“At 1 a.m. / we go for gold / At 1 a.m., when we / we lost control / At 1 a.m., oh yeah / goddamn, goddamn / we don’t / want to gooooo home,” Matt Johnson sings on “Get It.” It’s his band’s newest archetypal song, complete with hyperventilating beats, EDM flourishes, clap tracks, and a matter-of-fact exhortation—get it.
Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met at Pratt Institute, the highly regarded art and design college in New York. They started dating, and after a couple years together they formed a band. They played tiny, crowded shows around Brooklyn. But after a few tours, Matt and Kim’s little indie band—quaintly named Matt and Kim—outgrew the house party gigs. Boasting hits like “Daylight” and “Let’s Go,” they packed concert halls and festival stages while adopting the role of revelry ringleaders.
A month before the release of their fifth album, New Glow, Matt spoke about their live spectacles, growth as a band, and new music—full of sing-along pop and dance anthems—get it.
You have a lot of eclectic influences and that comes across in the newer songs, particularly a big hip hop influence. What have you been listening to lately? We’re huge hip hop fans. I’d say a safe bet would be 80 percent of what we listen to is hip hop stuff. And we love other pop music, and then of course there’s some old indie involved, and there’s also a bit of dance music. And just this morning I was listening to jazz … but the brunt of what we’ve always been a fan of is upbeat, fun hip hop, and I always say we make the music we want to hear.
You almost strike me as hype people for some massive house party more so than a band. Why did you decide to treat your shows like a club atmosphere? We did a lot of shows before we ever made a recording, but all of our early touring and shows were parties, literally. They were either in warehouses or lofts or art galleries or something like that in Brooklyn, where the crowd was just totally [surrounding us]. It was like [a] BYOB situation. Everyone’s falling over each other, and I think maybe that steeped into our blood early on, about the kind of vibe we wanted to be.
And the thing is, there’s so many bands you can see that just recite songs that they’ve recorded, and that’s great, but for us we just wanted to have as much fun in the way that we do.
Is it difficult to maintain that hyper, upbeat energy night to night? Do you ever think that you’d rather just go out there with some acoustic guitars and play a chill set for once? You might think that in the morning after you were up too late and maybe you’re a little hungover … the second we get in front of however many people who are excited we’re there and excited we’re gonna play songs we wrote and all of that, it’s like an instant adrenaline rush, and I would forget about if I had a cold or any of that. It’s sort of the cure for anything that ails us.
You’re at an anticipatory point for the album and the tour. If you had a magic wand and six months from now you could have any result you wanted, what would you ask for? Well, I think we’ve been lucky ‘cause we never set goals, in the sense of when we were just playing lofts and warehouses in Brooklyn, I thought that’s what the band would always be, and I was really happy with that. We had a lot of fun, and then when things grew to another state, you know, when we started touring and we played for 20 people, I thought that’s how we were always gonna tour, and that was cool. I liked traveling around with my girlfriend and playin’ shows. And so I think we’re just enjoying every state we’re in. My only hope is just—and it sounds so simple—is just to keep playin’ shows and writing songs. I mean, we’re never making choices on what we think could bring us to whatever next level or something. It’s just—“What would be the song that would be most fun to make? What would be the show that would be the most fun to play?” And that’s how we make our decision.
So your relationship generally hasn’t been a big part of your story as a band—was there ever any concern that if push comes to shove, one would have to end to preserve the other? Luckily no. Luckily I think the only way either works, especially the only way the band works, is the fact that we’re together. I do know people who are in bands that go on tour for six weeks and have a significant other that stays at home, and that’s a lotta strain. And for us it’s really nice because we do all these things and the other one’s always there, and so wherever we are, the relationship continues. And also any successes and failures we get to share in together, rather than the other person just looking in from the outside, trying to either console or get on board with someone being excited.
It’s a very unique situation to manage. How do you balance that intense requirement of the band and the relationship at the same time? I mean, it shouldn’t work, I’ll tell you that. It should not work. We spend every waking second of every day together, pretty much. And it doesn’t bother us. Any other relationship I’ve been in, we would have killed each other. It would have been impossible. … After we’ve been living on a bus together for however long or whatever, we’re still very happy to go out and get dinner together. You know, I don’t want to sound cheesy, but for some reason it works for us.