We’ve been keeping an eye on Brooklyn band Matt & Kim (Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino) ever since we saw the supremely poppy duo cut the sullen swelter of Siren Fest 2007 with their huge smiles and brilliantly goofy stage antics. Their second album, Grand, drops today and they’re kicking off a new tour Friday at Music Hall of Williamsburg, so we got Matt to answer 10 burning questions (or 11, if you count our special trivia question below).
What neighborhood do you live in and where are your favorite Brooklyn hangouts?
Williamsburg. The funny thing is that when we’re actually in town, we hardly ever leave, because we spend practically every night of the year going out because we’re on tour. So when we actually get home, we’re just like, in. We find ourselves at that place, it used to be called Lulu’s, now it’s called Lost and Found, in Greenpoint — my brother bartends there. And for some reason Planet Thai, when we want to go out to eat, is the one restaurant we always want to go to. I don’t know how people can screw up Pad Thai so badly, but around the country there’s a lot of bad Pad Thai, and there it’s always good.
I saw a YouTube video where you said you’d consider yourself successful when you had health insurance. Do you have health insurance now?
We do not have health insurance. We’ve been looking into it for a long time, we just have not actually sealed the deal. We’ve moved up a little bit though. We shared a twin bed, Kim and I, for years. But we finally got a full-size bed and that was one step toward success. That was growing up I think.
Do you have day jobs or do you rock out full-time?
No, we’ve been lucky enough so that for the last couple of years we’ve only done the band. Low overhead, we share one cell phone. It’s all about having the expenses of one person.
What’s it like being in a couple and playing in a band together? It’s your relationship, an artistic endeavor and a small business — is that a challenge?
We should have hated each other a long time ago. Through some absolute miracle of sorts we still get along, even after spending so much time together. Any other relationship I’ve been in never would have worked out like this. I guess we’re both pretty lighthearted and spirited in that way.
Do you get White Stripes comparisons?
Parents love doing that. When parents are trying to understand what you mean when you’re in a band and you’re only two people, the White Stripes come up and they say, “Oh, oh, the White Stripes, I know about that.” They really make parents able to understand what a two-person band means.
You’re about to go on tour; where are you most stoked to go?
One place we’ve never been to before, and have been scheduled to play there numerous times and had to cancel, is Vancouver, British Columbia. I’ve heard so many good things about it. So that will be exciting.
What’s the favorite show you’ve ever played?
I can’t begin to pinpoint, there have been so many, like 500 shows. It’s sometimes easier to remember the weird ones.
Ok, tell me about a weird one you liked playing.
Classically, one of our weirdest ones (but in a really good way) was when we played at an art camp for 8- to 14-year-olds. We were setting up to play in their auditorium and we just heard this banging at the auditorium doors and I look over at my glass of water and it’s sort of shaking, like a Jurassic Park kind of thing and the doors just blow open and 300 little kids come in screaming. It was intense, they were dancing the whole time, doing conga lines. I was like, “If anyone wants to come up on stage and dance,” and half of them came up. All the pre-pubescent screaming must have been what Hanson felt like. My ear drums bled a bit, I think.
Favorite Brooklyn venues?
We’ve really liked doing whatever random spot Todd P. has wrangled up for us in the past. Warehouses and things like that. We do like the Music Hall of Williamsburg and the Bowery Presents people have always been good to us.
How is Grand different than your first record?
A consistent theme in the iTunes comments for our first album (Matt & Kim, 2006) was people saying, “I didn’t really get this until I saw them live.” And I don’t know why that’s true, but it is. I don’t know what the formula is, we just sit down and bang through our songs, and it kinda makes more sense to see us live. But we wanted to make it an album that I felt could stand alone as an album without any disclaimers, that was diverse enough and had a full enough spectrum and was just a good piece of recorded music. Our other stuff we’ve done, it was music made to be live music and then recorded. This album, the was music made to be recorded and then we adapt that to [playing it] live.
Is it pretty easy to adapt the newer songs to your super energized shows?
No, no it’s not easy. It is really hard. And we’ve spent the last month working on it. Finally after weeks and hours of practicing and working we’ve got it, but it was not an easy task. But I think we’ve successfully worked them into being the kind of live songs that we wanted them to be.
Like, on new first album there’s a song called “Daylight.” That song, played exactly how it is on that album, is not a super energetic live song like we would do. But it’s still one of the best recorded songs on that album. They’re just such different things. While a song like “Cut Down” or “I Wanna” are faster, more punk rocky songs, where we can get crazy and stand on our stools and fall over to.
Are there any other Brooklyn bands you’re into right now?
I love what Digisonic is doing. I like Team Robespierre. I like this breed of band that’s here that wants to have shows where people have fun and dance.
*Special trivia question*
We have a free copy of Grand for the third reader to correctly answer the following question: Kim is trying to collect every quarter (that’s right, every single one) from which state?
Sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy Matt & Kim and Fader Label.