Fits: Paradise Found

On its debut album, Fits does more in 21 minutes than most bands do in twice that time

Fits singer, guitarist and songwriter Nicholas Cummins—who identifies as gender nonbinary—says the band isn’t out to break the rules of rock ’n’ roll. “I’m not a gender revolutionary,” says Cummins. “We’re making the music we make because it’s who we are.”

Despite what they say (Cummins prefers the pronouns “they”/“them,” rather than “he”/“him” or “she”/“her”), the music Cummins makes with Fits on debut album All Belief Is Paradise (Father/Daughter) is groundbreaking. The 12 tunes come at you full force, cramming a lifetime of songwriting into a compact 21-minute blast. Loud, hard, fast pop/punk tunes are married to droning ambient sounds to create wide-open scenarios that frequently abandon verse/chorus structure in favor of unfettered emotion.

Cummins grew up in a small Pennsylvania town, where they had no way to express their feelings. “I played football and baseball, but I wanted to play with my sister’s dolls, too,” says Cummins. “By the time I was 14, I was dyeing my hair black and wearing anti-George W. ‘Not My President’ T-shirts. My mom was mentally ill, and anything you said could send her back to the hospital, so I never said what I was feeling out loud.”

Playing bass in a high-school punk band helped, but after relocating to Philadelphia, then Brooklyn, Cummins started writing the songs that would become All Belief Is Paradise. “With the help of my friends in Brooklyn, the memos on my iPhone became the songs that Fits is playing,” says Cummins. “Everyone (drummer Brian Orante, guitarist Joe Galarraga and bassist Emma Witmer) contributes their own parts to the arrangements. They’re a little wider and not as compact as they were when I played them as a duo with Brian. They take more of a meandering route, even though everything’s still packed into two minutes. The songs allow me to view my life with a healthy perspective and see where I am and where I’ve been.”

—j. poet