Tour Profile: Fitz & The Tantrums

Beginning with select spring concerts and TV appearances, Fitz & the Tantrums are ramping up to take their upbeat soul/synth pop show on a summer tour of theaters, sheds and festivals, including Bonnaroo, Governor’s Ball and Lollapalooza. In April, the band played the Fox Theatre (Oakland, Calif.) before heading to Napa’s intimate Live in the Vineyard series, and then a sold-out show at the Palladium in their hometown of L.A.

Fitz & the Tantrums are carrying microphones, in-ear systems and consoles provided by Clair Global. Manning an Avid SC48 at front of house is Aaron Glas, who recently moved over from monitors. Glas joined Fitz’s production a year ago, after touring with Flogging Molly, Gogol Bordello, Adam Lambert and others.

“Fitz” is a name used to refer to the band or to lead vocalist Michael Fitzpatrick, who founded the group in 2009. The rest of the lineup comprises co-lead singer Noelle Scaggs, drummer John Wicks, bass player Joe Karnes, keys/synth player Jeremy Ruzumna, and multi-instrumentalist James King, who moves between baritone and tenor saxes, flute, keys, and occasional guitars.

To replicate the bright soul and ’80s pop-style rhythms of Fitz’s latest release, More Than Just a Dream, Glas’ Avid board offers a range of processing options. “I’m in love with the Waves CLA bundle,” he says. “The C6 really feels like a paintbrush to me. It has so many parameters to tailor the sound of an instrument or vocal. I can really fine-tune different frequency ranges more than I could with an EQ or compressor alone.”

The musicians are captured via a Shure microphone package, including KSM9HS vocal mics on the lead singers and on keyboardist Ruzumna’s backing vocals. Karnes and King also sing backup, and their vocals are to a Beta 58 and SM58, respectively.

“Right now I’m all digital, and when I’m mixing this way, I love to use the Waves CLA-2A [compressor/limiter plug-in] into the C6 on Fitz and Noelle’s vocals,” Glas says. “I get a fantastic, colored, compressed sound out of the CLA-2A, and then I can refine the minute details with the C6. My favorite components of the C6 are the two extra bands of bandpass compression. I still sometimes use an analog vocal chain, which includes an A-Designs Ventura, home-built tube opto comp, and BSS 901 MkII.”

King’s brass forms a big part of Fitz & the Tantrums’ sound. Glas mikes those horns, and King’s occasional flute part, with an SM7. “It gets an especially beefy sound out of the bari,” Glas says. “I also use a CLA 1176 compressor on him.”

The baritone sax is rigged in a unique fashion: King had shoulder surgery and, for a while, was unable to suspend the large horn from a neck strap the way the instrument is often worn. “The friendly special FX guys at the Conan O’Brien show actually welded a saxophone stand for him and made it three feet taller, so it was the perfect height for him to just walk up to the bari and play it. We actually mount an SM7 on the stand.”

When Glas joined Fitz’s production as monitor engineer in early 2013, there were still wedges onstage, but the bandmembers are now all on Shure PSM1000 in-ear systems with Sensaphonics earpieces.

“I’m proud to take credit for moving them from eight wedge mixes onstage to all in-ears,” Glas says. “It makes for a more consistent sound, and more control at front of house, too. I chose Sensaphonics because they make their earpieces out of silicone. So, not only do they sound great, we feel they’re able to isolate much more than the plastic or acrylic pieces, and the band finds them more comfortable to wear for a whole show. Also, we get a great level of support from Sensaphonics, which is a huge factor.” Grace Royse, a nine-year touring veteran who has worked with Pennywise, Cypress Hill, Sublime with Rome and others, has taken over monitor duties from Glas. “When I’m working in the rock and punk world, the singers want a lot of guitar and heavy drums in their mixes,” Royse says. “But in this pop world, they are really focused on their voices, so there isn’t a lot else going on their ears. I make it ambient with a little reverb, but it’s mainly their vocals.

“John, the sax player, is a different story,” Royse continues. “He has a ton of everything. His mix is big and full and sounds like the record.”

Royse uses all onboard effects and processing within her Soundcraft CL1 console. Also a Soundcraft fan, Glas says, “I was recently impressed with the new Soundcraft Realtime rack. I’d love to try touring with a Vi console along with that. It has a whole host of Universal Audio plug-ins that can be controlled with a touchscreen; pretty slick!”

The show Mix attended, however, was, to quote Royse, “big and full and sounded like the record,” and it was mixed on an Avid Profile, through the Fox’s Meyer Sound P.A., which comprises MICA, MSL-4 and M’elodie loudspeakers.

“The Fox is possibly the most amazing remodeled venue in the country,” Glas says. “Mixing in there could be an acoustic nightmare, because it’s so reverberant, but they have the Meyer system tuned so well, it is really a fun place to mix.”