“I apologize for my voice and my sniffles … I just came back from Coachella,” says Andrew “Fitz” Fitzpatrick ’11. "It was the best. I’m going to go every year, I think 'til I die."
Fitz, better known to the Internet as @80Fitz, is calling from West Hollywood, his home for two years. After graduating with a marketing degree, the former MadHatter moved home to Minneapolis for a job with Target. Then, after 15 months behind a desk, the aspiring musician quit his job, moved to Los Angeles, and hoped for the best.
"The best" is exactly what happened. After settling in LA, Fitz teamed up with Jay Walker to form the Digital Kicks, and their debut album, Losing Gravity, charted on iTunes. He became a Vine star, gaining more than 740,000 followers … and the attention of Grammy-winning producer Ben Bram (of NBC’s The Sing-Off and a cappella group Pentatonix). Now Fitz is on the big screen in Pitch Perfect 2, alongside Anna Kendrick, Elizabeth Banks, and the Green Bay Packers.
Your first movie, Pitch Perfect 2, comes out on May 15. How stoked are you?
I’m excited, but I’m kind of nervous, too! It’s my first project on this scale. I want the beatboxing to be represented well— that’s what I’m nervous about. But I’m excited for people to see it!
Why should everyone get excited about it?
It is packed with surprises. People that you’d never expect are going to be there. There’ll be scenes where you’re like, ‘WHAT? How did they get this guy?!’
And now you’re chillin’ with Flula Borg, the German YouTube star? What’s that about?
*He laughs a laugh that would make the Tin Man go weak in the knees* Flula and I became really good friends on set! We did one of his Auto Tunes videos, and it was super fun. He’s a genius.
Also, the Packers are in this movie.
Yeah! I did some behind-the-scenes work with Clay [Matthews] and the rest of the Packers. It was insane! Universal wanted Flula and [me] to do some beatboxing and freestyle stuff with them, so we went around on their tour bus.
I guess I have to ask … You’re from Minnesota: Packers or Vikings?
I’m a Packer fan! You go to school in Wisconsin, and you can’t help but love the Packers and the Badgers.
If you could transport anything from Madison to LA, what would it be?
Ohhhhhh, my god, I’d bring the Rathskeller! I’d put the Rathskeller on the corner across from me, and I’d never leave it!
You were in the MadHatters — is that how your beatboxing career took off?
Absolutely! More than anything, the ’Hatters are responsible for changing my life. I was a beatboxer in high school, but I kept it to myself. I remember I was in Gordon Commons, and these dudes in red jackets strolled in and started singing. I thought, ‘I could do that!’ I saw that they were auditioning, and a couple days later, I was their beatboxer for the next four years.
Your Vine is just crazy: you have almost 800,000 followers.
It weirded me out back when I hit 50,000 followers, about a year and a half ago. It was kind of terrifying to post! It took a while to get over the fact that that many people actively clicked ‘Follow.’ Now I don’t really think about the response quite as much as I used to. It could drive you crazy.
Do you ever feel super goofy, just running around your apartment making these?
*There’s that laugh again…* Yeah … You’re always kind of always checking yourself. Like, what am I doing? I’m running around, making weird noises and singing, dressed up in this weird outfit with these other Viners. It’s so weird to me sometimes. My life is nuts.
You said you went on Vine when you moved to LA. Was that a marketing move?
Yup, 100 percent. At the time, it was a tool to promote my album and try to build a fan base. I was a little let down that I didn’t end up with a publishing deal, but I still have all these people who are interested in the things that I’m doing. And now I make a living doing it.
How does that work? Do you have sponsors?
I have enough of a follower base that brands like Verizon, Budweiser, Intel, and Sony are interested in using my skill and niche on Vine to promote branded content. I’ll work with an agency to come up with a Vine, which they’ll approve and I’ll post. It’s kind of come full circle: I’m basically a contract marketer right now, and I went to school for marketing.
That’s such a great example of how drastically the job and media landscape is changing.
It’s really interesting. It’s a delicate balance because I don’t want to be spamming people. That’s not my intention. If I can make a living doing this, that’s great! I can make better content, and more content, for all the people who are interested in the beatboxing and music that I do. At first I was leery about it, but I think the kids understand. You’re going to get ads every now and then if you want people to continue making stuff, for free!
What advice do you have for soon-to-be graduates?
Have no fear. Don’t be afraid to put your stuff out there. I think for the longest time, I had a mental block, especially when I was working at Target. What if people don’t like my music? What if people think I’m weird? In order to be successful at anything, and in order to carve your own path, you can’t have any fear. But, you have to spend time in the lab. You have to spend those 10,000 hours making sure you’re good. But you have to break down that fear and post, put stuff out there, and work at it.