Now that another Lollapalooza has come and gone, there's one last huge music festival ready to jam in Chicago. Riot Fest rocks out at Douglas Park to end summer, and the lineup is huge.
Headlining on the bill is the band Fitz and the Tantrums and after seeing them play at Lollapalooza in the past many will know this is the perfect outdoor setting to see them perform.
Michael Fitzpatrick brought the group together back in 2008 and they have not stopped since. They went from a Maroon 5 opening act to playing on their own, thanks to the hit-filled album More Than Just a Dream.
The band's newest is a self-titled record with a lead single, "HandClap," that is already doing well on the radio.
Windy City Times talked with keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna about the new music and tour.
Windy City Times: Hi, Jeremy. Did you always play piano growing up?
Jeremy Ruzumna: Absolutely. Since I was 8 years old, pretty much since I realized girls would hang around when I played.
WCT: Did you get in the band after John Wicks referred you?
JR: Yes, there's a club in LA called Bardot and I was in a house band with himhe played drumsand a trumpet player named Stewart Cole, who is in the group Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. John was working with Fitz doing some commercial stuff. Fitz was putting the band together and was looking for a keyboard player. That's how I got the gig.
WCT: You have been with them ever since?
JR: Yes; I can't believe it is going on eight years now. It is sort of mind-blowing.
WCT: Did you think the band would be played on the radio back then?
JR: It is interesting. I can't say I was hearing so much radio stuff. Our sound was a lot different back then. What I did notice is that Fitz just had a determination back then. He seemed like he knew what he was doing musically and business-wise. I had faith in him.
Even from the first tiny shows that we did the reaction was pretty amazing. This was even from our little cafe shows, usually reserved for one person an acoustic guitar. We would bring the whole band and it was highly inappropriate how much noise we were making.
WCT: I remember seeing the band at a little after show during Lollapalooza in a hotel.
JR: That's right. That was a long time ago. Shows like that had such great reactions.
WCT: With the new self-titled album, does this feel more like the definitive sound of the band?
JR: It has been an evolution. People said we started out sounding like Motown. The last album they said sounded '80s. I call it all some sort of pop music.
When you are trying to find out who the band is it is an elusive thing. It is always changing.
On the third album, it felt like the third time's a charm. This is us.
WCT: "HandClap" must be fun to perform live.
JR: Yes. That song was actually tailor-made to be played live. Even when the song was in its early stages we could picture the audience doing the clap with us. That is the interesting thing about a band that has been on the road so much, this album is influenced by playing to audiences. We wanted to make something that is fun to listen to as a record but is also fun to be played live.
We really had the audience and live show in mind with this album.
WCT: Do you have an influence on the keyboards when writing songs?
JR: It varies from song to song and album to album. There are songs that I have been all over but Fitz plays keyboards as well. I would like to think I have some flavor in this band!
WCT: Is the song "A Place for Us" about unity or, possibly, a gay anthem?
JR: Absolutely. I think it is about a lot of different things. It is about that feeling we all have inside of wanting to belong somewhere. The reason musicians make music in the first place is to fit and belong.
It is an anthem that everyone will have something somewhere. It is about finding that place where you will feel comfortable with yourself.
WCT: I have been on the tour bus in the past with Noelle Scaggs from the band. Do you like the touring life?
JR: It is a change. If I had to do it all the time it might get crazy. We have a good balance because our tours are not incredible long. We are all parents now except Noelle, who has an incredibly cute dog so that counts too.
Last year, we were making the album so we weren't doing any hardcore touring. This is the first time we are jumping back into it.
Going back on tour is like an old friend. We immediately get into the rhythm of it. It is nice. We get to travel and see things. The shows are getting more and more fun. We are doing the new material so it is locking it in and it's getting better and better.
Obviously, it is sad to be away from the family.
WCT: Since you are coming to Riot Fest are you a fan of Morrissey, who is playing there?
JR: We have to stick around long enough to check him out. That is a must. The one time I saw him in person he was sitting on a curb outside of a hotel. He could have been shooting a video it was so perfect. His head was in his hands. He looked so depressed. No one was coming up to him. It was really weird but kind of cool, awesome actually.
WCT: What kind of Tantrum are you? Angry? Happy?
JR: I'm the peace making Tantrum.
WCT: So you keep the drama down in the band?
JR: I do my best and sometimes it works!
Fitz and The Tantrums throw a Riot on Saturday, Sept. 17, at Douglas Park, 1401 S. Sacramento Dr. Visit RiotFest.org and FitzAndTheTantrums.com for more information.