A Conn electric organ occupies a prime piece of real estate in the living room/recording studio of Michael Fitzpatrick, aka Fitz, leader of the soul- and new wave-influenced Tantrums. It's the instrument that, after being purchased for $50, led to a breakthrough sound for the then-budding artist Fitzpatrick; a new song, "Breaking the Chains of Love"; and the creation of a band. "It was one of those things where a song writes itself in five minutes," he says. "I had never sung in that style before--that was the beginning."
It shares space with another dozen keyboards-one being the Yamaha upright piano Fitzpatrick learnÂed on as a child-most of which were purchased used and with a singular purpose in mind. Fitzpatrick points out two as significant in the recording of the Tantrums' forthcoming second album, "More Than Just a Dream": a refurbished Fender Rhodes Seventy Three and the Crumar T1 that he found in a second-hand shop near Chico, Calif.
The first Fitz & the Tantrums album, "Pickin' Up the Pieces," was recorded entirely in Fitzpatrick's living room on a hill in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles. For the second, they did the preproduction and 70% of the recording there before moving to Sound Factory in Hollywood where they worked with Tony Hoffer. Almost all of the vocals done at the house are used on the album.
The setup is remarkably simple. Fitzpatrick uses a single microphone, a Neumann CMV 563, a TL Audio microphone pre-amp that goes into an Mbox and "the ancient platform of Pro Tools 6," he says. A Fender Musicmaster bass with its original flat-wound strings from the 1970s supplies the warm bass sound.
At the Sound Factory, the most-used keyboard was a Korg MS20 synthesizer. "I'm no purist," he says, noting that he embraces technology, especially when it can be mixed with older electronic and acoustic instruments like drums. "The first record has '60s in the foreground and '80s in the background, like all those new wave British bands that were influenced by soul music," he says. "On this second record we wanted to keep that [mix], but the '80s element has moved toward the forefront while the '60s is still there as a layer behind it. It varies on every song."