- Fri, 2011-03-18 12:02
With the release of their third album Sidewalks, DIY New York duo Matt and Kim are ready to sail the fair seas and conquer UK audiences. Having grown and developed their sound throughout underbelly venues of NYC, the duo maintain a highly creative and experimental approach to all they do; music, shows, artwork, videos and more...
We caught up with Matt to chat about recording in an old car, how NYC first-timers can scout out the underground scene and combining avant-garde creativity with accessible pop music.
"I Like Music because… I love sweaty dance parties.” Matt, Matt & Kim
ILM: With the release of Sidewalks, the third Matt and Kim album, what’s your take on how the Matt and Kim writing process has changed and developed?
Matt: It has definitely changed! Our first album Matt and Kim was recorded in a studio in L.A in about a week. We had no idea how long it would take, we hadn't recorded an album before! We though a week would be fine but we had to rush so much! We wanted a very different experience for our second album Grand. We still didn’t have a lot of money but we decided we just wanted to be able to try whatever stupid shit we wanted and not have to worry about timing. We decided to work out how to record it ourselves and thought where's the least stressful place? So we went to where my parents lived in Vermont. There's three cow pastures surrounding the house and we did it ourselves. In the end we ended up spending nine bucks on the album! That was about six weeks in Vermont! We were really happy with Grand, but it did involve a lot of figuring out, working out how the hell to record an album! So basically, going into album three Sidewalks, we had enough means to be able to get a couple of different producers to work with, record at studios and still play with any stupid shit we wanted to try. It was nice to work with people who knew what they were doing technically, it meant we could think more about the songs themselves.
ILM: Cool. Can you tell us about some of the 'stupid shit' you tried out on Sidewalks?
Matt: When we made Grand I found an instrument that we used a whole bunch, on songs like Daylight and stuff...the melodica! It seems like a toy instrument, it’s just like a little piano that you blow into. It ended up being such a cool instrument that we used it a bunch more after that. Also, on Sidewalks there’s a song Wires, and for it we really wanted a rumbling, bumping bass. After we recorded it we went to the intern. He had an old car with this big stereo system in it and basically, when he turned the stereo up everything rattled; the licence plates rattled, everything. We played our song through the stereo and turned it right up, then we miked everything rattling in his car! We felt that would give the track the suburban trunk rumble sound that we were looking for!
ILM: Haha! Awesome... It sounds like you and Kim have a lot of fun together! You're on your thrid album together now, how would you describe your working relationship?
Matt: It’s something that falls into the magical category. Out of all the time Kim and I spend together, which is basically every waking minute of every day, we have totally not killed each other. Which is a miracle in itself! In any other situation with anyone else, I'm sure it wouldn’t have been like that. Somehow Kim and I just seem to get along. We started this band because we’d worked on other things together, we’d done bands’ album covers, art installations, film projects and stuff in college. We just knew that we were two people that had a similar outlook on life. It’s pretty rare that we bump heads which is really nice, I’ve been in situations before where you end up compromising so easily.
ILM: Yeah, something you've never done... You've alsways had a very hands-on approach to everything that you do; artwork, videos, live shows...
Matt: I think it’s interesting. There are so many bands you find and you love everything about them on their first album! As they go on and possibly grow, a lot of those things begin to disappear. I think sometimes that's because as you grow, you give away more and more responsibility. In the beginning you had to do everything for yourself; book your own shows, make your own art and come up with ideas for your music videos. People get too busy or something, so they give all those responsibilities away. When you do that everything about the band is watered down. Kim and I realise how much we did for ourselves to begin with so now, while we have other people to help us, we are still very involved in all our music videos and our album art. Obviously some bands go as far as having other people write their songs because they don’t have time to do it anymore. Then there's nothing that you first loved about that band. We just want to stay in control. Obviously we write our own music but we work on everything else too. I think the outlook of a band can be more than just the music. It’s like the sum of all its parts. So we keep it very Matt and Kim.
ILM: That’s very good news for all of your fans!
Matt: Yeah, it’s not easy though. Sometimes I’d like to give more things away and not have to worry about them. But then we worry about really stupid things anyway, like the graphic on the back of our stickers, I mean the graphic on the actual peel-off, throw away part! Like ‘ah I think we should move the website logo a little more to the left....’ at that point, we just have to give up!
ILM: Yes, we know how you feel but on a completely different level..we can get a bit like that over here!
Matt: I think it shows you care though. I think if you don’t care you should reconsider what it is you’re working on.
ILM: How are you finding your time in the UK? How does the music scene differ to that of New York?
Matt: Well it’s very interesting. In New York we came up in a very 'do it yourself' scene. You had to know someone who knew where the underground shows were happening, that’s how we started out. Those are the kind of shows I like to go to, shows in art spaces and warehouses and weird off the beaten path places. I haven’t found that person in London yet, someone to give us the 'in' about where to look for shows under the surface. Obviously there are so many great bands that come out and they had to develop somewhere. So I still need to find my guide or know what website to look at. When people come to New York I always tell them to go to this website called fotpnyc.com It threw us our first 50 shows in New York and throws all sorts of cool stuff in underground places up, it has links to whole bunches of other people who do cool shows too. People are coming into town not just to look at what’s happening in the big venues but to find out what’s happening underground.
ILM: What do you look forward to most about playing live?
Matt: I think the audience response is what fuels everything. It seems some bands want to be on a really bright stage with the crowd really dark, like you're watching me, I'm the performer.' But with Kim and I it's more about the entire room. We want to see everyone in the audience and for the audience to see each other. I think the more everyone’s into it, the more we’re in tune and the more everyone else is in tune. I remember one defining show in London. We had some very wild shows in The States but now we’ve definitely had a bunch of wild shows in London. One time we played at a small venue called The Old Blue Last. Nearly 200 people fit in there but it seemed like we pulled way too many in! It was packed and it was one of the hottest, sweatiest shows I’ve ever played! I loved every minute of it! There’s not a lot of air conditioning on this continent! I remember that being really fun. When people come to our shows and want to dance, that's really inspiring!
ILM: How about live shows that you’ve been in the audience for?
Matt: When I was a teenager getting into music I was really into a lot of punk rock stuff. One of my first shows was a band called Stratford Mercenaries, which was ex-Crass members. , Unseen and [??] were these bands that were in Boston. It was really eye opening to fifteen year old Matt! It taught me what live music was all about. Today it’s funny. I’ll go see things like Girl Talk who’s a mash-up DJ. I don’t know how much he comes to Europe but he does really fun shows and plays all these great ideas; mashing up different songs together. He also has people up on stage with toilet paper rolls hooked up to leaf blowers, shooting them into the audience and huge crazy balloons; things that make it wild and fun.
ILM: What it is about music that keeps you coming back for more, that keeps you creating?
Matt: That’s a good question..! It’s interesting for me. Everyone needs to take a step back and look at what they do, look at the bigger picture, that kind of thing. I’ve done that with music before and thought ‘well we play up-beat music..’. It’s not like ‘oh I’m trying to write these dark melodies that will change the world!' We write pop music. But, the amount of people who have come up to us and said that they were having a really bad week or what not and listening to our music really helped them out. Or that we just help them wake up in the mornings, which is one of my most hated things to do..! So that’s not the reason but it is like wow, maybe we are helping on some level; people get drunk and go wild at our shows you know... Is there anything wrong with that?
ILM: Who / what are some of your biggest creative inspirations?
Matt: When I see people doing cool shit, it makes me want to do it as well. It’s not always about music; just anyone doing anything really creative. People who can do something really creative with it's own original aspects, and at the same time, make it accessible - I find that really inspiring. It’s weird to say something like Wes Anderson movies inspire me to write music...but in a way they do. I’ll watch a movie and think this is so cool and interesting but still accessible and likeable. I find a lot of hip hop producers inspiring, such as Swizz Beatz who does some of the craziest, wildest tracks. Jay-Z to T.I to whoever have rapped on Swizz tracks. Just the songs themselves and the production is so interesting.
ILM: Could you tell us about some of your future plans? What can we expect from Matt and Kim in the future?
Matt: I think we’ve done ourselves a favour in the past by not having too much in the way of expectation. We’ve just always enjoyed playing shows and writing music. That has always brought us opportunities because we’re doing what we love. Now we’ve got the steadiest career we’ve ever had. When I was playing music at 14 and just having fun playing with friends I never thought anyone could make a living out of music. We’ve done well, but it’s interesting that while we’ve done a lot of ground work in the States, here in Europe we’re just scratching the surface. We’ve come over here this week and done a lot of interviews! We’ve just come along as much as we can and I’m just excited about everything over here. So...hopefully we’ll be able to make more of a dent this year!