by Victoria Wasylak
Photo Courtesy of Fitz and the Tantrums' Facebook Page
Keeping up with a five bandmates on what feels like constant national touring never comes easy. That’s why Jeremy Ruzumna—the keyboardist for soul sensation Fitz and the Tantrums—keeps his tour rituals in order with scented oils and trips to the Apple store. After the release of their self-titled album—their third full-length release—FATT embarks on their umpteenth national tour to deliver their signature moves ‘n’ grooves. The Buzz chatted with Ruzumna about the band’s genre-defying evolution, their new PG-13 music video and why the Boylston Apple store is so epic.
Wasylak: How are you guys splitting your song catalogue for this tour, considering that you have three albums out now?
Ruzumna: It is funny when you get to the point where you have three albums’ worth of material, and we’re definitely doing stuff from every album, but the cool thing is, at this point, we’ve actually had so many successful songs, and so many songs that might be singles but people really know and love, that there’s absolutely no filler in the set, whatsoever. Just 100 percent hits or cool songs and there’s never a point in the set where you can go to the bathroom and get a beer because every song we do in this new set is important.
Wasylak: Your style has changed a lot since your first album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces. What do you attribute that to?
Ruzumna: I think it’s just the fact that when you make an album, you’re really just taking a snapshot of where you’re at [at] that point in your visions, but I think in the band, everyone is pretty ambitious to begin with, so just naturally, you’re going to always be evolving forward. We couldn’t live just doing the things that got us to be successful in the first place, but instead, we just decided to take risks and it just keep it interesting for us and the audience. We’re not really just one thing, we’re a lot of different things, that’s how most musicians are, it’s just that it’s really exhausting to have one sound and we decided to not do that.
Wasylak: What’s your favorite new song to play live?
Ruzumna: Well, definitely “HandClap” which is great. The two singles are actually—it sounds like I’m plugging but I’m actually serious—“HandClap” and “Roll Up” are really fun to play live. I mean, I have a blast playing them live, but there’s also a song called “Complicated” on the new record. It’s sort of a dark horse because the first few times we played it no one had even heard it because the record wasn’t even out yet, and it was one of those songs that instantly, everyone in the audience just started singing every lyric, started grooving along to the band onstage and everyone’s kind of nodding their head. It’s one of those songs that just naturally stole the show.
Wasylak: You guys have played some pretty different shows. I remember when you guys played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago. What are some shows that stand out in your memory?
Ruzumna: That’s one of them. It’s always good for me to play Boston because actually my family is from there—well actually I’m from Boston, technically. I was born in Boston. I haven’t lived there since I was couple months old. So that’s always fun. I’d say you can’t ever forget the big festivals, like Lollapalooza’s always incredible. Coachella is always incredible. Those are some landmark gigs where you just remember looking at an ocean of people and thinking, “Wow, I remember when we were playing to 10 people!”
Wasylak: Is there anything in particular you always bring with you on tour?
Ruzumna: I always bring my iPad and I definitely bring some yummy smelling oil. It’s important to have some kind of ritual. For me, it’s scented oils and a travel candle for the very rare day that we get a hotel room.
Wasylak: Do you get much free time when you go from city to city to do things before the show?
Ruzumna: It’s a grab bag. It’s total Russian roulette when you go—that’s not a good analogy, but when you go it’s a grab bag, because some days, you have nothing to do all day, you can totally walk around the city, go see movies, go see landmarks if you’re in a place with historical landmarks, go check it out, and other days you literally have so much promo to do that you see the inside of a bus, you see the inside of a dressing room, you see the stage, and then you see bus when you leave. It really depends on the city and depends on the day.
Wasylak: Do you get to do anything in Boston?
Ruzumna: We actually, I believe, have a day off in Boston this time. I may go see most of my family [who] lives out there and I’ve got some friends out there, so Boston, unless they start scheduling some promo for us, which is very possible, I should have a day off in Boston.
Wasylak: Are there any things in particular—museums, restaurants—that you like to go to when you’re in Boston?
Ruzumna: I like to go to the Apple store.
Wasylak: The one on Boylston?
Ruzumna: Yes, actually.
Wasylak: That one’s really pretty. I’ve been in there a million times. That staircase that is made out of glass sheets always gives me such vertigo. That’s funny—I would not have expected you to say that, but I also can’t blame you. It’s very aesthetically pleasing.
Ruzumna: There’s always a reason to buy an Apple electronic. No matter what, I’m going to walk in there and get something. I don’t know, that’s another tour ritual, going to the Apple store.
Wasylak: What would you say is the most distinctive part of your new album?
Ruzumna: I would say our new album is a testament to technology, for one thing, not that it was supposed to be, it’s just that it’s amazing how much you can completely do inside of a laptop now. Although it is a combination of studios and people with laptops. [pauses] Let’s go with that one.
Wasylak: Is there anything else you want to add about the new album or the tour?
Ruzumna: There [are] a couple things. We’ve got “HandClap” as a single, we just came out with “Roll Up” as a new single, and we just came out with a new video for “Roll Up,” and what’s different about that is it’s an animated video, and it’s pretty funny for us to see us in animation form getting very naughty.
Wasylak: Where did you get the idea to do it animation-style?
Ruzumna: James King, our sax player. There were all these hues coming in for “Roll Up” and nothing was really grabbing us and inspiring us, and at one point, James said, “You know, I know a couple guys from CalArts”—his college—“who are great animators now and maybe we should just call them up and see if we can do something.” And we did, they came up with it, and it was really cool. Although it is PG-13.
Wasylak: Because there are a lot of you—are there people in the band that you’re closer to than other?
Ruzumna: It’s funny, it’s just like high school. The dynamic changes—sometimes you’re hanging with this person or that person, or sometimes the whole crew will have headphones on and won’t walk to talk to anyone. It depends on the weather, it depends on people’s moods, depends on all this stuff. It’s like a big mish-mash. We’re basically like crabs in a barrel.