Two years before starting the wildly exuberant keyboard-drum duo Matt and Kim, Matt Johnson met Kim Schifino at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute — and he was instantly intimidated.
“I grew up in a small town in Vermont,” Johnson says, “and I’m a little bit younger than Kim is — and here’s this girl with tattoos and a little bit older than me. I’m like a country boy from Vermont, essentially. She gave me her number, and I was too scared to call. And then she saw me again, and she cursed me out for not calling her, because she’s the very forward one.
“It took a minute to get past it,” he recalls. “I think it actually took one more meeting for her to really get it to happen, but not because I wasn’t intrigued — because I was scared. Maybe I still am a little scared.”
If Johnson is still scared of his bandmate and partner, he sure doesn’t show it on stage. The performers display a rambunctious energy that transfers to their audience. Johnson says their shows’ reputation precedes them, so fans know there will be a lot of dancing: “It’s not about just standing there looking at your feet or whatever.
“I see that year after year, show after show,” he continues. “When I see an excited audience, there’s nothing I can do but get excited; that completely feeds the energy of the show. It would be impossible to do in an empty room. It’s just completely a cyclical thing: We give the audience energy, they give us energy back, and we just keep winding up until the end.”
Johnson looks at Matt and Kim’s live shows as an extension of the duo. Schifino has a smile on her face through entire concerts, he notes — and that’s who she is.
“I think there’s something about being a band that’s real,” Johnson says. “Certainly there was a time — and maybe it’s coming to an end — where [performers] are kind of ‘too cool’ on stage, where [they] just look bored. So you’re just watching these bands look bored when they play, and that’s really boring to watch. I think it’s just important to be real if you’re playing from an excited place like we do.”
That buoyant energy extends to their albums, like last year’s New Glow and the new four-song EP We Were the Weirdos, which was just released on the Fader imprint. They were inspired to write the latter after returning from a European tour in April; they recorded the material after the first weekend at Coachella and released it during the second weekend.
“It was really cool to get to do it that way,” Johnson says of recording the EP in a week. “We typically have spent so long on most of our albums — like months.”
But Johnson, who played guitar and bass in punk bands in high school, has always admired albums that were made quickly, such as NOFX’s Punk in Drublic, which was done in a week, and Against Me!’s Reinventing Axl Rose, which was made in one day.
“Sometimes not being able to overthink things is a really good thing, where you go with your first thought and you don’t polish off all the rough edges — because sometimes the rough edges are what makes it exciting,” he says. “In the end, [these were] some of the favorite songs we’ve made.”
The bandmates, who have released some creative videos over the past decade, just released one for “Let’s Run Away,” from We Were the Weirdos. The inspiration came from a video that Swiss skier Nicholas Vuignier filmed with a Centriphone. Vuignier invented the device using a smartphone mount attached to fishing line; for his video, it was swung around over his head to give a bullet-time effect, à la The Matrix. Johnson and Schifino came up with their own version, using a GoPro camera mounted to a wooden hanger.
Although they spent a good portion of the production time trying not to get hit by the device (Schifino did take it in the face once), and their version of the Centriphone took a few crashes itself, they came up with some fabulous results for the video — even if they didn’t get actor Kevin Bacon to make a cameo for the lyric “I see you, Kevin Bacon.”
“We tried really hard to get him in the video,” Johnson says. “We had our ‘people’ reaching out to his people, saying I wanted him to just, for that one moment, spin the camera around his head and kind of do that thing where he points at his eyes and points at the camera, but we couldn’t get in touch.”
Matt and Kim
Westword Music Showcase, 6:05 p.m., Saturday, June 25, Coors Light Main Stage, 12th Avenue and Acoma Street, westwordshowcase.com.
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