A Q & A with Matt and Kim’s Matt Johnson
Indie-pop duo Matt and Kim have always been inexhaustible beacons of Below , Johnson tells Billboard about writing optimistic music for troubled With this video and song, it seems like you're experiencing a nostalgia for. Matt & Kim Passion Pit Starfucker Mgmt Foster The People Young The Giant Vampire Weekend Pas/cal Cut Off Your Hands Walk The Moon Crystal Castles The. That's how Matt Johnson of Matt and Kim describes the eponymous indie duo's Johnson says it's also their most personal album to date; they wrote it music festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza and they'll bring that.
Then, the next one that came was a Bacardi commercial with " Daylight.
A Q & A with Matt and Kim’s Matt Johnson
I'm sure it could be looked up online. It didn't have any talking over our song. It was just this beautiful commercial of people dancing through different eras. It was as much a Matt and Kim commercial as it was a Bacardi commercial.
I still remember at that moment being like, "Hopefully, not a lot of people will see it and we'll just get this great check. When I was working freelance film jobs, at the beginning of this band, it would have taken me literally a year to make that much. It broke it in the good way. Broke us to the public.
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The money was nothing in comparison to the exposure and how many people learned about our band through that commercial. It was one of the best things that ever happened to our band.
It totally changed my perspective on working with brands in advertising. Especially being [a] band that [was] not on a lot of radio stations, the exposure was incredible. All the feedback was positive. Maybe, at that point, [for] the people who are so concerned about what was the newest coolest thing—we were not that anymore. We were too aboveground anyway. I don't remember any hate coming off that. For a younger artist, who's maybe a bit wary of syncs or is maybe open to the idea but doesn't know what to do, what advice do you have?
It does have to fit in your brand. We've never done fast food or tobacco. There's a couple things we don't mess with. So, I think you have to look at your brand and where it makes sense. Sorry to use the term brand too many times here.
My outlook is—speaking of having the lowest ticket price—even now we still try to keep our ticket prices affordable. We try to keep merch prices affordable. If you can kind of balance that out with income from other places, I think that's really doing your fans a service, rather than having to only make all your money from their pocket.
It has to have a feeling of history or whatnot…. We're going to coin that. I don't think we can coin that because I think it exists. Do you like to decorate with personal stuff or buy made art for the walls?
We're definitely buying a lot more art now. In art school, we'd trade pieces, so we started building our collection that way.
Now we're buying stuff. I'm really into buying stuff at galleries. He doesn't like to go to museums because he can't buy the stuff. Like, they show it to you but you can't buy it? What are you most looking forward to about the new place? Well, it's just so gross in the building we live in now. Tell her what I saw in the hallway M: Kim looked through the peephole one time and thought she saw someone pissing in the hallway. But no, it wasn't that. It was two people having sex right outside of our [apartment] door.
We were just about to leave and head out on tour and There's this drug dealer who goes up to our roof. And I like to play detective and write down every time I see him going up to the roof.
I don't know what I'm going to do with this information, but I like to keep it just in case…. And so all of a sudden, I heard someone in the stairwell and I was like, "He's there again!
And I was like, "Ohhhhh, they're having sex in the hallway! As many things as you can catch from sex—especially from someone you might have sex with in a hallway—you can catch way worse things just from that hallway. I just saw his ass. It's a sight I cannot get out of my mind.
A sight you can't unsee. That is pretty gross…. You must be looking forward to having friends and family over to your nice, new place. Our families are very excited about this.
Right now, we can't have anyone over because you can't move in the [small space]. So…parties at our new house! We go out every night on the road, so when we come home that's not what we want to do. The idea of being able to have people over and just hang out is really nice. Do you get to see your families a lot since they're up in New England? We're super-close to our families. If we play in Boston, there are 20 of my family members on the guest list.
They come out in full force. And Matt's family too. He has a smaller family than me—not the big Italian family I have—but his parents always come out to our shows.
And his brother lives here [in New York], so we hang out with him. Do your parents dig your music? They're all so supportive. My dad really loves our music. So what do you guys do when you are at home? What's a normal night in like for you? There are a lot of television series that we're addicted to. It's nice to take a second to lie on the couch and not worry about things.
We've been watching Friday Night Lights. I'm on the edge of my seat after the last episode. I think we're almost at the one where they play the Panthers. We just watched the one where Riggins got kicked out the trailer because the mother thought he was with the daughter. Riggins gets it hard—everyone always assumes the worst of him. But he's good-looking; he'll always bounce back.
Yeah, Taylor Kitsch is pretty hot. Isn't he in that superhero movie, the Green Lantern movie? No, that's Ryan Reynolds. Kim loves Ryan Reynolds. She once took a picture of the screen—some scene in something where he shows his abs. Then she showed it to me and was like, "Matt, I need you to get to work. It's just one of those things He's good-looking and he's funny.
It's the funny thing that I like. That seals the deal. That's why I'm with you—you make me laugh. All right, that was a little too cutesy. Stricken from the record! What else do you watch on TV? We've always been fans of, like, I don't know, home shit. It just pissed me off so I had to shut it off. Do you like to cook?
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When you travel so much and eat out every night, the last thing you want to do when you come home is eat out. Kim was a couple of years ahead of me, so we had some mutual friends or whatever. Basically she ended up picking me up but the thing was she ended up giving her number to me three times. I was actually quite intimidated by someone like her. I had never dated a girl who was older than I, or who had a whole bunch of tattoos.
I was very shy back then so that's why it took a while for it to actually happen. But then after we met we were living together after two months and that was seven years ago.
About two years after we met, the band began. Kim had never played drums and I was still learning that keyboard.
We were just learning those things separately and then just accidentally became a band. We worked on all kinds of things together.
From school and then into art installations and silkscreen stuff, we made album covers for other bands. We were kind of on the same plane creatively. We had a lot of friends who were in bands and our first show was with a friend who said, "You're playing a show with us.
But they were like, "You don't have a choice, we're making it happen. That was basically it. Just being be your names seems very friendly.
Where was that first gig, do you remember? The first gig was in a basement of an art gallery in Queens. I don't think it exists anymore. We were just terrified, even though there were only fifteen people there.
Kim and I were like, "We shouldn't do this -- this is a bad idea. Let's not do this. And I don't know if it was just friends who were being nice, but everyone was really positive afterwards. Then we kept being asked to play stuff. After your first self-titled release, you retreated to your childhood home in Vermont to write the songs for Grand. Where were the songs for Sidewalks written? They were written broadly over time between finishing Grand and recording Sidewalks.
We came up with a bunch of ideas at that time but then it actually came time to sit down and take all of these ideas to mold into an album. We were in New York during December of and January of before going to Atlanta to record at the beginning of February. It was interesting because as much as I love writing music, doing the band as a full time job which is what we've done for the past three or four years, has given in some ways the least amount of time to write music that I've ever had in my life.
It's hard to carve out that time so we've had to be like, we're not doing anything else -- we're working on this album. How do your songs come together? Is it the melody first or a drum beat? It's generally that Kim and I will work out a drumbeat. That's how it goes and then I'll record things over that, different ideas and different melodies.
It'll be like me calling my phone's answering machine and leaving messages of like [sings a melody: I'll make a collection of all those different things; sort of a collage -- to go back and think what kind of melody would work with that beat. And then writing lyrics is always our last thing.
Some bands, I feel they write lyrics and then they write songs around that but that's the total opposite of us. As I mentioned, we think very much in beat and melody in composition, not so much lyrically. We kind of let the feeling of the song musically dictate what the song will be about, so in a way it sort of writes itself.