DIY fanatics Matt & Kim, Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino, roared out of Brooklyn’s punk scene in 2004 with a hip hop sensibility and a drums and keyboards set up that has had them branded as the indie Carpenters. One of those effortlessly cool New York bands whose music is featured in every TV show, you probably know half a dozen of their tracks without ever buying or downloading a single one. Back with a more polished and commercial sound on 3rd album Sidewalks, that may start to change. JUICE stumbled on them at Big Day Out Gold Coast’s bizarre Lily World stage where painted mushrooms decorate the stage, kids warble Queen songs and men eat dog food. This, apparently, is an everyday gig in the world of Matt & Kim. Our interview is nearly blown up several times by the mining exploits of a German corporation called Rammstein.
Text Matt Armitage
BANG! [A massive explosion from Rammstein’s onstage pyrotechnics interrupts the start of the interview, making everyone backstage duck]
Kim I feel like we’re back in Brooklyn.
How is your Big Day Out going?
Matt The area we were playing, Lily World, was just fantastic. It was a wild place and the people were getting ready to get wild. I saw people doing backflips and getting crazy. I was watching them.
Really? Hope they kept their change in their other pants. Matt & Kim are one of those New York acts people think are part of some mythical New York hipster scene. Are we just being lazy and stereotyping or are you really a hipster outfit?
Matt It’s weird in that hipster can be a dirty word or, in New York, it can mean a yuppie [Kim laughs]. But when it gets repeated outside New York, like in the Boston Globe, it just refers to someone who is cultural.
Kim Someone who’s doing new stuff…
Matt We do relate to New York a lot, even lyrically, and on our album sleeves, and we’re proud to live there and be part of the culture there.
Is Matt & Kim the indie Carpenters? Â Or maybe the hip hop White Stripes?
Kim I don’t think either…
Matt We don’t listen to either of those bands. We never planned to become a two-person band. Kim was learning to play drums, and I was learning to play keyboard and we ended up trying to do it together. We’re more influenced by a lot of hip hop, punk rock and not being about two people.
So you’re not going to end up playing on cruise ships to silver haired punks in 20 years time?
Kim I’ve heard cruise ships are kind of fun. Eat as much as you want!
Matt Hell yeah! I’d cruise the world. Get drunk.
Is it weird to turn on the TV and hear your song on the sports links?
Matt Only in the sense that it’s strange to hear your music out of context. I’ve been in a store and a song has come on and Kim says “I recognise this, why do I recognise this?” and I tell her it’s because it’s one of our songs.
Kim It’s so bizarre; it’s something we never expected to happen.
Matt It’s funny the number of people who find out about music though a commercial and google search it out. In an age where radio is tough to penetrate you need to find other ways to get your music to the people.
Did you deliberately go for a more electro-oriented and commercial sound on new album Sidewalks?
Matt We don’t say: ‘let’s write something that sounds like this’. A lot of bands do. They say we like this band and we want to sound like this band. With Kim and I, what comes out is what comes out. What we’re listening to does go into that but Hot 97 and Power 105, those are the hip hop stations in New York, and we have those rolling all the time in our car.
So with the new sound, will we see Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga guesting on the next album?
Kim Well, the funny thing is…
Matt We shouldn’t say anything about that…
[Matt & Kim laugh while JUICE quietly fumes at being denied such a tasty morsel of a story.]
Matt We are looking into some collaborations. It’s funny how in this indie rock world there isn’t a lot of collaborating. But in the pop world and hip hop world, there’s always people working on stuff together. I’m not about to start rapping any time soon [laughs].
Kim Was that the crazy looking band that just walked through? [Rammstein] It sounds like they shoot people onstage.
We think that’s the idea. They try to scare you into having fun… Where did the street scene on the album cover come from?
Kim Basically, we just used my artwork. It’s the only chance I get to make art anymore – our album covers [chuckles].
Matt If you look at the three albums you can see the artistic connection. Our manager was worried saying that the albums look too much alike – people will get confused. We just realised that fine artists, when they find a style, they work in that style, they don’t change things. And there’s a style – that is know Matt & Kim – which is what Kim does.
A lot of your songs are about New York. Why does the city have such an influence on its musicians?
Matt It’s about being surrounded by this pretty rad shit. It doesn’t have to be music: it can be writing or photography or film or art. If people are doing rad shit it makes me want to do rad shit. That’s the biggest influence.
Your name is Matt Johnson – has anyone every confused you with ’80s alt-popstar Matt Johnson from The The?
Matt I remember seeing a flyer in New York for Matt Johnson performing somewhere and I thought, that’s weird, I’m doing something and I don’t know about it [laughs]. And it was the guy from The The. Matt Johnson is such a common name in the US that I’ve just dropped the Johnson. It’s just Matt. Like Cher. We’ve talked about Kim’s DJ name: “And Kim”.
Have you seen any interesting, weird or dangerous creatures since you’ve been in Australia?
Kim Last night I thought I saw a monkey.
Matt She did not see a monkey. You don’t get monkeys in Australia. It was not a monkey.
Kim They said it was a possum with a furry tail. That would make it cute. Possums in the US are gross, with rat tails…
Matt It was like a dinosaur possum.
What’s the biggest mistake people make about Matt & Kim?
Matt The world should know that as many times as we get called cute… [Once again Rammstein goes BANG!] …that we are a couple of badasses that are kicking ass and taking names… [pauses] That may not be totally true.
Sidewalks is out now on the Fader Label imprint. You can enter the world of Matt & Kim at www.mattandkimmusic.com. Catch clips of their crazy Big Day Out shows on YouTube (search Matt & Kim Big Day Out Adelaide or hit up www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1E4Vgk3ykE&feature=related)
JUICE flew to Big Day Out Gold Coast on Air Asia X. Air Asia X flies to Gold Coast daily. Book your flights to Gold Coast or any other Air Asia X destination by clicking to www.airasia.com. Find out more about Big Day Out at www.bigdayout.com.