2013 to tepid critical reviews. But commercially, the album has been a rousing success, spawning two hit singles in "Out of My League" and "The Walker," which was featured as the theme song for the 2014 World Series. Fitz and the Tantrums were also one of the most played bands on radio this past year, as they grew from a Los Angeles neo-soul favorite to a pop band.
"This record picked up a lot of steam for us since it was released," Scaggs says. "It's been our thing since the beginning of this band to hit the road running and get our music out as far as possible."
For the better part of the past year, Fitz and the Tantrums have taken their energetic show on the road. A couple of years removed from the recording process, Scaggs says, the band were confident and proud of the songs they had written for this album, but they weren't sure it would translate to the masses. "The record could have easily not done well because we really focused these songs [to be] very pop-friendly," she says. "We've always done pop music, but because there was a retro-soul/'80s-new-wave-inspired sound, we were being pigeonholed by a lot of people. We wanted to show we were more than just a trend that was happening at the time, and we're glad it translated the way it did."
Fitz and the Tantrums rarely take time off, but when they do, they can hardly sit still. During the band's recent lull in activity, Scaggs has been busy writing songs and working on her food blog. And so far for 2015, the only tour dates on the books are two shows in South America. But first, the singer says, the sextet plan to take a few months off before beginning in the spring to work on their third album.
Even with the growing expectations surrounding their next album, Scaggs can't help but relish what Fitz and the Tantrums have accomplished thus far. Though she and her band mates remain sharply focused on writing music they're proud of, seeing success so tangibly–as they did in Colorado–is what excites them six and a half years into their career.
"We've climbed our way to where we are now, and it's rewarding to see both our old fans and new ones take a chance on us," she says. "I'm a fan of watching the growth of any band, and when it's your own band, it's hard to put into words and define."
Fitz and the Tantrums perform at the Downtown Long Beach New Year's Eve Celebration, on Pine Avenue, between First and Fourth streets, Long Beach. Wed., 11:20 p.m. $35. All ages.