INKED PEOPLE: Noelle Scaggs
On the breath of this lovely tattooed vocalist, Fitz and the Tantrums are the breakout act of the year.
There’s something mesmerizing about standing in a dark, crowded room watching the fluorescent lights of Fitz and the Tantrums’ heart logo flash on stage in time to the beat of the band’s song “Keeping Our Eyes Out.” As the silhouette of vocalist Noelle Scaggs emerges from behind the stage, the crowd immediately lights up.
Scaggs is one part of the powerhouse vocals that help make up the neo-soul group Fitz and the Tantrums, and she has experience working with the likes of The Black Eyed Peas and The Rebirth. With a voice reminiscent of Motown in the ’60s, she brings energy rarely seen in a frontwoman nowadays and even knows how to skillfully rock a tambourine. There’s never a dull moment as she plays alongside the band’s other vocalist, Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick. Celebrating the first tour of Fitz and the Tantrums’ second full-length album, More Than Just a Dream, the 33-year-old singer-songwriter is showing fans what she’s made of. “When we started working on the new record, our main focus was really on bridging the gap of our live show with the recording,” she says.
So far, the band seems to be on track. As Scaggs holds her own on the stage, it’s nearly impossible to miss her stylized hieroglyphic ink. “I was always into tattoos,” she says. “Both my father and my brother had a dragon tattoo on their left arm.” Thanks to their influence, she ended up getting her left arm inked as well. “It’s all kind of royal, based around the eyes of Ra and the ankh,” she says of the Egyptian-themed piece. “It is broken up as Nefertiti’s eye—I always really loved her because my eyes were kind of shaped the same way.”
Scaggs has gotten tattooed for all the major milestones in her life, starting at the age of 18, and has held close her love of Egyptian themes. But not all of her tattoos have worked out exactly as planned. “The one on my ankle was probably the most spontaneous,” she says. “My friend wanted to get a tattoo. We were in Venice Beach, and I was totally trying to talk her out of it but ended up getting an ankh. It was the worst tattoo. I went to fix it and my artist was like, ‘I can’t believe you did that!’”
Onstage, things go more according to plan. Scaggs performs her own modern spin on Fitz and the Tantrums’ cover of “Sweet Dreams,” originally by the Eurythmics. Speeding up the tempo of the song to make the venue feel like an all-inclusive dance party, she sings the lyrics in a back-and-forth sway, pausing at one point to make sure the audience joins in. “I am a huge Annie Lennox fan,” she says later. “We have similar timbres to our voices, so I really love doing that song.”
But that’s just one part of her musical style, which she says is “a new take on what soul music was doing and [taking] the ’60s and the British invasion period of the ’80s and making them more of a modern sound.”
Her favorite song to perform is “The Walker,” a song that tells the story of the Silver Lake Walker, a local from the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. “He just obsessively compulsively walked around the neighborhood, and you could see him anytime you came to Silver Lake in these little green shorts,” she says. “He just really lived his life. He went to his own beat of the drum. He never stopped.” When the beats of the song pulse during her show’s encore, Scaggs belts out the lyrics: “Oh, here we go/Feel it in my soul.” And the crowd does.