Matt Johnson of indie pop duo Matt and Kim discusses forthcoming album and their one-of-a-kind performances
I saw Matt and Kim for the first time when I was 15-years-old. My parents dropped me and two friends at the show in Detroit — untrusting of my older friend who offered to take me — before heading to Greektown Casino. Prior to that day, I had never been to a standing room show, having only tagged along to concerts with my family to see Zac Brown Band or Kenny Chesney perform at arenas. Over the years, I’ve seen Matt and Kim play progressively larger stages in front of bigger and bigger crowds, each time going toe-to-toe with their growing fan base’s enthusiasm. Despite the changes that the passing years have brought for the duo, they’ve managed to hold onto a unique sense of bliss and belonging that spills into their crowds and floods the bodies of everyone dancing and singing along. Almost six years after that fateful day in Detroit, I still owe its magnetic atmosphere for most of my love for live music to this very day.
In an interview with The Daily, keyboardist / vocalist Matt Johnson (who composes one half of the duo alongside drummer/vocalist Kim Schifino) discusses the signature energy of a Matt and Kim show, his relationship with Kim and their forthcoming album Almost Everyday, which is set to release on May 4.
Discussing his experiences and priorities as the musician on the stage, Johnson highlights the importance of crowd interaction at their shows, which produces incredibly spirited results.
“A huge thing for us for years, as we grew and got bigger — the rooms got bigger, festivals, whatever — it was how to keep it all about everybody in the room, not just the two people on stage,” Johnson said. “Like, when we first started out we were playing in little warehouses in Brooklyn where we’d be on the floor with everyone else, and it was just this party/vibe energy: we’re all doing this together.”
While I’ve never seen them play on the floor of a warehouse, I can attest to “this party/vibe energy” of their shows. The attendees never stop moving, crowd surfers bask in an unnamed glory atop the hands in the crowd, while people jump and sing to every song. Johnson’s voice is welcoming in tone, inviting the fans to sing along with a budding happiness growing up and outward with every passing minute.
Supplementing the accessibility of their indie pop, Matt and Kim know how to take their performance to the next level through crowd interaction. They blast confetti, toss balloons and literally dance on top of the crowd (while encouraging their fans to do the same).
“It’s like breaking that wall in the front. Just trying to get everyone to dance and jump around, that energy is what makes the show,” Johnson said.
Beyond their crowd interactions, Johnson also reflected on the importance of his relationship with Schifino. Both share a confident, breezy charisma that is intensified by their dynamic, playful jokes and back-and-forth banter — for example, Schifino joked about Johnson’s enjoyment of “pegging” at Mo Pop in 2017.
“I assume people connect to seeing two people who really do love each other on stage — that could go for any sort of friendship to any escalation … I’ve seen bands that have a tough time getting along, and I think sometimes that energy comes on the stage,” Johnson explained.
Johnson also elaborated on their carefree attitude in performance that adds to this energy: “We make so many mistakes, we’re imperfect, we’re no sort of virtuoso instrumentalists, but there’s an energy we try to create that we get wrapped up in, and I think that the audience gets wrapped up in it, too.”
We then discussed Matt and Kim’s upcoming release Almost Everyday, where the duo makes a noticeable jump towards electro-pop without abandoning the signature simplicity of their melodies. Yet, Johnson noted that the state of the world around them had a much larger influence in the writing of their new album in comparison to their past work.
“It came from somewhat of a different place than all of the albums that preceded it. Mostly because it was about getting some stuff off our chest and some feelings we were having on a year that was tough. Because Kim was recovering from surgery, and just out in the political climate it was so difficult and bad things were happening,” Johnson said. “You know, a lot more of our albums, lyrically, came from a different perspective, a more everyday perspective. This ended up a lot more personal, these sort of realer things we were going through.”
This idea threads through the album, rationalizing internally what is happening externally. First single “Forever” explores the difficulties of living in a “world of shit,” while “All In My Head” features only a few cries of the title over waves of crashing cymbals and interjected horns, almost like a reflection on the chaotically fluctuating nature of living in today’s world. The duo asks “How do you wake from a nightmare?” on final track “Where Do We Go From Here?” while perforating this uncertainty with quips of positivity in the song’s last minute.
The unifying force of Matt and Kim’s music is the pursuit of happiness, and this is far from abandoned on Almost Everyday; speaking to their decision on the title, Johnson explained: “It just seemed like we were just dealing with more tough shit, more tough news and all of that ‘almost everyday.’ They’re just like us, working through the difficulties of everyday life that might seem a little more oppressive and omnipresent in 2018, but they certainly haven’t let that negativity warp the cheeriness of their music.
On Apr. 19, Matt and Kim will be performing at Royal Oak Music Theater, undoubtedly ready to ignite one hell of a fire under the feet of the crowd and hopefully with a few new tricks up their sleeve from Almost Everyday. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.