Getting to a 2:00pm interview in Lollapalooza’s press area after a random Chicago downpour on a Saturday means commitment. After having taken the Blue Line to Jackson, getting briefly lost leaving the train, and sprinting two blocks south, I had made it nine minutes early to my interview with drummer John Wicks and saxophonist James King of Fitz and the Tantrums. Although our conversation was short and sweet, I could recognize that their loyalty to Chicago fans is unwavering, and that their desire to spit out quality advice to persevering artists was genuine. Check out some of the words we exchanged in the interview below.
So welcome to the city of Chicago! What kind of vibes does it give you? Or, I guess, how do you feel about being here?
John Wicks: Oh, Chicago has always been the biggest champion of Fitz and The Tantrums.
James King: Yeah, Chicago kicked off our entire career.
JW: And the runners on Lake Shore Drive are the most badass runners I’ve ever seen.
True. We don’t play. Abruptly switching to the topic of music, which album do you guys consider your personal favorite?
JK: …This one.
The newest one?
JW: Yeah, this one. More Than Just a Dream.
Oh… well, I feel like it’s worth mentioning to you my personal favorite, which is Pickin’ Up the Pieces. Specifically because of “Tighter.”
* John and James look at each other *
JW: It’s very interesting that you say that. * long pause * We collaborated together on that song, all in one room, when it came into fruition. We don’t work like that often. It was a special time for us.
Please tell me it’ll be a track that you guys are planning on performing tonight.
JK: It’s hard to perform “Tighter.” It’s been a while. You’ve gotta keep the energy up.
It’s a song that serves as a soundtrack to many of my roughest nights, that I associate with college, particularly. James, you joined the band sometime after your college career. During your time in school, did predict this kind of future for yourself?
JK: No, definitely not. We were always doing multiple things. I was always doing side jobs or being the guy behind the scenes, but then finally focusing on one thing, putting all of your efforts into one thing, that’s what’ll get you somewhere. Not necessarily distributing your energy into multiple projects.
Do you have any more words of wisdom for DIY rock bands, people who are working on getting their name out there, or those following in your steps?
JW: Get cultured. Stand next to a tree, like we’re doing now. Don’t go to an Urban Outfitters and buy a shirt of a tree. Stop trying to accumulate things and just do. If I was spending less time buying things and appearing like I was doing something, I would actually be doing something. I would be more comfortable as a “starving artist” if I wasn’t trying to appear like I wasn’t just that.