With four albums now under their belt, indie-pop duo Matt & Kim could almost be considered veterans in a rapid and expanding scene. But true to their renowned DIY form, their last effort, 2012’s ‘Lightning’, is as raw and fresh sounding as any good debut.
“We decided to completely make it ourselves – without any producer or studio or anything,” explains singer/ keyboardist Matt Johnson. “We thought 'you know what makes Matt & Kim? Just Matt and Kim.' Just the two of us, messing around and seeing what we can come up with. And for us we can be somewhat control freaks and that works for us, so we set up a home studio and just made a tonne of songs.”
Despite crafting over thirty songs, Matt & Kim were set on creating a complete album experience, and whittled it down to the more record-friendly number of ten.
“As much as people say that albums are dead, it was really important for us to make an album with no filler. I'm a big fan of pop music but there's so many different writers and producers. Sometimes there's one great song you love and then you get the album and you get burned, because the same people didn't even write the other songs. I love an album I can listen to top to bottom in one sitting.”
The band released their self-titled debut in 2006, but blew up with their sophomore effort, 'Grand', three years later thanks to the infectious hook of lead single, 'Daylight'. With four albums released in a relatively short amount of time, creativity is clearly not an issue for them.
“We love writing music and we love playing shows but it's funny because the two things are totally different in every way. Writing music is about sitting down and going through the pieces, and for us playing shows is about throwing tonnes of confetti and balloons and jumping around, playing covers and just trying to make a party. But unless we stop and give ourselves six months with no shows that's the only way we can make new music – especially an entire album.”
Even though the band have never struggled in terms of composing beats or melodies, Matt says lyrics don't come quite as naturally.
“Lyrics are hard. I never claimed to be a poet but for the kind of music we like to create you need to have lyrics and it's important to us. But as a couple we don't really have an interest in writing love songs. We feel there's plenty of people taking care of that and it'd just be weird for a couple to ever do that. So it takes a lot more thought in writing the lyrics.
“Even though we write a lot of upbeat music, our lyrics tend to be a little bit darker in the sense that they're about figuring your life out or might be about the freedom you get from hitting rock bottom, so it’s still uplifting but it's not about sweet love and lollipops.”
With very little musical experience prior to forming Matt & Kim, the band were forced to keep things uncomplicated from the get-go. But even with their increased musical ability over time, they still prefer to stick to their simple ethos.
“Kim had never played drums before we started making music and I had never sung or played keyboard. So even just in the sense of understanding how to play an instrument we've grown.
But we always had the saying of WWMKD [What Would Matt And Kim Do?] which we would use whenever we got too musician-y or too mature. I don't want to be too mature.”
From New York, the band are just one of the countless talents that the great city has produced – something that Matt & Kim are very thankful for.
“For us it was a great place to start as a band. We were around so many people playing music to the point where we were playing three shows a week at different warehouses and art spaces, whereas in a smaller town that would be impossible. New York is such an expensive city; someone once told me that it's a great place to do things, it’s not a great place to think about doing things. So if you have that weight on your shoulders it pushes you to try really hard.
“But there's a lot of people doing cool stuff. It doesn't have to be music; whether it be film or photography or writing, if people around me are doing cool things, it makes me want to do cool things, so it’s very inspiring in that way.”
Matt & Kim play The Zoo alongside Citizen Kay and Tigerbeams On Thursday May 9.