The musical juggernaut that is Tantrum - four women singing and dancing on stage, a few guys on the instruments just off stage - delivers crazy-sexy-sassy party music at its best.
Billie Bullock, Tiffany Bullock, Jamie Lantz and Shannon Ecret of Tantrum perform at Vapour Lounge Feb. 27.
Their mix of covers is like turning on WZPL for a couple of hours: Britney, Christina, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, plus the occasional oldie (you haven't heard mad covers until you get the Beatles' "Come Together" in four-part female pop harmony).
Ironically enough, they're better singers than most of the pop tarts out there, which makes the music entertaining even if you're not the kind of person who digs Britney or Christina. No two of them sound alike, and they do a good job bridging styles between pop, R&B and straight-up rap, sometimes in the same song. And they have a rock-solid work ethic. Their recent show at Vapour Lounge featured two 75-minute sets, fully choreographed, and that's shorter than most of their shows on tour, where they average three hours.
Truth is, the idea of Spice Girls/Destiny's Child/Britney action on stage as a local act doesn't really sound that good on paper. But in practice, it works. Devoid of giant stadiums and masses of hangers-on, but with the same elaborate light shows and performances scripted down to the last step, Tantrum's show has a certain charm and appeal, and not just from the smokin' out-front sexuality. It's massive arena entertainment, but up close and in your face.
There's more to their sound than just hours of pop covers. They drop in an original every couple of songs, testing out the reaction. Call it stealth marketing. I liked a lot of their originals more than the covers, myself; the composition showed strong influence from '80s techno, early New Wave and later R&B, a bit of reggae and 1960s girl bands. Don't ask me how the blend works; it just does. So when their album comes out, hopefully later this year, it'll be worth checking out.
With an elaborate light show and zero pause between songs, it's one of the most relentlessly entertaining shows you'll see anywhere in the city - a nonstop burst of diva rock-starlet stylings.
The whole undertaking was the brainchild of manager/producer Jim Albrecht, who assembled Tiffany Bullock, Jamie Lantz and Shannon Ecret in 2001 and recruited Tiffany's sister Billie a few months ago. The band keeps up a relentless schedule, playing around the city, touring the country and doing corporate events. In the meantime, they keep working (and working, and working) on an album that they expect to release later this year.
NUVO: So how is the album coming along?
Jamie: Every time we get real close we write something else we like better or we go back to one of the old ones and revamp it. That's what we're aiming to do right now: define an ending point.
Tiffany: We just tend to reinvent ourselves with every song rather than every album.
NUVO: What kind of sound is Tantrum going for?
Tiffany: If you go by our original music, we're like every genre possible. We've got everything from techno to straight-out rap. We're basically pop. Whatever makes people happy. ... I think that's a part of why it's so hard in town, because there's a lot of great rock bands, and nobody does pop music around this scene. I think it's hard to appreciate a show like ours. It's really high-energy. We just basically want to keep people dancing. Recently, we've gotten a great choreographer. We're working our asses off, literally, because we're all out of shape. So we're trying to get a show together where we're moving all the time.
Jim: Everybody here has an interest in making some kind of mark in show business. We're musicians in show business. A lot of groups would just get together and go out and play, and we've still had that aspect of it, but if what you had was four beautiful women, what would you do?
Shannon: It's the fact that we cover all genres.
Jim: We're not afraid to say that we want to appeal to the masses and say we want to have a popular hit. We're not trying to go through the back door.
Tiffany: Hot chicks with good music. That's the general idea.
Jamie: What we all like about it is that we've all been in music in one way or another in our lives, and we've seen the live acts, and we're nothing like anything you see out there. Even the covers that we do are Tantrum-ized. We each have our own style, whether it's through ad-libs or changing the arrangement. The best thing about all of it is that we sneak our originals in there and people are singing along even though it's the first time they've heard it.
NUVO: What's your reception been like in Indianapolis as compared to on tour?
Jamie: I think we surprise Indy. They don't know what to do with us. Because we have so many acoustic or hard rock bands here that do a lot of covers. Outside of Indy I think that people think we're huge rock stars! They rush the stage and want autographs!
Tiffany: There's no category to put us in.
Jamie: So every time we do a show around here it's like, they go into shock and it's whoa, what are we doing?
Shannon: If we leave and make it big and come back, we'll be big because then we'll be the hometown girls who made it big.
Tiffany: Indy and the Midwest have to be told from the coast what to like! What to wear, what to do ... Once people see the show, they like it, because they get to know us. We're talking to them the whole time; they come to understand, "Oh, these aren't just Britney Spears chicks, they work their asses off just like us."
Jamie: We tried to get into Midwest Music Summit, and they turned us down. They just want their rock and acoustic acts.
Shannon: I think we could change Indy. I think we could win over their close-mindedness. With enough energy and crowd involvement we could win them over in the end and get their heads nodding and feet dancing.
NUVO: Really, your whole sound could be described as Spice Girls meets Blondie, but even that's kind of limiting. Even though it's pop-centered, it covers a lot of genres.
Jim: We like hating Britney Spears just as much as everyone else!
Tiffany: She's just fun to hate. Maybe that's what we should be aiming for.
Jim: We've got to compete with other pop stars for room on the charts and places on people's minds. We haven't reinvented music. We're just being as creative as we are able in the most competitive genre. And I think we have a lot of competition to bring.
Seth Hale (choreographer): I don't care if we're playing to five people or 50,000 people, it's got to be the same show every time. We have to blow the rafters off the place. These girls have immense talent, they don't even know how much talent they have.
NUVO: Once you get this album complete, where do you plan to go from there?
Jim: A lot of bands, they have a lot of talent, they have great motivation, but then they get their chance and they fall short. We're already preparing for that moment for when it comes. We're trying to be ready to respond for the moment we get lucky.
Shannon: They give us one break, and we'll do the rest.
Tantrum's next show is April 15 at John Wayne's. For more information, upcoming shows and mp3s of their original songs, check out www.tantrumonline.com.