Matt & Kim Discuss Summer Fests, Life Outside of Touring + Their Place in the Music Landscape
Indie-pop duo Matt & Kim haven’t stopped since the release of their latest effort, ‘Lightening,’ last fall. With Bonnaroo, Firefly, and more festivals coming up, Matt Johnson chatted with PopCrush — head there for part one of the interview, which wraps here at Diffuser.fm — about the challenges of performing at festivals as opposed to regular gigs (and why he prefers it), and what he and Kim Schifino like to do with their free time, if any. Johnson also chimes in on the recent merger of pop and rock, and where Matt & Kim fall into that music landscape.
We are doing a lot of festivals this year, and I know that some of them are announced and some aren’t announced, I’m not sure which one’s which but in general, we really like playing festivals, because people go out with a sort of open mind and people — [who] maybe haven’t come and seen that tune [played] before or maybe heard the name or something — came to check us out. I feel like even [if] we play a simple enough/energetic enough show that on a first launch or first listen we can grab you and make you a fan. So we take that as the challenge.
You guys recorded a ballad for ‘Lightening’ called ‘Ten Dollars I Found.’ Do you guys plan on doing more duets?
Well, on all of our albums, we try to get a least one down-tempo song. But yeah, we hadn’t done much singing together. The thing is, I really like Kim’s voice, but she hates to sing when she plays drums, because the way she drums — some drummers use their wrists, but she uses her full arms, and can’t be bothered to sing. Actually, when we sing that live, there’s no drums; so she just sings that by herself now, and it’s cool. I wanna get her singing more and more, so stuff like that might get us closer [to doing more duets].
Watch the ‘Ten Dollars I Found’ Lyric Video
What do you guys do for fun when you’re not recording, performing and touring?
There’s not a lot of time that falls into that category, but for fun… I work on music for fun. It was my hobby before it became my job, and then when it became my job, there wasn’t much help in the hobby department. So creatively, Kim, she worked on the fine arts stuff and had gallery shows and stuff like that, and she tries to work on art when we’re not [touring and recording], but in a non-creative way, we have plenty of TV series we follow. It’s a good wind down for us.
And Kim used to be a competitive runner, right?
Yeah, she ran all throughout high school and held many track records and cross country records in Rhode Island and then went to Penn State on a running scholarship, but she was there for about a year and just realized she couldn’t do it. She thought the coach was really — her coach had all her teeth rotted out from bulimia. Distance running, it’s all about staying very low weight, and Kim’s so tiny, but she went home Christmas break with her coach being like, “You need to lose 10 pounds if you wanna do anything this spring season.” It seemed really destructive, and so she decided to leave Penn State and go to our school [Pratt], and that’s how we met!
Is she still running, recreationally?
Yeah, more and more. She wasn’t for awhile and had some consistent injury from the running — but more and more, and on the bike. She’s a very driven person, and that’s something that’s been very helpful to the band, and I attribute a lot of it to an athletic background. But if she never ran again — you [still] have this drive that breathes into you, like you have been used to waking up at 5 in the morning to go run miles at a time.
I think that there’s as many radio stations where rock music sort of stopped with Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots and ’90s rock bands. I think they’re realizing that the use is not as oriented to listening to those bands. You know, it’s complicated. There’s advertisers that are involved. The demographics you’re shooting for — a lot of people I even went to high school with, that’s where music stopped, was with those bands. Radio’s complicated, but we’re very appreciative of any radio station that’s willing to take a chance on Matt & Kim.
I know that, I think how you explained it, we’re in-between a lot of places — we’re not a rock band, we’re not a dance band. We’re between a lot of things, so we can go to a town and really see the difference, because people hear the music and connect, but I understand we’re tough to fit into a playlist. But as you said, hopefully, it isn’t the case, [and] that the landscape is changing a little bit more to fit in all these bands better who are playing somewhat of an indie, angst kind of music.
I like things what I call “mid-vibe,” where it doesn’t sound too glossy or anything like that. I think that kind of makes it so we don’t always “act” appropriate for the radio. I think “mid-vibe” feeling [gives it] a bit more humanity… We’re into having a personality and being human.