A lot of musicians tell stories about coming from humble beginnings, but for Brooklynites Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino, their rise to fame includes small venues in a city called Mobile, Ala.—a residential home and local coffee shop to be exact.
“We totally played in Mobile,” Johnson said. “I remember playing in someone’s living room. There’s a coffee shop, I don’t know if it still exists, but this would have been I’d say eight or nine years ago. But, I remember a coffee shop show that was really great. We played on the floor.”
Together, the pair makes up the dynamic-duo powerhouse known as Matt and Kim, and together they have racked up many notable accolades including three MTV awards: A Breakthrough Video Music Award and a mtvU Best Video Woodie Award for “Lessons Learned,” as well as a 2011 award for Best Live Band.
With over hundreds of performances under their belts, Matt and Kim are no strangers to the festival circuits either, having played Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo in addition to many international festivals.
However, Johnson still relates closely to the house party era, citing memories of the Gulf Coast area and a time where they frequented a friend’s house in Pensacola, Fla. Though their parties have undoubtedly expanded into a much, much larger affair, Matt and Kim conjure the same dance-vibe atmosphere where people, whether 40 or 40,000, just want to jump around and have fun.
“I have fond memories of those days until the cops started coming and breaking things up,” Johnson said. “It’s sort of the hanging out on the front porch, everyone showing up and starting a ruckus thing, but at the same time, fast forward to Lollapalooza with 40,000 people in front of you, and I feel like the vibe has continued in the sense that the madness has continued of looking out into this audience that’s just out of control.”
Known for their high-energy and in-your-face live performances, it comes as no surprise that crazy stage antics like climbing scaffolding come in to play. But, does this concern Johnson’s band mate? Eh, maybe just a little bit.
“Yeahhh,” Johnson said about whether or not Schifino worries about his behavior on stage. “Yet, at the same time, maybe it’s something to laugh at.”
Johnson recalled a time just last year when Matt and Kim played on a “weird” stage in Canada that had a moat in front. On a whim, Johnson climbed up light scaffolding and jumped off. He successfully landed on his feet but lost his balance, which sent him plummeting into the moat.
“I proceeded to climb my way out of the water, slip again and fall back into the moat as the whole audience is watching,” Johnson said. “The first time I got up, everyone cheered. Then I fell back again.”
Perhaps it is the romantic connection and musical chemistry between Matt and Kim that ignites all this energy, but whatever the case, something is certainly working to their advantage.
“It works out really well because we’re two people who are really on the same page,” Johnson said. “There’s not a lot of conflict for us. I know there are a lot of bands who have a lot of conflict internally, and that’s not the case with us. I think that’s what keeps our energy up because we’re not wasting it on other things, but at the same time, I don’t think it would work for every couple because there’s many couples out there that if they spent half as much time together, they’d get in more fights than any band I’ve ever seen. We kind of lucked out. It just works for us.”
Despite all of their accomplishments, the can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head melodies and electric live performances, Johnson insists it’s all about keeping it simple when it comes to the variables contributing to the success of Matt and Kim.
“I think it’s keeping a simple, focused idea, and that’s how we think whether it’s any of those [music, videos or live performances],” Johnson said. “We just come up with what we hope to be a clever, fun idea whether that’s for a song, video or whatever and then execute it in the simplest way and keep it as pure as possible.”
“Lightning,” the latest release and fourth full-length album from Matt and Kim, debuted in 2012 with their single “Let’s Go” peaking at number 20 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart.
Opposed to their previous, more “polished” album titled “Sidewalks,” which was released in 2010, Johnson said “Lightning” is more stripped down whereas the band produced, mixed and recorded the album themselves.
“It’s just keeping the idea focused, not getting lost in layers and layers of instrumentation and polish,” Johnson said. “We just wanted it (“Lightning”) to be a raw version of Matt and Kim.”
While it’s been nearly two years since Matt and Kim released a full-length album, Johnson confirms the band is “not slacking” and has fresh material in the works, slated to begin taking form this winter.
“We’re working on new music with the intention of really surprising ourselves as well as everyone else,” Johnson said.
Matt and Kim are currently on tour, performing at a string of festivals across the United States. They are also on the bill for Spain’s Arenal Sound in July.
“I feel lucky that we get to do this together,” Johnson said. “Any ‘wins’ we have, we get to enjoy together, and any times we really just a blow a show, we can talk through each other’s day. For us, it’s the best case scenario.”
“Say, ‘hi’ to Mobile for me,” Johnson concluded. “It’s definitely been too long.”
Matt and Kim
Date: Saturday, May 17 at 4:45 p.m.
Stage: Chevrolet Stage