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Interview: Matt and Kim - 02/06/09

Jon sat down with Brooklyn indie-rock duo Matt and Kim the day after their sold out one off show at London's Old Blue Last.

Matt and Kim spoke to Alter The Press! about how they met, their new record 'Grand', Bacardi picking up the song 'Daylight' for a new commerical, being associated with the Brooklyn hipster scene, being naked in Times Square and more.

Alter The Press: What's it like to be back in the UK?
Matt: It's weird because it's not raining.

Kim: It's nice this trip because it's the end of the tour, we're exhausted but we weren't sure how the show was going to go. We played this spot in Camden the first time we came over, it was one of our worst shows ever and the next day we woke up, which we had off, and were really bummed out.

Matt: Our sleep schedule was off, we walked around and it was nice. This time though it was our final show of the European tour and it was hot, sweaty and everyone was dancing around. It was amazing and today we were driving around with the windows down in London going to radio stations. It was pretty nice.

ATP: Was there a reason why it was just the London show this time and not a full tour?
Kim: We didn't have enough time. After today we go home for 10 hours then fly straight to South America.

ATP: How did the two of you meet?
Kim: I was checking Matt out at school.

Matt: We both went to the same art school called 'Pratt' in Brooklyn.

Kim: Then I kicked it to him, he lost my number three times.

Matt: I was intimidated by her tattoos, that's the thing!

Kim: So, he asked me for my number again and assured me he had really lost it. I gave him the last chance.

Matt: Now I'm not allowed to carry anything of my own, like my boarding pass.

Kim: Let me just say, when you get to the airport, they hand you your boarding pass, you walk for about two minutes to go to security and he would have already lost it. Matt is not allowed to handle anything.

ATP: How long was it before you decided to start writing and playing music together?
Matt: We were together for two years and did a bunch of shit together. We did my homework, silkscreen rock show posters and worked well together. Kim wanted to learn how to play the drums and I had this rad keyboard which I found. It's been my rock, and nothing has gone wrong with it, until Gatwick Airport (UK London airport) fucked that thing yesterday! The keyboard is from the 1970's, built like a tank and I don't know how they managed to break it but luckily I fixed it miraculously. So, I had this cool keyboard, which I found, and we were just messing around by accident and started a band.

Kim: It's easier to learn an instrument with someone, instead of just by yourself.

ATP: Are you guys a couple?
Matt: 6-7 years deep!

Kim: I think it's 7 years now. So, we get to buy each other a big gift.

ATP: You're second record 'Grand' just recently came out. How would you compare 'Grand' to your first, self-titled, release?
Matt: They were made very differently. The first one, the songs were written in the first year, we were learning how to play our instruments, and then recorded them within nine days. We had no idea how long it took to record an album and had no idea how long to schedule in a studio.

Kim: We recorded the album on the west coast, on a tour in Los Angeles, and we were also playing shows at night, so we just really went about it the wrong way. Matt completely lost his voice, we had to cancel some shows on the tour to finish recording, then drove just straight after finishing, to catch up with the tour. It was really quick.

Matt: It was slice, dice and get it done. When we were going in to record 'Grand', we wanted it to be the opposite experience and we wanted to try new things, like a kazoo part, so we decided to record it at my parents house in Vermont, where I grew up. We spent too much time, almost, but it was the opposite experience, and we were able to bring everything we wanted to try out. It was enough rope to hang yourself with, just too much time. The songs were written very differently, the first album was intended to be live songs and the second album, they were written to be recorded songs. In my mind there are very different things that make a good live song and a very good recorded song. A good live song is a song with a big beat and a melody that cuts through the rest of the bullshit where people are just getting drunk and talking. If you go to our iTunes page and look at reviews of our first album, people would say they 'like it, but you need to see them to get it' and I didn't want that, I wanted something that would stand on it's own. I wanted something people would pick up the 30th time and they would listen to the record; we worried about adapting it live afterwards.

ATP: Favourites from the record?
Kim: 'Don't Slow Down' and 'Cinders'.

Matt: Kim likes all the fast ones. I think 'Daylight' was really a breakthrough for us. Some songs happen quick and other times like 'Daylight', we worked on that for 7 months. It would just be going over it again and again. For us, and our understanding of songwriting, it was a step forward for us.

ATP: 'Daylight' was picked up by Bacardi for a commercial. How did this happen?
Matt: I don't know how it initially happened. Bacardi approached us and, we found out later, they had tried so many songs for that commerical. A slew of tons, and songs, and knew 'Daylight' was the one which stood out and worked more than any others. I have no idea how they came across it and we thought it was done tastefully.

Kim: There weren't slutty women with big boobs in it at all.

Matt: We were happy with it and it's airing all the time in the US. We are surprised at the response we've gotten. In Canada, we did a Virgin Mobile commercial, we got some haters, but there's been so little negative feedback about this.

Kim: It's just a lot of people saying they didn't know about us before, it's really weird.

ATP: Please say you got some free Bacardi out of it!
Matt: We got a little free Bacardi last night!

Kim: I wasn't even sure what kind of alcohol it was before, but now I know.

Matt: The commercial is for a Bacardi Mojito, and we were with a Bacardi representative last night, and we both partook in our first Barcardi Mojito's and they were delicious; and I wasn't paid to say that! I did have a couple of drinks before that drink so anything was tasty! The commercial was like this spectacular party and I remember Pitchfork (Chicago based Internet publication) called us 'The Quint Essential Party Band' and I couldn't ask for a better quote from them, it's perfect!

ATP: People often associate Matt and Kim with the Brooklyn hipster scene. Is this something which just happened? How did this start?
Kim: I feel the hipster tag is never good.

Matt: I remember the Boston Globe (newspaper) wrote about us and must have used the word 'hipster' 7/8 times. We see it as derogatory in New York, but I knew when they were writing it, they meant it as someone who is involved with the music culture and who knows what is going on. But, you think of a 'hipster' as this douchebag, who is completely full of themselves. I think we are more connected to where we came from, a circuit of art spaces, warehouses and underground shows in Brooklyn. I think that's the connection to that and people just put that term in.

ATP: Do you try and still play the loft/warehouse type shows in Brooklyn?
Kim: We are planning one in September.

Matt: We just saw our friend Todd, who booked our first 100 shows for us, and he put on a show underneath a subway track in Brooklyn. It's really inspiring.

ATP: Just, by being always on tour, what's your favourite place to go to?
Matt: Sometimes, it will surprise you, just by being in a new place you've never been to, like New Zealand. We had no idea what it's like there. We knew Flight Of The Conchords, Lord Of The Rings but we didn't know the cultural aspects of Wellington or Auckland. We go there and have fun, sold out shows, where people are dancing and singing along. Just that surprise is incredible but, then, you have that special place for Brooklyn.

Kim: Chicago is a close second to Brooklyn. They get really crazy. That's what we latch onto.

ATP: How did you get away with walking around Times Square in your video for 'Lessons Learned'?
Matt: How did I get Kim to do that video, that is the question! She did not want to to it!

Kim: It was fucking cold and, even if it was warm, I did not want to get naked.

Matt: I was convinced, through artistic integrity, that this is the video we had to do.

Kim: Matt is really smart, and all the video ideas, he has come up with. I will say that I don't want to do it but afterwards, I think it's good but, I would never do that again.

Matt: The agreement was, she gets to choose what the idea of the next video is going to be.

Kim: Next video we are going to be on some exotic beach, drinking margaritas, in bikinis.

Matt: We should do that to 'Cinders'.

ATP: Is there an uncensored version?
Kim: Not that anyone will ever see!

Matt: Our friend/tour manager produced it, edited it, we know who to kill.

Kim: A girl should never see there ass moving in slow motion. You just don't need to see that.

ATP: Did anyone recognize the two of you when filming it?
Kim: Not that day, but the day before, we walked through the area to see how shady it wolud be and a couple of kids were just staring at us. It's kind of weird because people would come up to us and say 'Hey Matt and Kim!', and you're asking yourself if you know them.

Matt: We kept checking online because tourists were taking photos and stuff so, we would type 'Times Square Naked' and it's all just the Naked Cowboy.

Kim: My grandparents are very disappointed in me.

Matt: It's not rock and roll if you don't disappoint your grandparents.

ATP: When are you coming back to the UK?
Kim: We don't know yet. Nothing is scheduled but we are trying to come back in October. It's really hard to tour the whole world in a year. We are trying to figure it out.

Matt: It's funny how long it takes to do an album in a year, from writing the songs, to recording them, to the time it takes to release, and this was the most work we've ever done on an album. If we want an album out next year, we have to start writing songs, and schedule in times to record, and we haven't even toured the US yet, since it came out.

ATP: Do you still get the same buzz from playing a tiny packed show to playing a bigger show, like supporting Lily Allen in a bigger venue?
Matt: Yes. That show with Lily Allen was fun and it all comes down to the end. We've done festivals to 10,000 people, and you just look at a sea of people and it's really tame, but we've done festivals where you can see people getting into it, dancing, smiling. We do the same thing when playing a small show, a huge show or outdoor festival, it's what we do. The energy seems to respond no matter what place we do, that we can tell. It's fun to come back and play a packed small show. You can play a big show and no one is there or you play a small show and be dead.

Kim: It's all about the crowd.

Matt: Sometimes it's intimidating to play a small show. I always like to see everyone as individuals anyway but if you fuck up, that person in the crowd is judging you.

Kim: Smaller shows, you tend to look at individuals and make them feel uncomfortable.

ATP: Plans for the rest of the year?
Kim: Lots of touring. We do South America, go back to the US, weekend shows in July and, starting in August, we do a full US tour. Then, I think we are coming back over to the UK, then recording. I don't know how we are going to do it.

Matt: Rock and roll is my most steady job, other than that it was doing odd film jobs, not knowing where my next pay check was going to come from. Doing this band, where I know what I'm doing, it's pretty amazing when you think about it.

Grand is out 22nd June on Nettwerk.

Jon Ableson

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