Just about everyone's heard Matt & Kim — even if they haven't heard of Matt & Kim. Though the duo has been together for 10 years, it was the 2009 album Grand (one of three Matt & Kim LPs in the last four years) that saw the uplifting, shouty-chorus track "Daylight" take off. The song's initial push came from a hard-to-resist Bacardi ad featuring a man walking through dance halls from different eras as the duo played in the background. "Daylight" has appeared in many places since, including the games The Sims, FIFA and NBA Live and the TV shows Community, Entourage and Skins. The track even resurfaced in commercials last year for Comcast's Xfinity service.
Matt & Kim isn't a one-hit wonder. It released a remixed version of Lightning in early October, and the band continues to rise because of its live shows.
"A big objective we've always had is to make it a show where you don't need to know a single one of our songs and you can still enjoy it," says keyboardist and vocalist Matt Johnson. "There are certain bands out there that play complex, far-out music that sometimes is hard unless you know it, but our goal is the exact opposite. In the way someone can enjoy a DJ set that's been orchestrated to not be about knowing every individual song, we do a lot of that."
The duo employs DJ-like tactics: exhorting the crowd and roaming the stage end-to-end, and it also slips in cover snippets of gigantic hits between songs — and sometimes during them.
"We have a song, 'Cameras,' and in the middle we go into Ludacris' 'Move Bitch,'" Johnson says. "What other indie band out there is throwing Ludacris into the middle of one of their songs?"
The Matt & Kim tour has hit a few festivals this year, though it is an intimate-venue act at heart. When Johnson spoke with Gambit, he was still sore from a weekend show at Union College in Schnectady, N.Y. "Too much headbanging," he says. "I was just fist-pumping too hard on stage to the point I threw my f'n shoulder out." It's this symbiotic relationship with audiences of any size that pushes Matt & Kim sets into a higher gear.
"I watch NBA basketball games and watch players sort of half-ass it through the midseason games, then finally when they get to the finals you can tell they're really diving out of bounds, giving it everything," he says. "Kim (Schifino) and I have no variation like that — we're always diving out of bounds to catch the balls, whether it's a small private show for a couple hundred people or a festival in front of 40,000. Whenever we get on stage, we're putting everything into it."