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Matt Johnson of Matt and Kim on Their New Album, Kim’s Injury & 10 Years of Grand

Matt and Kim Press Photo
Photo Credit: Caleb Kuhl

It’s great to be Matt and Kim right now.

The indie pop duo from Brooklyn are about to kick off their North American tour and they’re dropping their sixth studio album, Almost Everyday in May (click here to pre-order). They are also bouncing back from one of their toughest years as a band and couple. Back in May of 2017, Kim suffered a torn ACL, which took her months to recover from.

Now back from the injury and ready to bring back their high energy performances back on the road, Matt and Kim are about to embark on a new tour starting at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey.

We spoke with Matt Johnson about Kim’s recovery, the upcoming anniversary of their breakthrough album, the inspiration for their latest album, and much more.

We actually spoke three years ago, which is crazy to think about, because three years ago Kim had fallen down the stairs and hurt her ankle. And now she’s recovering from an ACL injury. At this point, do you have to keep her in a protective bubble?

I just carry her around like a little baby. No, it is crazy… she just missed a couple stairs. We went on tour and she was still going out into the audience. But this time it was in a big medical boot — she was standing on and dancing on people. Yeah, I worry about her. Honestly, there’s nothing that crushes me more than seeing Kim hurt. If I could put her in a padded room, I would. Even though that sounds bad –I just want to keep her safe.

2017 was a pretty crazy year for you two. Besides the injury, you guys started a blog, called “MATT and Kim SHOW YA STUFF” which gives fans a glimpse into your day-to-day life. What have you learned from that experience, and do you think other bands should do something similar?

For us there’s this connection that when we’re on stage. I feel like there’s something even higher than the music. I feel the deepest connection you can have – whether it’s music or film or art or whatever – is people to people. That’s the deepest connection. You have pop artists who, yeah, people love their music, but they love them.

I feel the time we have on stage is the only time we get to be ourselves and have that connection. So we were like, ‘How do we replace that at a time when we’re not on stage? We’ll do this Youtube blog where we’ll go on little adventures and take a camera with us just to have this moment back and forth.’ And we have these comments, where you get that community.

I think what I learned the most, when you have a camera on you, was you learn a lot about your behavior. I kept thinking, damn, do I cut Kim off this much in real life? So you get new perspectives on things. I think it’s more of a social experiment where you can analyze yourself. You notice annoying qualities about yourself. It’s even interviews as well, when you read back and you read how much I say “you know.” I say “you know” so much. I’m giving you full permission to take them out, but some people leave them in. I’m like, you could have made me sound a little like I knew what I was talking about, you know? [Editor’s Note: We left that in for the comedy, Matt].

If you could pick one of your favorite bands, past or present, to do the same thing, who would you want to see? Who would you want to get a behind-the-scenes from?

That’s a good question. I think I’d have to think back to my days as a teenager and different kinds of bands and stuff like that. I think bands like NOFX. I think presently, Wayne from Flaming Lips, he should have it. Who knows what’s happening behind the scenes with Wayne? That guy lives a crazy life.

A hundred percent true. I shot them at an outdoor festival and he’s in a bubble in the crowd, he’s got all these inflatable signs and stuff. How does he do this every week? It’s crazy to me.

But also the fact that he found the fountain of youth somehow. He’s very public about his age, but when I spent time with him he’s the first one wanting to be wild and have fun. He has such a youthful outlook on things. I think he’s an inspiration to anyone who is growing up.

As I was doing my research I noticed that we’re actually quickly approaching ten years of Grand, which is kind of crazy.  Looking back at your career so far, did you ever think that you would be one day touring the world or playing to thousands of people at a festival?

Absolutely not, no. We never had any expectations. We came out of the scene where a lot of bands were playing in living rooms and art spaces and warehouses, and not even playing in venues. Our first couple tours, we didn’t do any venues. Around the country we played in peoples’ houses. That was just the scene we were a part of, and we thought that was how it would always be. Grand was recorded in my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house in Vermont. There were still all my posters were on the ceiling. I was pretty much googling “How do you record an album?” because we self-produced it.

I wasn’t expecting to have a platinum single and all the things that lead to. So yeah, we were having the discussion that sometimes bands have when the anniversary comes up like this – do they do the tour where they play the whole album? What do you think, should we do it? Does that date us or does that make it seem like – I don’t know. What’s your outlook on bands doing that?

As a Matt and Kim fan, I’d love to hear Grand in full – definitely make it – that’s just my opinion. You definitely need to make it special, whether it’s only doing select dates. There are so many places in Brooklyn where you guys are and where you started, too, and can kind of give that experience to people. Not to shut out the rest of the fans but I think you and Kim can definitely come up with something that would make it a Matt and Kim version of what other bands do with these kinds of albums.

Sure. I think that’s – I like that perspective. Make them special, make them intimate. Don’t make them some kind of cash grab. Make it about remembering how important this was. Absolutely.

If you and Kim never pursued music, if you just said “Nah, I don’t think it’s for us” what do you think you’d be doing at this point in your life?

Kim would answer this question that she has no idea. She went to art school for illustration but had more of an interest in fine arts than completing school. But she was a nanny – and a great nanny – when we started the band. But that was, that was her last job she had. I went for film and I had an editing job. The last job I had was bottom of the barrel Craigslist stuff that was not very much money. I would have ended up in film in some aspect. I don’t know if I would be making movies, but I always enjoyed making videos, I love having a simple idea or whatever, a cool idea, and being able to execute it.

What can you tell us about the inspiration for Almost Everyday? Where New Glow was more about opening up about your relationship and talking about it more – I don’t know if that’s necessarily the theme of that album – but what would you say is kind of the theme for Almost Everyday?

Unintentionally we realized that the common theme was a mortality kind of thing. That sounds dark for a Matt and Kim album, but it’s more or less appreciate what you have before it’s gone. I feel like we got a perspective of what it’ll be like when we can’t do this anymore. Honestly, this is the longest I haven’t toured in my entire adult life. I haven’t been on the road and it’s been over a year that we haven’t done shows, and so it really made me appreciate it all that much more, and be able to gain that perspective. That theme came up a lot.

There’s plenty of people who tear their ACL and it’s a bitch to recover from and they get through it. But, it’s pretty much the most traumatizing thing that ever happened to us, to try and get through it was really long. Kim had the most invasive surgery you could do to repair it but it was the strongest one, and we just realized we’ll do whatever it takes now to make sure she’s safer in the long run. She’s so tough, but for her it was a really hard one to come back from. For her the theme is just that, it’s not being invincible, but appreciating what you’ve got while you got it.

I think this is the first Matt and Kim album with this many guests on it. You have Mark Hoppus from Blink-182, Santigold, Kevin Ray from Walk The Moon, Flosstradamus, just to name a few. When you were writing the album did you picture the songs to have a lot of collaborations or was this something that developed in the recording process?

Our main intention was we wanted to get a lot of voices on the record. Our live shows are a big part of our band. I think something that adds a lot of energy to the live shows — just hearing everyone sing along. I love hearing that and so we just wanted to get more voices on this record. I have no problem with people singing on top of me. We just had on a number of these songs people sing down the whole thing. But then we were like, wouldn’t it be cool to have friends of ours, or people from the scene that we’re friends with, and just push on the community a little more.

I’m sure you know this but indie music has very little collaboration, especially when you compare to it what’s happening in electronic music, or pop music, or hip hop. And it’s a shame we don’t get to do that more. It was super fun just to go in and record friends of ours and hear their voices, and what happens when you combine them.

It’s always shocking, too. Like you mentioned, you never see that, you never see indie, alternative bands collaborate. When I saw Chvrches and Matt from The National collaborate, I was like what? Are you crazy? That’s awesome! And you never think that when you see the new song with DJ Khaled featuring sixteen other people, you don’t think of that because it’s normal now, but when you see it with an alternative band, it’s crazy.

For us, in this particular thing, because the voices were big in our songs in the way we had written them, but coming together to add this energy – but it’s like, still it adds this different spirit to it. And I certainly want to do more and do it in more in the creative process, getting different peoples’ ideas in the future. But for this it was like a nice way to open the gate for us.

Matt and Kim perform at Starland Ballroom on Friday March 23 at The Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ along with CRUISR and Twin Kids. Click here for tickets.

Transcription of the interview, credit Melissa Jouben.

Matt and Kim
Photo Credit: Colin Devon Moore
Al Mannarino
Al Mannarinohttp://alfredmannarino.com
Al Mannarino is the Managing Editor and Staff photographer for The Pop Break. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino.


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