Matt and Kim Bring DIY Energy to Bigger Stages

At the crossroads of too many musical genres to count, the dynamic duo Matt and Kim is found. Matt Johnson plays the keys and sings while Kim Schifino commands the rhythm on drums. Together, they’ve been unstoppable for more than a decade in creating what they call “energetic dance-punk.”

The duo passed through Chicago playing The Riviera Theatre (4746 N. Racine Ave.) Oct. 22 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their sophomore album, “Grand.” The album features some of their most popular songs such as “Daylight,” the epitome of their pre-2015 sound, with its cheerful piano and intricate beats all wrapped up with a catchy hook. 

Their most recent single, “GO GO,” is more representative of their current sound with electronic beats that produce the same motivation to dance as their acoustic kit, which is used on their early work and in their current live performances. However, it stays true to their previous sound in that it’s guaranteed to make listeners start moving. 

The single was released with a music video, a staple of the Matt and Kim music experience. The video was shot by Johnson, who works on many of their videos behind the scenes due to his experience studying film at Pratt University. Johnson said he originally planned to pursue film.

“[Film] is what I thought I was going to do so I love to be able to still shoot and edit stuff in a visual way,” Johnson said in an interview with The Phoenix. “I’m sure I’ll find myself returning to it more in my later years when my body can’t hold up with touring abuse.”

The duo has their roots in the Brooklyn DIY scene — the underground music scene that many artists begin in — where they started their musical careers while attending Pratt University. 

“We were part of a scene that was just about playing at parties in lofts and warehouses and basements,” Johnson said. “You bring your own booze and a hat gets passed around for money. It’s what we planned to always do because it’s what our friends did. Even when we started touring, it was within that DIY circuit.”

The two have come far from their days in lofts, having played several festivals — including Coachella and Bonnaroo — and receiving a Recording Industry Association of America certified gold single. What hasn’t changed, however, is the energy shared between the stage and the audience during their live performances.

“Obviously it has evolved a lot but the feeling is still similar,” Johnson said. “We never planned on making a living as a band. It was always this party vibe, people were always dancing, drinking, jumping around. As things grew and it became venues and festivals … we just wanted to keep that same vibe.”

The performance can only be described as a party, as it is one of Gatsby-esque proportions with the loose-cannon nature of a stereotypical frat party. The crowd showed up already knowing what they are in for as several members of the crowd donned costumes and threw clothes onto the stage. 

“A big part of that has just been making sure it isn’t just about what’s happening on stage, it’s about what’s happening in the whole room,” Johnson said. “The production of the show is projecting the audience behind us the whole time because that’s what it was like when we started out. We were just playing in a room surrounded by people so we want the vibe of the audience on stage with us.”

While the demand for their live shows won’t allow for the two to play a warehouse, they work toward making their large shows feel intimate. The two involved the crowd in every aspect of the show by handing out props — which ranged from balloons to sex dolls — and giving the audience instructions on how to form a wall of death, a throwback to Johnson’s days of playing in hardcore bands. 

This performance displayed the culmination of a decade of growth for Matt and Kim, ultimately showing they have honed in on what they do best: putting on a show. 

Matt and Kim are available to stream on all platforms.


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