Matt Johnson of Matt & Kim on the New York DIY scene, Rhino and the act's postcard project
Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met as students at Pratt Institute, and when they started playing music together after becoming immersed in the New York DIY music scene, they quickly became known for their infectiously energetic live shows.
Musically, the duo is often stamped with the "dance punk" label, but one listen to a Matt & Kim song makes it obvious they were not going for a specific genre. And yet, the act's music does make you want to move and it has the unvarnished charm and vigor that was the hallmark of much of the best punk of any era.
Despite the group's songs appearing in TV shows, commercials and winning an MTV Video Award in 2009, Matt & Kim have never forgotten their DIY roots and it shows in how the two write and present their music. We had the opportunity to speak with Matt Johnson about his background in the New York underground scene, his connection with Rhinoceropolis and the postcard project he and Kim launched this past year. The duo are releasing their second LP, Sidewalks, on November 2.
You're known for being something of an adherent of the DIY ethic. What was your first exposure to that sort of thing, and how is it still important in what you do today?
That was what built our band. We started here in New York playing exclusively warehouse parties or art spaces or anything that like that. We never played venues in the beginning. I think a lot of what carved out our sound was playing parties more than shows.
What we wanted to bring along with us was having fun. There'd be so many bands that looked bored on stage and the crowd kind of stared at their feet and that kind of thing. That was totally not our intention. I think we came from playing events where people were having fun. People dancing and not caring.
Was Todd Patrick at all instrumental in bringing your band to the attention of wider audiences?
For sure. We would go to a lot of shows he would put on in New York. We had a lot of friends in bands and our first show was a show that Todd P put on. Our next consecutive hundred shows or so were shows Todd P had put on.
We didn't have intentions of becoming a formal band. It just sort of happened because we kept getting asked to play music. A step deeper, he essentially named us, because when we played our first show, we could not think of a name, so he put us on the flier as our name. Whoomp, there it is.
A lot of people equate New York artists, accurately or not, with a kind of jaded, ironic distance, but your band is the opposite of that. What fuels your joyful exuberance as a songwriter and live performer?