Since breaking onto the scene in 2008 with the ubiquitous indie hit “Daylight,” Matt & Kim — comprised of Brooklyn pop couple Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino — have enjoyed a steady rise to prominence. Driven by stripped-down, frantic melodies that substitute enthusiasm for complexity, the duo’s songs have made the band a staple at music festivals, including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch! and, come March, Ultra Fest.
The Emerald caught up with the band’s male half while the group tours the country in support of its latest album “Lightning” with fellow indie rockers Passion Pit. The tour hits Eugene this Monday, March 4.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Emerald: Your music video for “It’s Alright” came out Monday, and it’s pretty intense — silly but also sexual. Tell me how that idea arose.
Johnson: That came actually a while ago. There was a song two albums ago called “Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare,” and I had the idea for that song. We never ended up making a video for that song, and it just sort of stayed in the bank of ideas until we were dancing around when we were making this song. We said, ‘We gotta make a dance video. Gotta do it.’ So we fished around and remembered that idea.
Dancing for me is the least natural way my body moves. Taking a nap on the couch is a good body movement for me. But it was a fun challenge.
A press release called it “nearly NSFW.” You’ve stripped down for a music video before, but was this one embarrassing to shoot?
Oh yeah, especially that little sort of ten-second part where it goes to the still frames of us in sexual poses. We took about 30 different ones of those. The choreographers had this website open with different sex moves.
Doing that in front of 15 people on set … I’m pretty comfortable with doing embarrassing things, but kind of by the end of it, I was like, ‘We gotta finish this.’ I was starting to get a little embarrassed. You can probably see the red come through the lens.
Kim’s been under the weather recently, first injuring her ankle, then the stomach flu. How’s she feeling?
Kim’s had a rough deal so far in 2013. She still has to ice her ankle after most shows. She sprained it the beginning of January and had to do physical therapy and acupuncture to get back on track. But she’s really tough.
Actually when she did it, I heard her. She fell down the stairs — she was texting and walking down stairs, which apparently is just as dangerous as texting while driving at this point — and I heard her make this horrific sound. If you’ve ever seen the Youtube video of the woman stomping grapes, that’s kind of the sound she was making.
And the stomach flu, that’s her achilles heel. She’s tough, but stomach stuff really flattens her out.
You’ve said that after releasing “Grand” (2008) and “Sidewalks” (2010) you were nervous to play those albums live immediately. Is that how you’ve felt with “Lightning?”
Well, we learned something on those two albums, which is live music and recorded music are two very different things. And we’ll go into the studio trying to make the best recorded album we can, but it’s better to adapt it to a live situation because you don’t need every nuance and detail. It’s hot, sweaty, loud, maybe drunk. You can just simplify these things.
The simpler you can make them, it’s better. I think we learned over those albums, just keep the beat and melodies strong. That’s what people really connect to.
Because of the melodies, many consider your music so effervescent and fun that sometimes the lyrics are overlooked. Some of the songs on “Lightning,” especially “Now” and “I Said,” have darker lyrics. Where does that come from?
Lyrics are such an important part of the song, but to us, we think very much in terms of melody and composition. Lyrics are tough. We always end up leaving them to the end, and we work at them for a long time. We find that even though we make what people consider upbeat music, we don’t want to write songs about sunsets and lollipops and shit like that because it just ends up being a gross mess in the end.
So, even though we make upbeat sounding music, I’m glad you noticed that. The lyrics, we just try to make them real and about us. And some of them are darker. I think it creates a balance between the music and the content. While they’re darker, I think they’re about figuring your life out and things we’ve gone through over the course of the years.
In the end, they might have a positive outlook, but they come through a dark road.
Along with Passion Pit, you’re touring with Icona Pop, who’ve enjoyed a lot of recent airplay since their song “I Love It” was featured on HBO’s “Girls.” What’s it like having them open for you?
We’ve only been on tour since right after that episode aired, but people are really connecting to that song. Which is great, because we’ve been the first of three bands to go on, like when we toured with Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance.
You’re playing, and sometimes people are still coming in and whatnot. But the reception has always been fantastic, and they play that song and everyone’s dancing. (It sets) the mood of the show right off the bat.
It ends up being a great bill. You know, they’re from Sweden, so spread the word in the States — they’re great.
You and Kim are big-time tour veterans by now. Is there anything you miss about the do-it-yourself tours you used to do?
Here’s the thing that I miss: When we started touring it was a very small system. We never expected it to grow past that. We sort of found contacts from other friends’ bands that toured on the totally DIY circuit that played in art spaces or warehouses or living rooms or basements. There’s a lot of fun to that, going to a house and then sort of having a potluck thing and hanging out. On the other hand, sometimes cops could come shut shows down, or no one would show up.
I have good memories of all that, but that feeling of growth keeps things feeling new and exciting, and there’s a sort of energy to it.
Given your most recent album title, I think it’s only right we finish this with a lightning round. You down?
Whiskey or Vodka?
Vodka. Whiskey goes horribly for me.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Vanilla for me. I’m basic when it comes to all things.
The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
Sasquatch! or Ultra Fest? I know this is a loaded question with you on the Ultra bill in March…
*Laughs* Yeah, I think it would be bad to answer that. Both. I loved Sasquatch. I haven’t done Ultra Fest but I’m excited about it. I think they’re going to be two very different festivals.