From stripping down to their birthday suits in the middle of Times Square in their music video “Lesson Learned” to turning their audience into a balloon-flying, dance pit at this year’s Fader Fort concert, the unexpected is expected when it comes to Brooklyn-duo Matt & Kim. The chipper, high-energy, indie rock-pop band is known for keeping it low-key, yet still fun, with Kim Schifino’s fast, slapdash beats and Matt Johnson’s poppy keyboarding and happy voice.
The couple returns to Austin Saturday for an outdoor concert at Stubb’s BBQ. The Texan interviewed keyboardist and singer Matt Johnson about the band’s crazy antics, latest album, Sidewalks, and love for each other.
Daily Texan: Hi Matt! How are you?
Matt Johnson: I’m good. I’m in Atlanta, Georgia. Haven’t been outside yet. I’m expecting it’s cooking hot.
DT: Yeah? Well, the last time I saw you was at Fader Fort and man, that show was crazy. I never thought moshing and Matt & Kim would go hand in hand.
Johnson: Hah, yeah. Well, we always have a really active crowd, but more and more, I’ll see moshing going down.
DT: So what other crazy antics have happened at your shows?
Johnson: We had this music video years ago where there’s food being thrown at us. That definitely inspired people to throw food and whatnot at us. I remember playing in Norway at a festival where I encouraged it, which Kim was really pissed about it, but there was everything: shoes, rolls of paper towels, chairs. It was amazing how much crap was on the stage by the end of the show.
DT: Okay, so how’s the Sidewalks tour so far?
Johnson: It’s been awesome. So far, we’ve played in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Baltimore, North Carolina and now we’re in Atlanta. Speaking of hot and sweaty, it was one of those really hot days in Philadelphia. It was 100 degrees out and the venue did not really have air conditioning. I couldn’t believe everyone kept dancing throughout the whole thing. I almost passed out on stage. What do think it’s going to be like at Stubb’s outside?
DT: It’s HOT right now in Texas; it’s like 100 degrees every day. Even at nighttime it’s ridiculously humid. Be prepared to sweat!
Johnson: Okay I will. I’ll bring my sweatband.
DT: Okay, good. Well, I just want to say that I can always rely on Matt & Kim for a little pick-me-up. Sidewalks is especially cheerful, fun and energetic, but songs such as “Silver Tiles” and “Northeast” do show off a more serious side to you two. What musical experiments did you and Kim take in Sidewalks?
Johnson: We go into every album with the same intention, which is we just want to make music we want to hear. Which is kind of obvious, but there are plenty of bands out there that just make music they think other people want to hear. It’s still really important to Kim and I to make an album that feels fulfilling at the end. We just thought there should be a nice down point in the album. After seven months working on that album, we wrote “Northeast” to fill out the feel of whole album.
DT: What’s the inspiration of the album? What kind of music did you want to hear?
Johnson: Kim and I are into music we think that’s fun. Without guilt, it’s stuff that makes you want to jump around and, for Kim, booty dance. How Kim warms up is not how normal drummers warm up. She puts on her iPod and just dances in the dressing room till we go on. So anything that we find fun is what inspires us to make music.
DT: Speaking of Kim, it’s so evident that you and Kim are the best of friends and are so much in love. But is it ever too much that you’re business partners and also life partners?
Johnson: There is definitely no separation between the two. It’s not like, ‘OK, we’re doing band stuff and now we’re doing social.’ We spend every minute of our life on this band, which we’re happy to do, but the crazy thing about it all is that we haven’t killed each other yet. We get along really well. That must say something. We shared a cell phone for five years because we were always together.
DT: Are you serious?
Johnson: Yeah. So there’s just something, there’s something that in any other past relationships, it wouldn’t have panned out — we would have killed each other a long time ago.
Daily Texan: Is there anything about Kim that just drives you nuts?
Johnson: Oh yeah, there’s a million things, of course. [laughs] The fact she can’t tell her left from her right is so frustrating. She would constantly get bands’ names wrong, calling Edward Sharpe ‘that band Edward Sharpened.’ But in the end, they’re not really big problems.
DT: What do you love most about her?
Johnson: This is going to sound cheesy and maybe vomit-inducing, but she’s my best friend and we always have a ton of fun together. There’s rarely any drama. It’s just natural.
DT: Okay, sorry if I’m crossing the line, but I’ve seen you guys a couple of times and each time you’re always bragging about doing it before concerts. Has this become some sort of ritual? [laughs]
Johnson: That sounds like something Kim would have done. I feel like probably in our entire band span, she’s probably said that five times and by chance, you’ve been there …
DT: All five times? [laughs]
Johnson: [laughs] But no, no. Kim definitely likes to make things as awkward as possible. She’s definitely the more forward one and I’m the shy one of the two, so she takes pride in making me feel uncomfortable.
DT: Well, sorry if I just made you feel uncomfortable.
Johnson: I can take it. [laughs]
DT: Okay last part, five questions in 25 seconds. Okay, what’s your favorite Austin spot?
Johnson: Veggie Paradise?
DT: Veggie Heaven?
Johnson: [laughs] Veggie Heaven. That’s it!
DT: Last thing you ate?
Johnson: Cinnamon Life cereal. But nothing on it. No milk. Just dry, half a cup. That’s how I roll.
DT: Liquor of choice?
Johnson: It’s just beer. What pisses off our crew is that we always just have Budweiser.
DT: That’s kind of gross.
Johnson: That’s all Kim. She lives by it.
DT: Favorite book?
Johnson: There’s one I read recently called “Conspiracy of Fools” which is actually all about the Enron thing. While it seems like ‘Oh man, that would be so boring,’ I was so on the edge of my seat the entire time.
DT: Okay last question: If you were a superhero, what would be your special power?
Johnson: It would be a snooze button power where I could stop time for five minutes so that whenever I want to sleep in, rather than it making me late, I’d just hit the magic snooze button and then all time would stop for five more minutes.
Originally printed on 6/9/2011 as: Musical duo inspires dancing on 'Sidewalks'
Correction 6/9/2011, 1:18pm: The headline reading "Husban, wife band to make coming stop in Austin" was incorrect. Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino are currently not married.