The one-two punch known as, Matt & Kim (a couple on and off stage), may just be the happiest band on the planet. In concert or out, I’ve never seen them without their seemingly permanent smiles plastered across their cheek-pinchable mugs.
Despite crafting an infectiously fun debut album and creating a significant buzz in indie rock’s underworld, Matt & Kim find themselves without a record label to release their sophomore effort–an ambitious, beat-heavy, hip-hop meets pop-punk album recorded in Matt’s childhood bedroom in Vermont:
(above: See? I told you, Matt & Kim are always smiling.)
Jim Shearer: Before I turned on my tape recorder, Matt, you were telling me about a kid in Australia who said that you and Kim didn’t take good pictures?
Matt: In person, he said, “You two are actually pretty good looking.”
I was like, “Huh?”
Then he said, “In all of your press photos, you don’t look very good.” After thinking about it, we’re always stuffing food in our face or jumping up and down.
Kim: I kind of feel like that’s what happens when there’s a camera in front of me. We were given these video cameras to record for our friend, who’s doing a DIY-type documentary about bands touring. As soon as we got the camera, Matt pulled it out and I did some stupid shit where I was like dancing and making a fool of myself. Matt said, “You know they’re going to use that.” Basically, whenever a camera comes out, we do stupid shit.
Matt: Kim does stupid shit.
Kim: (laughs) We’re learning.
Jim: Is it in the budget to get a good photographer who has a studio down in SoHo with some good lighting and make-up people?
Matt: No, we just did some new photos, and we did them ourselves. I got a camera with a timer–
Kim: But we really tried in them.
Matt: Even though we were eating food.
Kim: Basically it was this pancake meal that we were doing with beers, and as the photos progressed we had more beers and ended up with photos of me spitting the food out.
Matt: But we were just like, “We probably need a photo-shoot where we’re eating pancakes.” That seemed about right. How many photos are there of bands at bars, or in the stair well? I can’t really think of a band photo where they’re eating pancakes.
(right: Pancakes and beer? Say what?)
Jim: I guess the final question is, “Would the kid in Australia be happy with these photos?”
Kim: The earlier ones, yes, as the night progressed, no.
Jim: When are we going to have some new material from Matt and Kim?
Kim: It’s coming.
Matt: We’ve been recording all winter.
Kim: Up in Vermont in the bedroom that Matt grew up in, and it really looks like a 16-year old still lives there. There’s still snowboard and skateboard posters on the wall–they’re all yellow and falling off now, but it really hasn’t changed.
Matt: My brother and I shared this room for 17 years. There was another room in my parents’ house, but for some reason we never thought to not be in the same room for our entire lives. Kim also pointed out that I had flowered wallpaper. She was like, “That didn’t bug you as a teenage boy?”
I was like, “I never really thought about it.”
We recorded for about a month, and I’m just super stoked on this new stuff, because it’s just what I wanted to do since the beginning of Matt and Kim, but we never had the time or means. Our last album was recorded in nine days.
Jim: So you needed more time to record?
Matt: That and flexibility. The songs [on our last album] are very similar, cause we didn’t have a lot of money to go into the recording studio. We were like, “We just got to do this, and do it quick.”
A lot of things were like, “Okay, good enough,” but now we don’t have to settle with “good enough” and we can try different things. This day in age, you don’t need to go to some fancy studio that costs a ton of money.
Kim: It’s kind of good cause we went in their thinking maybe Matt could do it, and then we left there thinking, “Fuck yeah!”
Jim: So Matt’s the producer?
Matt: Yeah, I did a lot of research on recording and stuff like that. This album’s going to be a little bit different.
Jim: How so?
Kim: Going into the last album we just wanted fast pop-punk type songs. This album’s a little more…hip-hop.
Matt: Well basically most of what we listen to is hip-hop.
Kim: It’s like pop-punk and hip-hop.
Matt: It’s not like there’s rapping on it. I still consider it dance-punk, but it’s not just straight-up fast, it’s got more of a beat.
Here’s another theory, all of my favorite recorded bands and albums are usually not bands I like to see live. When I listen to albums, I listen to mostly hip-hop, but I don’t like live hip-hop. I grew up listening to and playing in punk bands, but these days it’s not exactly what I want to listen to when I’m at home. I feel like for our last album was getting the training course for coming to our live show.
Kim: Basically a good album–if the band kind of performs it the same way live–it may not come across. You have to adjust your recorded stuff for a live show. We have our recorded songs, but we are adjusting them so they will work at a live show.
Jim: So you would like a fan to enjoy both listening to your album and watching the Matt and Kim live experience?
Jim: When will you release it?
Kim: We don’t have a label yet?
Matt: We’ve talked to a lot of labels. It’s a weird time for music. We’ve talked from the majors to our friends’ really small labels. It’s just tough to figure out the right place to go, cause with the larger labels you tie yourself in to a six album contract and there probably won’t be record labels in six years–or six albums–which could probably be the rest of our careers. I don’t know? It’s a confusing time and we’re just figuring out the best way to go about it.
Jim: Is the album done?
Kim: We have vocals left.
Matt: Which is so hard. I’m in no way a natural singer, so what’s acceptable in a recording is so different than what’s acceptable live–especially these days, when you listen to the radio and everything’s through the auto-tune, making every pitch perfect. That’s what people are used to and that’s not really my style. It’s like finding this level of keeping my bizarre singing, but making it acceptable and attainable by everyone. That just means a fuck-load of takes.
Jim: Would you ever consider adding anyone into the ranks of Matt and Kim? It seems that many two-people bands are very strict about keeping themselves a duo?
Matt: We have more strings and horns on the new stuff we’re recording, so if I could play with an orchestra behind us that would be awesome. But I think to add one person into your two-person band might throw off the dynamic.
Kim: I think a lot of people would mad about that.
Jim: So it’s not just you two, you also have to consider the fan base?
Matt: People get mad at change anyway. Kim also hates change–change of all sorts–she can’t handle it.
Kim: Matt’s also been trying to get me to sing, but I’ve been fighting it.
Matt: She’s the Penn to my Teller, or whoever the quiet one is.
Jim: Before we end this, I just want you to know that I’ve adopted your song “5K” as my official race day theme when running 5K’s.
Kim: (laughs) My high school track coach found out that we were doing the band, he’s the one the song’s about. So now that’s the song the team listens to on the bus before they go run.