In Advance of Their Upcoming House of Blues Concert, Matt and Kim Talk About Their Unhinged Live Shows

Known for their off-the-rails live show, Matt & Kim — singer-keyboardist Matt Johnson and drummer Kim Schifino — had to take a break from touring last year after Schifino tour her ACL.

But now that Schifino has healed, the group has hit the road in support of its new album, Almost Everyday. Guest vocalists Mark Hoppus (blink-182), Kevin Morby, Santigold, SWMRS, Flosstradamus and King Tuff contribute to the indie pop mayhem. Matt spoke via phone from his New York home while Kim replied via email.

The group performs with Michael Christmas at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 20, at House of Blues.

You guys first met at art school. What made you want to start a band together?
It started pretty much by accident. We were together as a couple for two years, I think, before Kim decided she wanted to play drums. She never tried it before. She got these pieces of drums from friends and pieced together a drum kit. The kick drum was a floor tom, and she had a tambourine on a high hat. We brought a snare drum from a sketchy guy down the street and couldn’t get the gasoline smell out of it. When we were practicing in our bedroom, our bedroom constantly smelled like gasoline. I had keyboards I had borrowed from my neighbor. I still have it. It’s been over a decade. I should return. We were two people who liked the same music and we worked well together on different art projects. We fell backwards into playing music together.
Kim: We didn’t start a band. It all happened by accident. I wanted to learn how to play drums, and Matt had a keyboard he wanted to figure out. Then, a friend forced us to play a show.

What were your initial influences?
The stuff happening in the Brooklyn scene was a big influence. Japanather was around. We give a lot of credit to those guys. They made us play our first show. They told us we had to open for them even though we weren’t a band. We were just messing around with instruments. Parts & Labor was playing then. There was a cool vibe of bands happening at the time. There were lots of electronic-inspired things with this punk energy. You’d have these house shows where everyone was moshing. I think that energy was something that we were all about. I think it was in response to what was happening in Brooklyn prior to that, which was the I’m-too-cool shit with bands that don’t move on stage. They stand in one place and recite their songs, and they don’t have any expressiveness. That was happening in Brooklyn for a little while. We were playing because we just loved it and wanted to be excited about it. Bands like Ninjasonik and the Death Set started happening. It was a fun time.
Kim: Anything fun!

What was the live show like back then.
We literally played parties. We didn’t play venues. Even when we toured, we were playing garages, and it was always BYOB with oeple who were drunk and falling on each other. It had that energy of the show and we wanted to keep that going, even onto bigger stages. I remember one time we played a bigger show in Chicago with Dan Deacon. We had it as a cheap ticket and it was at some kind of ballroom. I remember having this skull beer funnel. It was shaped like a skull and you poured the beer into a funnel and it went through the spinal cord. We called it the “beer skunnel.” We were "skunneling" beers on stage.
Kim: Our live show hasn’t changed in a way. Well, I guess we have more lights and video now. But the vibe is still the same!

How easy or difficult was it to release your first EP, To and From?
We recorded it in our practice space. The walls were paper thin. There were probably 30 other bands in the place. You had to go first thing in the morning if you wanted to record something. Trying to rock first thing in the morning isn’t easy. I remember I was really into yogurt, and I was eating yogurt and singing vocal takes. One of the guys from Japanther came in and told me that eating yogurt and singing wasn’t a good idea. It also turned out I was lactose intolerant.

Did your approach change once you started recording at proper studios?
I feel like it was never a linear forward direction. We did our first official self-titled album in a studio, but we did the next one in my childhood bedroom with all my skateboarding posters on the walls. That was at my parents’ house. The next album we did at a studio in Atlanta, but the next one we recorded ourselves at our apartment. I feel like this is consistent with us. We do it one way and then the unofficial way. Even with the album we put out this year, we recorded half of them at home and half at a studio.

Did you want to do anything differently on the new album?
Maybe this is all incorrect, but I felt like I wanted to make an album that was beginning to end a really cool album. A lot of time albums are just trying to make singles. They try 20 times to make a single and then cut that down to 12 songs. I wanted instrumental songs and there’s an a cappella song. There’s also vibey things. I wanted to make it feel rounded out. That might be ill-advised because we live in an age of taking a bunch of singles and putting them onto a playlist. But for me, some of my favorite albums are ones I can listen to from beginning to end. We still make ten-song albums because of Weezer’s Blue album. I love listening to that from the beginning to the end.
Kim: Adding backing vocals from our friends was a new thing. I feel like it gives the recorded songs a more live show vibe.

What has kept the group going for almost 15 years?
It doesn’t feel like it. It’s just been me and my lady traveling the world playing song. It feels easy, and it’s also what I’ve done my entire adult life. Last year Kim tour her ACL, and we didn’t do any shows. It was a really fucking weird year. It made me see what it might be like if we don’t get to do this anymore. It was a bummer.
Kim: We fucking love what we do. Once you done something you love, you try to do it as long as you can!

Matt & Kim, Michael Christmas, 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $30-$45,

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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