Fitz & The Tantrums Singer: 'The Walker' Riff Is 'Like Crack Cocaine'

Courtesy of Atlantic Records
Fitz and the Tantrums

Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick discusses the success of "More Than Just a Dream" and the band's possible next singles

From the time it was conceived, Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick was confident Fitz & the Tantrums had something special with "The Walker" -- a No. 1 Alternative hit that's just being pushed to Top 40 and is the subject of a new digital remix EP featuring six takes on the track.

"That song started late at night when I'd come up with this annoyingly catchy whistle riff, and I was like, 'Wow, that's like crack cocaine,' " Fitzpatrick tells Billboard about the tune, the second Alternative chart-topper from the Tantrums' sophomore album, "More Than Just a Dream." "What we've always done is gone out and road-tested the songs even before the records came out, and you could just tell that this one had that magic around it. So to see it get its day in the sun and have Ellen (DeGeneres) make it the theme song to the Oscars and dance and lip sync to the song and have it go No. 1, and now when we lay it live the crowd just goes crazy, it's just a great feeling."

"The Walker" also immortalizes, and memorializes, the late Dr. Marc Abrams, who was known around Los Angeles' Silver Lake neighborhood for "speedwalking around in little short shirts, no shirt on, leather-tanned skin with a newspaper, morning, noon and night. I never knew when the guy practiced medicine because all I ever saw was him walking around, every day. So we took him as our hero character for the song to explore the idea of just what people's perceptions of someone can be and just having the courage to walk to the beat of your own drum, the sort of dark underbelly of what obsession and compulsion can mean."

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"The Walker" EP includes remixes of the song by Cobra Starship, Vice, Aston Shuffle, Ryeland Alison, Mack & Jet Set Vega and GLOS. And while "The Walker" gets its Top 40 push, the group and its label, Atlantic Records are starting to consider a third single from the album, which Fitzpatrick says is likely between "Fool's Gold" and "6 A.M.," though he notes, "There's so many songs that I feel are worthy contenders. It's a quandary, 'cause both of those songs react just as strongly as each other (in concert). They both have merits. So I think everybody's debating which one's the right one to go with."

Either way, though, Fitzpatrick says he and the Tantrums are "ecstatic" over the success they've had with "More Than Just a Dream."

"There were a lot of chances taken, and a lot of sleepless nights wondering if we had made the right decisions," Fitzpatrick recalls. "We really wanted to broaden the vocabulary of the band and really try and make a truly cross-genre record that you couldn't just use one label to define. So all the success that the record's had is a real vindication and affirmation of those choices to the point where people that were concerned have come to me and said, 'You know, I wasn't sure about the choices you were making, but I've got to say you knocked it out of the park and we couldn't have expected all that's happened for you guys.' So it's been really great."

Fitz & the Tantrums head back on the road May 31 at the KROQ Weenie Roast in Irvine, Calif., which kicks off a summer tour through July that includes performances at the Governors Ball Music Festival, the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and several others.