In the midst of touring to support the upcoming release of Grand, the sophomore effort from Brooklyn, synth-poppers Matt & Kim, I had the opportunity to talk to Matt about, among other things, the simplicity of a good melody, the current state of hip-hop, and what he believes is the most important thing to consider when coming out to a show.
The conversation naturally began with a discussion about Matt & Kimâ€™s upcoming album, specifically detailing what is different about Grand versus their prior effort Matt & Kim. Matt explained that creatively, the band had a lot more time to work on this album, unlike past output (approximately nine months for Grand as opposed to nine weeks for all previously released material). Matt found that process a bit scary, and commented that, â€œhe would never like to do it this way again,â€ if not for the proud output but the over-analysis that can occur with such a long process. Matt explained the importance of keeping things simple:
â€œEverything that we have released up to this point, other than the couple of songs from our new recording, was written within the first year we had learned to play our instruments, which I donâ€™t think is a bad thing. I think it can actually be a crutch when someone is too skilled at an instrument because they lose touch with the importance of simple beats and melodies. And, I will tell you, that we are not that much better at our instruments.â€
Of course, Matt is certainly being facetious when he says this, as Matt & Kim have toured constantly over the past few years, clearly honing their skills, and presenting that very well on the lead single from their album, â€œDaylight.â€ When talking with Matt, he described the creative energy he and Kim were feeling when writing not only that song but the entire new album:
â€œWhile Kim and I have been fortunate enough to have been playing music for a living these past few years, there is still an undercurrent of, â€˜What the fuck are we doing?â€™ So, there is definitely a certain sense of nostalgia with our writing. As far as lyrics are concerned, we let those come to us from the music, as the compositions tend to be written first. For us, this gives it honesty, which is the most important piece.â€
Honesty is something that Matt & Kim have been accused of faking many times, as the enthusiasm of their show can be a bit overwhelming, and thus, some people believe, forced or put on. If youâ€™re unfamiliar with the group, they are constantly smiling, constantly enthusiastic, and constantly putting their all into their live shows. I find it pure, raw, and just plain fun to watch, and after talking with Matt, I came to realize that it really is them on stage:
â€œIf a band plays through being pissed off, you should see that theyâ€™re pissed off. We do what we feel. Sometimes youâ€™ll have a really rough day on the road, where you wonâ€™t have enough sleep, so the beginning of our set will be a little more low-key. But, generally, both of us just get stoked when we get on stage. Itâ€™s therapeutic to whatever bull we may have encountered throughout the day.â€
The grueling life on the road can also be made easier by, what else, the music you listen to in the car. When I asked Matt what he was listening to, I received an unexpected, but poignant, answer, and one that really reflects the mantra of the band:
â€œKim and I listen to what we think is fun; we listen to a lot of top-40 hip hop. My outlook on popular hip hop today is that they can do what The Beatles did in the 60s, which is they can be totally original, totally different, and still be widely liked. Of course this is much more difficult in rock music as there has been a general formula established for widely accepted rock music. Look at â€˜Drop It Like Itâ€™s Hotâ€™. That was a #1 single made up entirely of tongue-clicks and drum beats. I certainly appreciate the creativity of the genre. But, at the same time, Iâ€™m not saying weâ€™re releasing a Matt & Kim hip hop album any time soon.â€
Matt and Kim play tonight at the Mad Hatter in Covington and their album Grand hits stores on January 20.
Matt & Kim – Daylight (from Grand, out Jan. 20th)