By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
Westword: What's it like for you to play for a crowd who's come to see Nine Inch Nails?
Matt Johnson: We actually really like trying to win people over. I feel we're accessible, and we play a style of music that I like to think you can get into on a first listen. We try to just be ourselves on stage and be inviting rather than that stone-cold, too-cool-for-school thing. Just our dorky selves.
Is playing with Against Me! another situation where you're going to be playing for a crowd that wouldn't come out to see just you guys?
I don't know; I keep hearing that. People saying, "What? That doesn't make sense." But I really think it does make sense. I mean the first times that I saw Against Me! were in basements up in Portland, Maine, and it was really the same feel as our loft shows; maybe musically we sound different, but the vibe was the same, where everyone would just be packed in and just dancing and there to have fun. Kim and I listen to mostly hip-hop and pop punk, and you can really see our music is derivative of that. We don't listen to a lot of rock music or "indie" rock — I'm putting that in quotes. We hear a lot of bands who we could possibly tour with who just don't fit. We think in really more of a punk-rock way as far as our stage show goes. A lot of stage diving.
It seems like your music is rooted not only in that classic punk ethic, but aesthetic as well.
I'm not a piano player; I play two keyboards, one like a bass and one like a guitar, and Kim just loves to wail on the drums. I don't write love songs; I never will write a love song. I don't write political songs, either, but we write a lot of songs about figuring your life out.
Your music is really stripped down. What drew you to that sound?
Kim and I dated for years before we ever started playing music together. Kim just really wanted to learn how to play drums, and I had found one of my keyboards in my neighbor's garage. So I was trying to figure out how to play keyboards, and she was trying to figure out how to play drums. I guess we had no choice but simplicity, because neither of us were masters of our instruments. But, essentially, that works out; people respond to the simplest beat. Just listen to "We Will Rock You." Listening to hip-hop, a lot of songs will have one continuous melody that goes over the top of the whole thing; it gives you something to hook into and hold on to, and so I use that in a lot of our songs.