MUSIC: Matt & Kim dare the hipsters to get happy
By Andrea Warner
Indie-band stereotypes abound in pop duo Matt and Kim. Based in Brooklyn? Yep. Met in art school? ’Natch. Nerdy glasses, tight jeans, and a nasal twang? Of course. And yet, Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino have one major quality that sets them apart from the other too-cool-for-school hipster bands who practice their pouts before propping up their instruments: They are the happiest damn people ever, and they’re not afraid to show it.
Matt & Kim’s brand of dance-punk-pop music sounds, at first listen, like kids goofing off in their parents’ basement — which isn’t far from the truth. The couple fell in love six years ago, made art, and decided to take up learning new instruments. Rather than focus on chords and scales, Kim banged away on the drums, Matt plunked out melodies on his keyboard, and they began writing songs by way of practicing.
The duo’s live shows and online presence garnered them a rabid fan base of kids who love to dance, thrash, and fling themselves with wild abandon. While preparing to embark on a North American tour for their new album, The Grand, Matt checked in last week from NYC.
I visited your MySpace page earlier today and one of your fans wrote, “I was listening to ‘Daylight’ [from Grand] earlier today, and my older brother asked, ‘Is this Weird Al?’”
Johnson: (laughs for a long time) Nice. I haven’t seen that comment yet, but I remember thinking true success was if Weird Al parodied one of your songs.
I was watching videos of your live shows and you look really happy onstage. What do you love about performing?
What is there not to love about performing, you know? There are so many bands who look really bored, and I don’t really get that — that’s more confusing to me. Playing music was always something I only did because I really like doing it. It had been an expensive habit for years, and now somehow I make a living doing it. We do it ’cause it’s fun. Kim, though — if she’s terrified, she just starts laughing and smiling. It’s sort of her defense. If she’s really nervous, too, in the movie theatre, if someone’s getting cut to pieces, she’s just laughing hysterically, so people just think she’s totally fucked up.
Was there anything different for you in writing Grand?
Oh, yeah, it was completely different. The first one [2006’s self-titled debut album], I mean, the songs we’d written were from within the first year we’d started even trying to play, and also we recorded that in nine days. This new recording we did over nine months. We were touring so much, every couple weeks we’d come back and work on it for a week. But it gave us a fresh perspective, like, “Oh, yeah, that sucks” or “That works.”
The dance-punk sound has really flourished in the last couple of years. Do you think it’s an emotional antidote to the political and economic climate? Are we just desperate for something joyful?
Well, in New York, for a long time there were these types of bands that were just too worried about looking cool to have any fun. I think people are just wanting to have fun with music again and have fun at shows again. And maybe that is part of all this shit that’s happening. Finally, I think, things are looking up. January 20th is coming, and Mr. Obama will be in.
Yeah, the national tension level should ease in about a week.
And it’s the day our album comes out. A pretty important day in American history. (laughs) ￼