Tag Archives: John Wicks

Fitz and the Tantrums Sits Down With Caffe Vita

| June 19, 2014


Caffe Vita had the opportunity to head to New York City and get backstage at The Governor’s Ball—you can see the full recap here.

And one of the many advantages of being amongst the many performers is that you get to talk with them, and, sometimes, being fortunate enough to score an impromptu interview with a band following their set.

For us, that band was Fitz and the Tantrums, who, after speaking with them, we came to find out how much we had in common with a few of the members.

In fact, the band’s drummer, John Wicks, was actually one of the first barista’s to work for Vita back in the mid-‘90s, and the group’s frontman, Michael Fitzpatrick (Fitz), is an admitted coffeehead himself.

Fresh off a whirlwind couple of years that have included a critically acclaimed record, chart-topping singles and multiple tour dates, the two guys sat down to talk abouttheir appreciation for making music and, of course, their desire to always have a great cup of coffee to keep them going when on the road.


Can you talk about the energy that the crowd had during your performance at Governor’s Ball.

Fitz: “It’s great. I mean, we love playing our own headliner shows where you’re surrounded by four walls and the energy is combustible, but at the same time, there’s nothing like playing a festival in front of 10, 20, 30,000 people and seeing them go crazy.

Even when it’s full sun and blazing heat, everyone’s in it together, so it’s cool when they see how hard you’re working on stage and they’re getting down with you.

Wicks: “It can go either way.

To be honest, especially in heat like this, and for an audience who have had a few beers, it can be like today where it’s totally crazy, or it can be like lethargic and fans aren’t really into it.

I could tell after the first few notes today that it was going to be a blast, because the people were ready to party. That’s why we came out of the gate at like an 11, so I think it was an easy sell from the get-go.”

As an artist, is that energy something that you can feel while on stage, and do you take a responsibility in making sure fans leave having a good time?

Fitz: “Yeah. I think that we’ve always set that benchmark for ourselves and, yeah, you can tell if the audience doesn’t know you or isn’t familiar with your songs, and that just makes us work harder to win them over. We just want to blow people’s minds and crush it.”

Wicks: “Yeah. It’s a slipper slope, because, sometimes, fans just aren’t responding the way that you want them to, but, as a drummer, I can try to force it, and, as a result, you can kind of sacrifice groove a lot of times because you’re just trying to make it happen.

It can lose some of the vibe when doing that, though, and instead of trying to make it happen, you just have to let it happen. I’ve always found that by the end of the set, we’ve got them.

Sometimes it takes a little longer, but, by the end of the set, we’ve always got them, no matter what.”

What are some of the things you have coming up this summer?

Fitz: “It’s just shows, shows, shows, festivals, festivals and headline shows. We’re releasing our third single in July called “Fools Gold” off the record, as well.

We’ve been very blessed to have two number one’s from the album already, and what’s great is that we see the growth. We see the audiences getting bigger, and it’s great to have an arsenal of more than just one song that people know.

We thrive and excel on the stage, giving 150 percent every night, every day, it’s where we live and do our best work, so this summer it’s just shows, shows, shows.”


Do you prefer to be live as opposed to being in the studio?

Wicks: “I think if you would have asked me that question five years ago, I would have given a different answer, because I was very much a studio player then. That was always my goal, to be a studio session guy and play on different people’s records. That’s where I felt most comfortable.

Now, though, not so much. It’s a different mindset, but I think that it’s actually different physically, too. You wait and you wait and you wait and you wait, and you do all these things to fill up the day, and then you get a couple hours (on stage) to just do it. And then, you’re done, and you take a deep breath and the rush is over before doing it all over again the next day. I think it’s a different mindset and different set of muscles that you use, which, I find, equally rewarding now.

But I didn’t think I wanted to do that five years ago.”

Do you miss being on stage when you’re not doing it, day in, day out, especially when it has been such a big part of your life for so long?

Fitz: “Yeah. People ask us all the time why we decided to pursue music, and for John and I, the answer is the same—it was never a choice. It was always just what had to be and there was no other option. We’re not people who searched for years and years for what their path in life was going to be. It’s like we had to make music to feel centered as a human being; for us, at least. That’s just the way it is.

Being on the road is a crazy thing of highs and lows. When you’re not doing a festival, you can be in an empty parking lot behind the club, and then people file in for the show, you do the show with such high energy and you feel the crowd, and then like 30 minutes or an hour later, you’re walking through empty beer cups at the venue and it’s like a ghost town all over again. There’s a really trippy juxtaposition that happens in all of that, so it’s definitely a heightened, bizarre, kind of lifestyle.

Wicks: “For me personally, from working for Caffe Vita for years and years in Seattle, and then working in other cafes after that, coffee became my ritual. Now, with all the downtime that we do have, coffee is still very much my ritual.

That, honestly, not just chemically, provides me a way to avoid falling too low after a show, because we wake up in a different city every morning, and the first thing I do is seek out the best coffee in the city every single morning. I even have a blog for touring musicians that lists the best coffee that I’ve found throughout the U.S. in every city we’ve been to.

I just got so used to doing that as a barista for 10-15 years, and that’s just what I do every morning. In combination with running a ton—Wicks trains for ultra-marathons—it keeps me out of that low.

I mean, we just got off-stage from playing in front of tons of people, and when you get off stage, you’re in a trailer and it’s just, well, sort of depressing from where you just were. So it’s really easy to fall into a depression, which is why I can see why so many musicians got into drugs, because it was either from sheer boredom or to just keep that high after a show going.

For me, coffee really just helps keeps me stay balanced, sticking with my ritual.

Fitz: “That’s one thing that John and I share is, not just a love of coffee, but a love of good coffee. Sometimes we’ll go a few days when on the road of not having a good cup, and, honestly, we’re just in a bad mood.

The great thing now is that there is this coffee culture now that has exploded where we can find the great coffee place in a certain town that do great pulls of shots.

For us, that’s a cool way to get a little window into the part of the city where we would have never gone to, or to see the cool spots in a town because that’s normally where the good coffee tends to come from.

So, yeah, coffee sort of takes us on these adventures.”

Wicks: “I feel a little bit of kinship and maybe a little bit of snobbery because I was in Seattle at the beginning of all that coffee culture, and working for Vita when it first opened.

All these other roaster’s started opening around that time, too, and all these wonderful spots sort of started this whole, next level coffee scene. For that reason, I kind of feel a little bit of ownership on it and take pride in it. I really do, because I loved that gig (working at Vita). It paid the bills for me for so many years when drums didn’t make it.

I feel the same loyalty and thankfulness to coffee that I do to the drums. I really owe everything to coffee and drums. I’ve been able to support a family on coffee and drums. (laughs) I could go on for days.”


You both mentioned how becoming a musician was never a choice, but that it had to happen. When was the first time you really realized that you were a full-time musician and nothing but that?

Wicks: “For me, personally, almost more recently than I care to admit. It took me moving from Seattle to L.A. to do studio sessions. When I first moved to L.A., man, I didn’t know anyone there and it took over a year for the phone to start to ring for gigs. It was a lean first year on the music side.

Naturally, I turned to coffee, working for Groundworks—which were really the only people doing similar coffee stuff down there. It took about a year before I could take that leap of faith to pursue drums full-time, because you never know how it’s going to go.

Sometimes you’ll have a great week and then the next week will be crickets. I started playing drums in the third grade, and it really didn’t start paying the bills until I was in my thirties. That’s a long wait, man. It’s actually pretty scary.

I take comfort in the fact that, if this ended tomorrow, we consider it a win. We’re playing for thousands of people, have a hit record. Dude, this was the goal. If I had to go back to coffee at this point, I wouldn’t consider that a step down by any stretch of the imagination. I love doing that shit, you know what I mean?

We’ve been hitting just over six years, so it was really only nine years ago when I was able to make my mortgage and buy a house in L.A. just from music.

Fitz: “I’ve been a singer and musician my whole life, but it was only with this band that it was like, ‘this is really happening, I’m not just making music for no one in the world hearing or caring about it, but now we have people show up to shows, knowing the songs and singing the words with you.’

I had a good 15 bands before this where that wasn’t the case, so I switched into other parts of music to make a living, but it wasn’t my dream or true passion, I was just doing a modified version to keep me in the musical world to pay the bills.

And that’s the trippy thing, man, my dream came true. My dream came true one-thousand percent. So it also takes me to a moment where I don’t get to be that cynical, snarky, jaded bastard in the corner anymore because, well, I got mine. I got everything I wanted.

It’s a trip because, when you’re on the other side of that and you’re busting your ass and just getting kicked around and not getting any respect, you get that chip on your shoulder and that mentality and attitude that can become who you are, and when something like this happens, you’re forced to re shift that whole energy level because you can’t be that martyr or bitter critter in the corner.

We know a lot of people who work just as hard and are even more talented, but can’t rub two pennies together in doing what they love. But, for some reason, we all get to pay our bills, support our families and play in front of thousands of people every night, so, like John said, we’ve won.

It’s truly being in the now and the present and appreciating what it already is, and not worrying about the past.”


What’s next for Fitz and the Tantrums over the next six months to a year?

Fitz: “We’re moving onto the third single off our record, so if we’re lucky enough to keep going with that, than who knows? The crazy thing is that, you think that you’ve expired a ton of energy off one record or that people know about it, but we still see people catching onto our music, winning one, five, ten, 100 fans at a time, and we just keep going and going.

When we do see the light at the end of the tunnel for this record, realistically, sometime in 2015, we’ll carve out time to go write another one. Get back on the horse and do it all over again.”

Wicks: “We’ve reached a lot of our goals and, for me personally, there was a physical checklist that each thing has literally been checked off at this point. It’s really awesome.

Now it’s gotten to the point where I ask, ‘How can I give back?’

For me, now I’m trying to figure out if it’s helping kids out, turning them onto the drums, turning them onto music, turning them onto how to avoid pitfalls—whatever it is.

I’m writing a drum method book write now, too.

These things have provided so much to me and my family, so it’s finding a few things that let’s me give back to feel good.

For so long, as we went through the shitstorm of the music industry, we were always out for number one. But now, I feel like I can take a breath and not have to just look out for myself and try to figure out what’s next.

So I don’t really know the answer to that, but hopefully something that will help some people, because there’s a million ways to do it.”

Caffe Vita Went to NYC’s Governor’s Ball

| June 17, 2014

From L-R: Shawn Jennings, Pearl Nelson, Nick Dimengo and Gretchen Hackler before taking off for Governor’s Ball.

When we got word that we would be headed cross-country from our Seattle home as one of the backstage sponsors at The Governor’s Ball, the first thing we did was smile mightily—seriously.

That’s because, being such big music fans, we knew the lineup for the three-day, weekend-long event included some of our favorite bands, and getting the chance to hang with them and supply them with their much needed caffeine each day would be a great experience.

With headliners like Outkast, Jack White, Vampire Weekend and The Strokes, among others, there was no shortage of talent on the four different stages around Randall’s Island just outside of New York City.

With an early morning flight the day before the festival started, Shawn Jennings, Gretchen Hackler, Pearl Nelson and Nick Dimengo from Vita packed up their bags and tried to make it through the weekend—all in a city that never sleeps.

Here’s how it went down.


The Caffe Vita located on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side, New York City.

Upon landing at the airport in New York, Pearl turned to Nick and said, “Hey Nick…we’re in New York City,” which promptly set the stage for the entire weekend, as the fearsome foursome were about to have a wild ride around one of the biggest cities in the world.

After getting settled in, the four immediately checked-out one of New York’s staples, Katz’s Delicatessen, which conveniently sat just a few blocks from both the Lower East Side Caffe Vita and the Hotel on Rivington, where a few of the guys were staying.

Getting to know each other a little bit better by trying to identify the celebrity pictures on the wall, Pearl even got noticed by two guests as being the former barista in the Los Angeles Caffe Vita, proving the impact that Vita has.

With a night to spare, the four jumped around to a number of different Lower East Side bars, meeting locals and dancing the night away before calling it a night due to an early wake-up call on Friday.


The New York Vita team, from L-R: Seny, Gair and Steven getting caffeinated up before Governor’s Ball.

Meeting the rest of their team for the weekend at the Caffe Vita Ludlow location, the crew adopted the two store managers—Seny and Gair—along with a different barista each day for the festival.

Loading up and making their way to The Governor’s Ball, the team quickly assembled the Vita booth, getting hounded by everyone from event workers to roadies to artists who not only wanted, but needed, some cold brew to help get their day started.

Walking around the venue and making sure Vita was well-represented —yes, that includes handing out stickers to nearly every vendor—the team chatted up as many different people as possible, making multiple runs back and forth to hand out cold brew as the weather increased in temperature.


Members of The Little Comets stopped by for some Vita coffee and swag following their set at Governor’s Ball.

When they weren’t running around catering to people’s request, the group was checking out bands like Little Comets—who loaded up on coffee after their set—Janelle Monae, The 1975, Julian Casablancas+The Voidz, Phoenix and TV on the Radio, who, at various times throughout the first day, rocked the stage and brought serious energy for the fans.

As great as the entire day had already been, the highlight of the night may have come when the team was loading out for the day, and Andre 3000 of Outkast was within 20 feet, with his security guards getting handed a couple bags of Caffe Del Sol.

With Day Two ahead of them, the team made their way back to the hotel and grabbed a much needed, decompressing dinner to recover and get ready for another long day.

The morning started with a bang, as a line was already forming as the team rolled into the venue, with word spreading fast that there was free coffee to be had.


Nick Dimengo talking with Jess Wolfe from the band Lucius in front of the Vita booth.

With artists like Lucius, PAPA, Hunter Hunted, The Internet and Fitz and the Tantrums stopping by the booth for coffee, the artists not only coming back multiple times for servings, but also talking in-depth about how coffee has a big impact on their musical careers, it was cool to meet with each.

Ironically enough, Fitz and the Tantrums drummer, John Wicks, talked about how he was a barista at the Queen Anne café one of the first years that Vita was founded, and how it has truly impacted him and his career thereafter. The connection even led to a impromptu interview with lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick and Wicks in their trailer, giving Vita an even more all-access view and leaving an huge impression with one of the bigger acts at the festival.


Nick Dimengo interviewing John Wicks and Michael Fitzpatrick, drummer and lead singer from Fitz and the Tantrums.

Additionally, Michael Garner, lead singer of Hunter Hunted, also talked about how the Silverlake location in L.A. is his usual spot to get coffee each day, which meant he and his bandmates hanged around the Vita booth telling us about how much they all loved it—which was super cool to hear.


Members of the band Hunter Hunted showing off their love for Caffe Vita backstage at Governor’s Ball.

The night concluded with Jack White taking—and rocking—the main stage, as the team ended their night giving away multiple hats, sweatshirts and tees for concertgoers and artists to rep.

After a few exhausting days, the team got a second wind and headed to the House of Vans party in Brooklyn for the night, getting treated to music from Angel Haze at the skatepark before stopping by our friends at The Meatball Shop for some drinks and a quick appetizing tease of their food.


The night concluded with James Brown-like dancing and singing “Happy Birthday” on the street with a bunch of strangers before the cab ride home.

Day Three picked up where Day Two ended, with everyone at the festival—artists, crew, vendors and security guards—knowing a few of the Vita team by name, with Vita even getting a chance to sweet-talk their way onto the main stage to take pictures and video.

Yes, this was amazing.


Watching Bleachers from onstage during their set at Governor’s Ball.

With the opportunity to be onstage, Vita was seen taking photos with bands during and immediately after some of the biggest acts of the festival, handing out coffee and swag to make sure they were taken care of.


Members of The Bloody Beetroots proudly showing some of their swag from the Vita booth at Governor’s Ball.

Artists like Bleachers, Half Moon Run, Banks, The Bloody Beetroots, Tyler, the Creator and J. Cole are just a few of the acts that performed on the final day of the festival, with a few of the members of AlunaGeorge even taking a few Vita shirts to wear during a future set.

Wrapping up the weekend, artists were hooked up with both cold brew during the event and bags of our coffee in their trailers, proving that Vita is rolling with the in-crowd.


Head chef and owner of Black Tree on the Lower East Side, SandyDee Hall in front of his restaurant.

Sunday night concluded with a few drinks and dinner at Black Tree restaurant on the Lower East Side, which, not only serves Vita coffee and uses our grounds in a variety of their dishes, but also has some of the finest, most creative dishes we’ve ever tasted. If you ever get a chance to stop in, say hello to head chef and owner, Sandy Dee Hall—he’s a good dude to chat with.


Two of the Madman Espresso guys, with owner Mayer Sabag on the left.



The Bronte Burger at Ruby’s Cafe in SOHO.

Monday morning brought an opportunity for the Vita team to meet a few of the restaurants that either serve Vita or use our coffee in their recipes, with the team stopping by MadMan Espresso in Manhattan first, followed by a trip to Ruby’s Café around the Soho area of town—with a little quick trip to Maxim Magazine’s offices in-between to drop off some coffee.


The Vita team posing in front of some Maxim Magazine covers at the publication’s office in Manhattan.

The night concluded back at, surprise, surprise, Black Tree, where Sandy whipped up both dishes and drinks to cater to us during the restaurants Happy Hour before we all went our separate ways for the night.

With limited time before the flight out Tuesday, we had a few more chances to chat with interesting people around the city or associated with Caffe Vita—like world-renowned pastry chef, Pichet Ong and the good guys at Baby’s All Right in the Willamsburg section of Brooklyn, where you can read the interview here.


Nick Dimengo interviewing Baby’s All Right Executive Chef, Ronald Murray, during the Vita crew’s trip to the Williamsburg restaurant.

After a few hours of running around the city, taking in some sights and getting a sense of how Vita is represented all the way across the country,  we made our way to the airport to call it a trip, thankful for the opportunity to show what we’re made of in the city that never sleeps.

Cheers to Governor’s Ball and the city of New York, you may have worn us out and beat us to hell, but we had a great time trying to keep up—thank goodness we had coffee to do so.