Checking in with Matt and Kim


Matt and Kim (Jonathan Mannion)

Matt and Kim Photo: Jonathan Mannion

The Great GoogaMooga is upon us, and in addition to Do or Dine’s foie gras jelly doughnuts and the wonderfully-named Egg Beggley Jr. sandwich that Northern Spy is serving up, one of the things we’re most excited about is seeing Matt and Kim play on Saturday.  

Matt Johnson, keyboard player and singer, and Kim Schifino, drummer, released their fourth album, Lightning, last year. It’s a dazzling array of frenetic, danceable indie-punky power-pop–their defining sound ever since they formed the band in 2004 while attending Pratt Institute. We interviewed the couple back in 2009 when their record Grand had just come out, and figured it was time to check back in, so we talked to to Kim via email while they were on tour in Australia.

BB: You’re going to be performing at the Great GoogaMooga tomorrow. Did you go last year? Are you planning on sampling some of the food?
Kim Schifino: I am down for eating!  I will say, you don’t want to experiment too much before a show. Matt once ate way too much Ethiopian before we played and it started coming back up while on stage. We did hear of The Great GoogaMooga last year but didn’t make it because we were out of town. I think everyone needs to try Do or Dine when they come!

BB: I read that you two are wine connoisseurs, so GoogaMooga in a way is right up your alley?
KS: We are not wine connoisseurs but we do like wine.  Our tour manager Tom is a wine connoisseur so I let him pick but if he isn’t around I take a photo of the wine list and text it to him so he can tell me what to drink.  I like the wine that doesn’t give you a hangover in the morning!

BB: I definitely hear an ’80s, MTV era synthpop influence in your sound, particularly with the keyboards, the danceable beat, the melodies.
KS: No actually Matt really missed the 80’s MTV-era stuff.  I will say we are influenced by a lot of dance music happening now.  We are huge fans of top-40 hip hop and anything that makes you want to drop it low and dance your ass off!

BB: In an interview you did with Mark Hoppus on his Fuse TV show a couple of years ago you said that the first time you saw Matt walk by on campus at Pratt, you said, “I’m gonna fuck the shit out of this guy.” So the attraction was obvious from the start?

KS: Yes this was true and I still fuck the shit out of Matt! He is fucking hot!

BB: You’ve said that Lightning is a minimalist effort compared to previous albums. I was curious to know why you took that approach to making this record.
KS: With Lightning we went back to recording ourselves which was nice because Matt and I work really well together.  Sometimes when we add in other ideas it gets too bogged down. We are really happy with how Sidewalks came out but we felt like the tracks had too much going on. Funny thing it is easier to put a lot of things into a track but stripping it back so that it only has exactly what it needs is the hard part!

BB: The video for “It’s Alright” is incredibly eye-catching, and funny too, and the choreography is amazing. Whose idea was the video? How many takes did it require?
KS: “It’s Alright” was Matt’s idea.  Most of our videos are Matt’s idea.  It took about six days of rehearsals and then one day to shoot.  I would say we went through it a handful of times. It came out even better than we expected cause we really didn’t think we were going to pull off the choreography!

BB: When you’re not touring, where do you live?
KS: We live in Bed Stuy. We’ve been there for about two years now. We were living in Williamsburg for eight years before that.  It is weird to come home from tour ’cause we will be gone for two months at a time and when we get back whole blocks have changed.  I felt oddly weird when I came home to find the Salvation Army torn down on North 7th.  As for our new hood…I love it.  We bought a brownstone there and I love the feel of having neighbors again.  We come home and people come by to see how the road was.  I get to gossip about what’s been popping off on the block.  It is also nice to discover new restaurants and shops.  We’d been in Williamsburg for so long that we just started going to the same restaurants all the time.

BB: Outside of performing, what are some of the favorite places you like to go to hang out or see shows in the neighborhood or in Brooklyn in general?
KS: I like going to Death by Audio or Knitting Factory. We usually go to Death by Audio to see shows and the Knitting Factory to see comedy.  Our friend Hannibal Burress does a Sunday night comedy night there that always has awesome comedians including Hannibal on the bill!

Most overrated song at the moment–“Gangnam Style” or “Harlem Shake”? By the way, I loved the video you did for “Harlem Shake,” but I’ve got to ask, what was  that box on Matt’s head for?
I really like the “Harlem Shake,” so I am going to say “Gangnam Style.” As for the box, in the earlier “Harlem Shakes” someone always had something on their head.  Most of them had a motorcycle helmet.  We didn’t have a motorcycle or much ’cause we were touring.  This box had to do!

BB: You’ve got a packed touring schedule coming up, including Lollapalooza. When you’re not rehearsing, what do you usually like to do to pass the time while on the road?
KS: There actually isn’t a lot of free time on the road. Being on the road is filled with travel, press and sound checks.  We have been trying to squeeze a bit of writing into our days but again, there isn’t a lot of free time.

What are you guys going to do the rest of the year after Lollapalooza?
We are in Australia right now and as soon as we get home it is our summer festival season.  I think we do a show every weekend till October!



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