I recently had the opportunity to speak with Matt Johnson, one half of the clap your hands, sing along, indie pop duo Matt and Kim. The pair have been on a near constant tour over the past four years, briefly taking some time off to write/record/produce their sophomore album Grand, which was released earlier this year to the avail of people with ears. Grand manages to capture what is so often overlooked in the pop world: it is one of the most fun records I've ever listened to. At eleven tracks and a clock time of just under half an hour, the album is a pithy burst of feel-good-dance-about excitement, and enough to make even the most curmudgeonly of wallflowers shake ass. This interview was conducted over the phone with Matt in the driver's seat of the tour van:
Scene Point Blank: Hey Matt, thanks so much for taking the time to do the interview. You're currently on your way to Texas for South by Southwest?
Matt Johnson: We're actually in between St Louis and Chicago right now. We will be there for South by Southwest but just for twelve hours. We're playing Chicago, then Texas, then the next day we fly to Toronto.
Scene Point Blank: That's a busy schedule!
Matt Johnson: Yeah. We just had a day off between Chicago and Toronto, so we decided: what the hell. Let's do it! Days off are for the weak!
Scene Point Blank: Are you just playing the one show? I know in the past that you had played upwards of nine shows in the two or three days you would be there.
Matt Johnson: You had to try and miss us in the past. It was like ?aw man, Matt and Kim are on this show? Shit!'
Scene Point Blank: Are you still touring in the dark-green, pedophile looking, van with no air conditioning?
Matt Johnson: No. We've move to a red van that has air conditioning. We're using it right now. You might say we're moving on up.
Scene Point Blank: But still no health insurance?
Matt Johnson: No. That'll be the true success, but air conditioning is one step closer to better health insurance in my book.
Scene Point Blank: I'd say so as well. I haven't had the chance to see you live yet, but I came across a great review online. It reads as follows: "If I had to describe a Matt and Kim show, I would say it was like a sweaty hug. They must drink a lot of electrolytes and take a lot of showers." Your response?
Matt Johnson: I've definitely felt like that before. We've played a lot of shows that have been sweaty and very intimate. It doesn't even really matter about the size of the place; it's just our outlook. We try and be very personal and honest. Some bands put on the too cool for school look on stage and get very detached. It's like there is some kind of wall between the band the audience. We try and be a little bit more together than that. All and all I'll take that as a compliment though?I'll take that.
Scene Point Blank: You don't think the bigger venues have changed the dynamic? That doesn't phase you at all?
Matt Johnson: People get curious if there is something we do differently between playing for a small loft of a hundred people, to something closer to a couple thousand. The answer to all that is that we'll always just be our dorky selves on stage. We just want to be honest when we play.
Scene Point Blank: Some of the press bios floating around online are filled with fun personal snippets and random facts. Did you write these yourselves?
Matt Johnson: I'm not sure which ones you've read, but the first couple we did, then we got one of our friends to do them because?writing is hard. I give you props for doing all this. My problem is that I just get too hung up on everything. I've read some band bios in the past that were just nauseating: some really bad ones. We were just trying shooting to make ours non-nauseating.
Scene Point Blank: I think that's generally a good thing to shoot for. How important is Red Bull to Matt and Kim?
Matt Johnson: It's been pretty important! As you can tell from the next couple days coming up, our schedule has been insane. I guess as non-drug users?as non-cocaine users, it's the go to self-medication for staying awake. Keeping that energy up has been essential. Have you seen those five-hour energy things in truck stops?
Scene Point Blank: Yeah. They kind of look like a 70's breath spray?
Matt Johnson: Yeah. Something like that. My friend who is doing merch for us dared me to have one. It tasted awful. I tried to do a phone interview ten minutes after I had it, and I didn't even release it, but Kim told me I was just brining up random street signs mid conversation and changing the subject every three words and stuff?