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Fitz and the Tantrums on the song that saved them

The infectiously fun band returns with a third album — that almost didn't happen.
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Fitz and the Tantrums’ self-titled third album drops in June, and earlier this spring, we were given a teaser via the jittery candy-coated single “HandClap.” While the bouncy song certainly perked up the pop music airwaves, it’s truly special to frontman Michael Fitzpatrick, who says “HandClap” pulled the band out of creative doldrums.

“The moment of creating “HandClap” was transformative,” says Fitzpatrick — or as we know him, Fitz. “Up until then I was struggling to find inspiration. I was frustrated, feeling off center. That song was an exciting and healing moment for me.”

Given the band’s effervescent music, this revelation might come as a surprise. But behind the fun veneer is a lot of hard work: “These 11 songs come from the failure of about 80 others,” Fitzpatrick admits. “When we started the record I took a long look at what was going on with me. I asked myself, where are you right now? What is going on right now? I had to reconnect with myself after all the crazy touring. I don’t look for a theme; I look for truth. That’s what makes it our most emotional album ever.”

The most emotional song on the album might be “Burn It Down,” which Fitzpatrick describes as a love letter to his wife, actress Kaylee Anne DeFer (“Gossip Girl”).

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“It is very personal,” the Los Angeles native says. “Because of my demons I have built this fortress, this block of ice around me, and she has to break through these things. Even when you love someone and have this great thing, because of who I am, there is always the potential to burn something beautiful down to the ground.”

Still, it’s “HandClap” that Fitzpatrick credits as saving the album after months of writer’s block.

“It came so quickly, too,” he adds. “It was one of those times when you can say the song wrote itself. It took 20 minutes to get the lyrics, the beat, everything. I went straight into the vocal booth and what was recorded, that scratch vocal, is the one on the record. It might not be the most perfect vocal, but it has the urgency and emotional push I wanted. That song was the moment when I knew everything was going to be OK.”

Fitz and the Tantrums play the23rd annual Radio 92.9 EarthFest, May 21, at the DCR Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston. The Strumbellas and Joywave open. www.earthfest.com

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