Matt Johnson of Matt & Kim Talks SB 1070, Fighting Kim, and Getting Naked in Times Square
Matt & Kim
You'll never see another musical duo that's as energetic and excited about playing music as indie rockers Matt & Kim. There's just two of them, but they put on one hell of a great show. The first thing their concertgoers often notice is how happy they are when they perform: vocalist/keyboardist Matt Johnson jumps around with excitement, and drummer Kim Schifino loves beating the shit out of the drums and can't stop smiling.
Up On The Sun: Duos like The Black Keys and Death From Above 1979 have found great success. What is it about playing in a pair that works so well? You guys produce a lot of sound for two people.
Matt Johnson: As far as my history, I've played in bands with four of five people in it. Sometimes it's really hard to make any sort of decision on anything. But as far as writing music, everyone has different ideas about what they want the song to sound like. You're kind of compromising for everybody until the song is so watered down at the end that it just isn't so focused. But many times, bands with four or five people in them work out great with a lot of different ideas. They come together and make something awesome. But that just hasn't been my experience. The two of us, Kim and I, we've always worked together well even before we made music together. It sort of made sense.
I heard you're planning on going back into the studio this winter to work on a new album. Tell me everything.
Well I don't know anything about it yet! That's the beauty. Well I do know that we're going to totally produce it ourselves. We recorded and produced our second album, Grand, all [by] ourselves. And then with Sidewalks, we worked at a studio with a different producer. We're very happy with both albums, but we're excited to go back in and just do it all ourselves again. I think that's the purest way: when it's just Matt and Kim working on it. I guess by this interview, you can already tell I don't play well with others, unless it's Kim.
Let's touch upon the award-winning music video for "Lessons Learned." The cops got you guys after you shocked and disturbed a lot of people on your stroll through Times Square, but you managed to make a break for it. What was your interaction like with the NYPD? They can be rough sometimes. Considering it was the NYPD, I always had a feeling that that part wasn't staged.
We shot that music video in three takes. Different police came up to us each time because we were just shooting in Times Square, which is not generally allowed. It's very hard to get a permit to shoot there. We had gotten a permit to shoot a web promotional video, so we had this piece of paper with a city stamp on it that was able to get us out of any trouble. We ended up having one cop apologize after they saw the permit, like, "I'm sorry for interrupting." In the end, they're just doing their job.
The music video for "Cameras" is awesome too. There's bloodshed! There's food thrown across the room! Instruments get smashed! I have to say it's exciting to watch, and it must have been fun to film.
It was! Kim will say that was her favorite video of ours to make. She's super into any sorts of action movies and things like that. If you sit next to her and you're watching whatever...it could be Blade or something like that...she'll be throwing elbows at you. I always picture her kicking ass. And then when I had the idea for that video...it was fun, but it was really hard.
We did two days of rehearsal beforehand with these real fight choreographers who set the whole thing up and had done big action movies like 300 or The Bourne Identity or The Matrix, or really anything where Keanu Reaves is kicking ass. We were so sore! Not from being hit or anything like that, but it's just that every punch was about shifting your weight from this toe to this toe, and you have to do this thing with your other hand. It's all the things that sell it on the camera. I didn't even know I had hamstrings until they were killing me on the second day of rehearsal!
The album Grand was recorded in a bedroom at your parents' house. Why did it feel more comfortable to record there rather than in a studio?
We had done that one there, and we made the decision because we had done our first album in a studio in LA. There wasn't really much money to make our first album. It was just self-titled. It was called Matt & Kim. We only had so many days, specifically about a week, to record. It just felt restrictive. We couldn't really try anything we wanted to try. And when we were planning out Grand, again, we didn't have a ton of money to make it. So we thought, "Let's just do this ourselves somewhere where we don't have to worry about how much time it's taking, where we can do this thing how we want to."
That's where we came up with the idea just to do it there. And when we did Sidewalks, we had more finances and we were able to record in a studio and work with who knew how to help us record music. [That way] we could focus more on songs and less on the technical parts of these things. But now I have an understanding of these technical parts, and that's why we want to try it again.
Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance's Honda Civic Tour is currently touring the country, and you'll be making a stop in Tempe for Fall Frenzy next weekend. My Chemical Romance chose to opt out of this show because they don't support Arizona's SB 1070 law. Of course, it's fair for them to protest it, but do you think it's fair that the fans in Arizona are getting punished for something our government is doing?
I actually had kind of an extensive conversation about this just last night. I do understand this angle in a way, but I think the fans are the ones who get punished. I realize that aside from all the decisions my government makes and all of that, my world kind of operates within these shows and making people inspired that way, like what Kim and I do. I feel like if we can just get people excited to get off the couch and go out and do things, then that's sort of a better direction then sort of cutting something off.
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