My Awkward Night With Fitz and the Tantrums at Jimmy Kimmel Live
Left to right: Jimmy Kimmel, James King, Joseph Karnes, Noelle Scaggs, Michael Fitzpatrick , Jeremy Ruzumna John Wicks
[Editor's note: Soon-to-be-award-winning gonzo music journalist Danielle Bacher prowls the late late night scene for West Coast Sound. For this installment, she hits the town with LA-based soul-pop band Fitz and the Tantrums.]
I should probably have dropped quarts of acid into the disgusting coconut water in the dressing room at Jimmy Kimmel Live! It's the perfect drink to fuck with since it tastes like dirty socks. Then again, drugging Fitz and the Tantrums would not have been the right thing to do.
5:20 p.m.: It's chilly outside as the band rehearses "Out of My League" for Kimmel. It's from their second album More Than Just a Dream, out earlier this month on Elektra Records. Did you know this band is kind of a big deal? They're getting radio play, and were even on the LL Cool J record!
5:27 p.m.: They sound pretty good, but this is not my kind of music. This is my first time hearing them live.
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5:43 p.m.: Their lightweight, soul-pop vibe reminds me of Maroon 5. Singer Michael Fitzpatrick, 42, has a near-white silver streak in the front of his mop of hair. He's sporting tight black pants with a zipped-up black jacket, boots and sunglasses.
5:44 p.m.: Some tech guy who looks like Anthony Bourdain walks across the stage. He looks uncomfortable.
5:55 p.m.: The band leaves the stage, and singer Noelle Scaggs looks pissed, not sure why.
Noelle Scaggs (Left) John Wicks (Middle) Michael Fitzpatrick (Right)
5:57 p.m.: They're a sextet, Fitzpatrick, Scaggs, bassist Joseph Karnes, keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna, drummer John Wicks and multi-instrumentalist James King, and now they walk backstage to the dressing room. Joseph gives me a fist bump.
6:00 p.m.: Right now it's clear that the band doesn't really give a fuck that I'm here. They're preoccupied with dressing for the performance. Jeremy doesn't really understand what I am doing here. But hey, at least he's talking to me.
6:04 p.m.: I feel uncomfortable. I rarely feel this way around musicians, but this time is different. I don't feel a connection to anyone in the band right now. I feel like an outsider, and then I feel stupid for feeling that way.
6:06 p.m.: I look into my purse at least six times. There's really nothing to be had inside of there.
6:07 p.m.: The dressing room is filled with publicists, label representatives, family and friends. I shuffle around the small room and pretend to be interested in a variety of things, such as the mini chocolate bars on the table. Jeremy looks at me while I grab a Twix. One of their friends grabs a Snickers. She says she enjoys it. I disagree and say the peanuts kill it for me. She walks away.
6:08 p.m.: I watch the show, in progress, on the TV. Actress Zoe Saldana is on the screen. Jeremy is slumped over on the couch cracking a joke about not being dressed yet. Noelle is sitting next to him looking at her phone. Her publicist tells her that her makeup looks great. She mentions that she needs lipstick. I get uncomfortable again and get up.
6:09 p.m.: I look at my phone five more times. I leave the green room and am informed that I cannot take any pictures inside the dressing room, or this publication will get sued.
6:10 p.m.: I'm bored, so I decide to take a tour of the green room.
6:11 p.m.: People are getting drunk in here. Some dude spills beer on the floor and stumbles toward the bar.
Fitz and the Tantrums singer Noelle Scaggs
6:15 p.m.: With John and Joseph, I climb a flight of stairs to the makeup room. Joseph's eyes are very red. "I could never smoke pot in class because of [how red they get]," he says. The makeup artist puts some drops in his eyes. We discuss that Jimmy Kimmel Live! isn't really live, but it used to be when the show first aired in 2003. She claims the green room was also a crazy party with a full bar back then. There was a different producer.
6:25 p.m.: This band is known for not having a guitarist, but Jeremy tells me that James learned it for the recording of the song "Spark" on their new album. Now they need a guitar to perform it live. I ask if they are going to write more songs with a guitar. "Hell no," says James. "I love not having a guitar player, it let's me be the star. The minute we get a guitar player, I quit."
6:29 p.m.: Now I'm kicked out of the dressing room so they can have a pre-show powwow.
6:30 p.m.: Saldana walks past me with her entourage. She's beautiful and elegant. I walk past guest Bill Simmons's dressing room, but there is no one in it. Again, I'm thinking: "Why the fuck am I here?
Yehya Mohamed at Jimmy Kimmel Live!
6:45 p.m.: Noelle looks down at her tight red shirt. There is a water droplet in the middle of it. She looks upset that she spilled water before the live show. Photographer Yehya Mohamed takes some photos with the band outside. This guy has more enthusiasm than anyone else here. He photobombs a picture with the band for a segment for the show.
7:00 p.m.: Jimmy Kimmel walks outside. He's a really sweet guy.
7:09 p.m.: I'm talking to Don Barris on the side stage. He's Jimmy Kimmel's hype man. We discuss how he and Kimmel met on the set of Windy City Heat, a film that doubled as practical joke on aspiring actor Perry Caravello. The band is playing "Out of My League" again. All I can focus on is Noelle's skirt riding up.
7:10 p.m.: The band plays hit song "MoneyGrabber" from their first album. It's pretty good, almost as good as "Not Leaving You Tonight" with L.L. Cool J and Eddie Van Halen. A couple of years ago, they performed at a benefit, and LL. saw them. He asked his agent (who was friend of the band's) to call them to work on the track. Michael and Noelle went into the studio to record the chorus in February. Snoop Dogg showed up an hour later for another track with blunts in hand. Snoop thought they sounded like Sting.
7:11 p.m.: Michael is waving his hands in the air every few minutes. Noelle looks at him and shakes her bright red tambourine on cue. It also matches John's red glasses.
8:55 p.m.: Noelle gets off stage and looks extremely pissed off. "This is why I pay a lot for expensive clothes and never wear this," she says, though it's not entirely clear what she's referring to. She briskly returns to the dressing room. The others sit around and sign autographs.
9:30 p.m.: I feel anxious. Noelle, now in her own clothes, is checking her phone every few minutes for the time. We sit at 25 Degrees in the Roosevelt Hotel, and she apparently has somewhere more important to be: a Wookid concert at the Fonda. She tugs on her bright pink jacket, looks at me and says, "You can start the interview now. I only have like 30 minutes."
9:31 p.m.: The more I talk to Noelle, the more I realize that this band is no bullshit. They've been touring for almost two-and-a-half years straight with only a few breaks. They have crossed the country and headed overseas, performing with Flogging Molly and (I called it) Maroon 5. Now, they're going back on tour again in support of this new album. On some of the tour they'll open for Bruno Mars.
9:34 p.m.: Says Noelle: "I think we have really grown in the last five years. You become a part of each other. We all have our own opinions, but know what we want, and it's all cohesive. You become like a family."
9:40 p.m.: "Some of the coolest people in L.A. are the ones that grew up here," says Michael. Note: he grew up here. "Obviously it's a town of industry, so you can get a lot of crazy egomaniac people converging in one city for their moment of fame...Basically all the assholes of the world live here," Michael adds. He laughs and says he's kidding.
9:45 p.m.: Michael started the band when he was 37. He was a sound engineer writing music for film and TV. He claims he "picked up and put down the dream so many times." He thought it wasn't in the cards to have his dream come true, but he is a creative person. He knew he needed to keep going and make something that would work.
9:47 p.m.: "My whole career before was a round peg into a square hole with a sledgehammer just trying to fucking jam that thing through, and it was not pretty," he says. "This band, we came together, and it truly felt like the stars had aligned."
9:48 p.m.: Michael talks about how they were broke for a long time before they could finally pay rent. Noelle starts chanting "Pay rent, pay rent, pay rent!" I ask what else the band is interested in beside music. Noelle tells me "eating." I look over at Michael's girl Kaylee DeFer. She's several months pregnant and just got in a car accident a few days ago, but she's ok. Noelle gets her food to go because it's taking a long time. She says goodbye and leaves. John, to whom I have said few words all night, gets up and doesn't say goodbye to anyone.
10:20 p.m.: As I walk down North Orange Dr., I notice a man in a gown with a scar on his forearm standing on the sidewalk. He has a bottle of pills in his hand, and he's opening up the container to pass some to an older Indian man outside his car. A pill falls on the sidewalk, and he bends over to pick it up. I see his hairy white ass. He shouts to me: "Do you want some!?"
I walk away.
"Fuck you!" he screams.
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