Matt Johnson, one half of the breakout Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim, still vividly recalls playing in West Michigan during the band’s early punk-rock days.
The year was 2006. He and drummer Kim Schifino were touring in support of their self-titled debut, having formed the band fresh out of college two years before. They had played a few rowdy house shows in our area, but when they took the “stage” at the beloved but now-long-defunct Rocketstar Café in Kalamazoo, they literally almost brought down the house.
“I remember we were playing in that coffee shop, and we were playing on the floor, and everyone’s jumping up and down and the floor started really creaking,” Johnson told Revue. “(So) the owner or whoever had to go in the basement and wedge like a two-by-four to make sure the floor was supported.”
The pair has continued to channel that wild energy into every one of their live shows, cranking up the onstage antics and party atmosphere as they’ve expanded their fanbase over the past decade.
An absolute favorite at massive music festivals from Lollapalooza and Coachella to Michigan’s own Electric Forest and Mo Pop, the group has opened for everyone from Blink-182 to Katy Perry.
The duo aims to bring a party like none other, and throw themselves into every performance — blood, sweat, tears and all.
Again, quite literally.
While on tour in Mexico in support of their last LP, 2015’s New Glow, Schifino tore her ACL onstage, forcing the band to take the rest of 2017 off from touring. The longest break they had ever taken from the road since starting the band, Schifino’s recovery directly influenced the new LP, Almost Everyday, released this past May.
“After Kim had the year she had to take off, because of her injury, and the long recovery … to come back, it was like, ‘OK, good, we still get to do this!’ Because it was confusing for a while not being on the road,” Johnson said. “(But) it gave me some perspective of what life would be like when I didn’t get to tour in a band anymore and have people applauding the songs we wrote. It’s like the best thing. While I never took it for granted, I’ve always appreciated everyone who came out, I think I did even more after it being taken away for a year.”
The pair returned to the road this spring for a run of shows around the album’s release. The shows were a welcome return to the frantically nonstop world of live music — and the band’s riotously gleeful performances.
“I was initially concerned because I was like, ‘Kim you need to take it a little bit easy,” Johnson said. “‘The doctor said you’re not going to be fully healed for two years.’ But there was no taking it easy. She just started right back up where she left off.”
The band is known for beaming at each other, and their fans, with wide smiles and banter than includes dance breaks and numerous “inflatable objects,” and Johnson said they don’t want to lose any of that interactive kinetic energy when they perform despite Schifino’s ongoing recovery.
Admitting that mortality comes up more often on Almost Everyday than fans would think it would on a Matt and Kim album, Johnson explained how making the record fit right in with the band’s internal recuperation, and their processing of the changing political world around them.
“There’s just no time to be bummed,” he said. “I don’t want any of my life to be like that, and I think seeing Kim, who’s such an upbeat person, to see her down was like, ‘Wow, what even makes sense in this world?’”
Personal, poignant songs came out of those questioning moments, with the duo — who are also a couple offstage — recording their first bonafide love song in Happy If You’re Happy.
Sharing their love from the stage, Johnson said they’ve always wanted to spread the joy they feel playing music together — whether there’s five people in the audience or 5,000.
“We’ve thought about if we ever added other members or something, it would be weird, because it’s the two of us, and then how we connect with everybody else in the room,” he said. “A lot of times people ask, ‘How do you guys put out so much energy, there’s only two of you?’ And I’m like, ‘No, there’s 1,002 people in this room.’
“We want to light the whole room. We want people to see each other and us to see them. And maybe that all came from back in the day, at places like Rocketstar where we’re all in a room together on the same floor. I don’t know. But I do think feeling the energy between us and then projecting that out is what’s important.”
Matt and Kim
20 Monroe Live
11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Sept. 18, 7 p.m, $25+
20monroelive.com, (844) 678-5483