Matt & Kim | Ugly Glasses and Breastfeeding Infants

prof matt-kim_75We like having that dark stuff going on lyrically while we have fun and upbeat music behind it.

 

Nary has an interview or preview of Matt & Kim gone by without using the word "energy," but these two pack a bigger wallop than a mouthful of pop-rocks that just tongue tested a 9-volt battery. The Brooklynites released their latest LP Lightning in October 2012, and true to form, they have been touring like mad and putting on the most spirited live shows since the album dropped. That liveliness is certainly no shtick for shows, though. These two are genuinely dynamic people who love what they do—and love to share that energy with their fans. Between jumping up and down at shows, talking to multiple journalists in a day, and trying to be the significant other to the Kim counterpart of the band, Matt Johnson took a few minutes to discuss the lost art of music videos, the dark side of writing Lightning, and some of his favorite touring moments.

prof matt-kim

As a film school grad, where do you draw inspiration for your videos? Are they akin to your daily lives with a bit more whimsy, or are they completely random ideas and daydreams?

I find that as a film school grad, I got so hung up in aesthetics. I'd be so worried about how something was shot or I'd lose an idea to begin with, just a simple idea. One day it occurred to me, though, that even if I tried as hard as I could to get something to look as pretty as possible, then we'd put it on YouTube...that the person who uploaded a video of someone getting kicked in the junk would get a million times more hits. That realization hit me and made me understand that it all goes back to the idea: a simple idea. I think with our videos it was just simple, random ideas like, "Hey, let's take our clothes off and run around Times Square, get food thrown at us for a few minutes, or beat each other up," I think they are very inherently just kind of simple and intriguing, and I think I had to learn that from going to the complete other side first.

How much of the clothing you wore in the video for "Let's Go" was your own?

There are a few pieces. I will say, though, that the wardrobe person was very impressive at finding some of those just awful sweaters and sweater vests. There were a few elements, though, that were completely my own. Those big, terrible glasses with the crossbar from the first shot? Those are mine, they even have my prescription. I wore those even though Kim hated them. My regular glasses broke, so I bought those glasses while we were on tour, I think in Florida. I just went into a place and wanted to get the ugliest glasses I could find until I could get some regular glasses back, and Kim just hated those. I wore them around all the time.

Let's see...there are some other pieces that are mine, too, like there are a few pairs of sunglasses. There are a pair of sunglasses that I had for years, and they were gifted to me and I just kept them around even though I'd never wear them. They make anyone look ridiculous. I just kind of kept them around and I'm glad because, after three years, I finally got to use them for something.

How did you come up with the idea that the child in the video should be breastfeeding, and how awkward was that scene?

Well [laughs], the idea came from the child. I left to go to the bathroom and then when I came back I just walked into that scenario. I just took my shirt off and was like, "All right, let's do this." The director had kind of seen a photo like this online, with a pregnant mother and the family, and they all had their shirts off, so we went for the same thing. Apparently, though, when they started to stage this scene and the mother took her shirt off, the kid got very uncomfortable and just saw what he wanted and just went for it. It wasn't requested, that's for sure, but it just happened. I told the director that he needed to check with the family to make sure that they were OK with keeping it in and they were fine with it.

Can you explain some of the enigmatic elements found on Lightning, like using bouncy pop music while singing some dark lyrics like the ones found on "Let's Go" and "Much Too Late"?

Yeah, I think it's partially because we have that feeling that things in life would get easier as we age but, you know, that's not the case. We've kind of realized, though, that things are the complete opposite of that. There's a lot more to do and a lot more to take care of and I think we had been burning the candle at both ends for a couple years. I think there's some of that, some of those feelings, in this record and in those songs. We love what we do, we love playing shows, and we love writing music, but there's a lot more than that, you know? There's outside stuff, family, and stuff like that, so I think that happened. I mean, even I was a bit surprised that things on this album are a bit darker here are there. We write music that's upbeat, but we don't lyrically want everything to be lollipops and sunshine. To an extent, we like having that dark stuff going on lyrically while we have fun and upbeat music behind it.

Well, I'm sure that with all that touring you've got stories for days. What is one of your best touring memories?

Whew... [Pauses] You know, there are so many, but I think one that will stick with me is from our first ever tour. We had no album out, nothing like that, and I didn't really travel much before the band, and I remember going to San Diego and playing in someone's house. It was that kind of DIY tour thing, you know, and we played in a living room. I figured that we were as far as New York as we could be while still being in the 48 states, and there were people there singing and dancing along to every song. I couldn't believe that these other people, people that I didn't even know, knew the lyrics to our songs. I was just amazed. I mean, these were the days of people hearing songs on MySpace, but these were people I didn't know. Now we go to Japan and people sing along. It's crazy, but I never take that stuff for granted.

You guys are both nonstop in terms of touring and giving it your all during your live shows. How absolutely exhausted are you after your shows, and what are things you do to unwind?

I think our unwind is TV series. There are a lot of TV series that we follow and we're on the Downton Abbey kick right now. We will get off stage and go to our computer and watch TV shows that we've downloaded from iTunes or Netflix or wherever—stuff like Modern Family and Homeland are big with us. Right after we get off stage, I try to get a shower in because I'm sweaty and gross, but there's also a certain excitement that's still there and you gotta wait for it to go away to slow down. Being in a relationship and going out on tour is a lot different than being single and having this motivation to go to the after party to try and get lucky. | Jenn Metzler

Matt & Kim will be playing 105.7 The Point's 20th birthday show February 26 at Peabody Opera House, along with Icona Pop and Passion Pit. The show is all ages and starts at 7 p.m. Tickets and more info are available on The Point's website.

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