It’s hard to keep a good band down. Super-energetic and adorable indie-electro, dance-punk duo Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino — better known as Matt and Kim — returned to the stage last month following a freak accident during a show in Mexico in April last year. Schifino suffered a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament after jumping of a stage riser and awkwardly landing. The Los Angeles-via-Brooklyn act that has made a career on exuberant, high-octane live shows had to cancel all appearances for the rest of 2017 and early 2018.
It was a low point for the professional and romantic couple so used to recording upbeat songs, playing the world’s biggest music festivals, and creating memorable music videos with the drive of Energizer bunnies. Schifino faced surgery and grueling rehab, which Johnson documented on Matt and Kim’s behind the scenes YouTube channel. Fortunately for fans, they are back to doing what they do best: whipping audiences into a frenzy with their simplistic keyboard and drums set-up, infused with a whole lot of adrenaline.
Even better, their sixth album, Almost Everyday (out May 4), came out of that time off. It saw the two tackling the loss of feeling indestructible that growing older — and major surgery – brings, all the while maintaining the positivity they’ve become known for by audiences everywhere.
CultureMap caught up with Johnson following an appearance in San Diego on the first leg of their 30-plus dates tour, including a stop in Austin on April 12 at Stubbs BBQ.
CultureMap: The lyrics on the new album are taking on some serious subject matter, like getting older. You’ve been doing this rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for a while now — how has your worldview changed over the years?
Matt Johnson: It’s crazy when I think about it because I don’t feel like we’ve been doing this as long as we have, but it’s been 14 years. Last year, it gave me this peek into what life might be like after the band when we’re off the road, just living at home.
It was like the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, it seems what it’d be like. Granted, I’ve always been super appreciative of what I’ve got to do, but it heightened the appreciation even more, that it let me know things don’t last forever. I think that made its way to the album because we were writing in that time.
CM: Are you starting to feel your years a little bit?
MJ: There are a couple things to let us know we’re not invincible, meaning what happened to Kim. I’ve done so many stupid things in my life revolving around skateboarding and snowboarding and BMX biking, and I never broke a bone. But then I broke a bone in my hand on stage the year before and I thought, “Godammitit, I’m not invincible!”
But on the other hand, I think there are 23 other hours of the day we’re not on stage and that one hour, we’ve always put in 150 percent. I can’t help it, the adrenaline hits and everything comes out. So, I think the show is surprisingly the same or more energetic than it was even 10 years ago.
CM: How much did not being able to play a show for so long affect your relationship with your bandmate and partner?
MJ: It’s weird. People sometimes ask how you separate the professional life from the personal life, and you really can’t — they’re completely intertwined. Kim was bummed because she loves playing drums, she loves getting on stage. When you take that away from her, it really put her into [a] depression.
That’s why a song like “Happy If You’re Happy,” one of the songs we already released from the album was about only being happy when you’re happy. When she was feeling sad, I was really bummed, which is really unlike us because we’ve been very lucky to have a good life. My entire adult life we’ve been on the road and touring doing shows. It was just a very different year.
CM: You must be very happy to be back on the road then.
MJ: Oh, hell yeah. Even though [I’m] very nervous a lot of the time because Kim certainly doesn’t hold anything back. We were doing a meet and greet at the festival in Mexico [last week] and one of the people we met got excited and grabbed Kim, then picked her up and was spinning her around. Then her leg slammed into another fan. I’m just very worried. I feel I’m not invincible anymore.
CM: You just got back from Mexico – how much was it going full circle with the injury happening there?
MJ: We had a dinner afterwards with the crew and it felt kind of like a celebration because it had been about a year since we had been in Mexico playing a festival and then ended up in the hospital. Then, one year later, we were back in Mexico and we played another festival that went successful and everyone was okay. So yeah, it felt like some sort of closure.
CM: You’ve recorded albums quickly in the past. Did the time off give you more time to record Almost Everyday?
MJ: I feel like this is one of our faster albums we’ve made. I think when you can make things faster, it comes out more honest and real and you don’t dull down the edges. We thought we were going to have more time to work but when Kim was in recovery, we just couldn’t get to it.
CM: Your stage presence is so positive, and people have come to expect an exuberant live show and high energy songs. How do you keep from pigeonholing yourself into a particular sound or reputation, or are you happy with where you are?
MJ: I’m very happy in that people come to our shows because they love the energy. I’ve found that a lot of people, indie isn’t their thing – they might be into metal, they might be into rock, or they might be into dance music. But there’s something about the energy of our show that they get swept up in, whatever they’re into. My favorite part of the show is watching a visually excited audience and I would be sad if it ever changed.
CM: Why do you think it’s important to have a fun band such as Matt & Kim, in such a divisive time?
MJ: I grew up playing in punk bands, and a lot of times, politically inspired punk bands through my teenage years. I have looked at Matt and Kim and the soapbox — however big or small it is —and what kind of statements we use with that, and I think the best thing we can do is get the people excited to do whatever it is what they want to do.
Matt and Kim play Stubb’s in Austin Thursday, April 12; White Oak Music Hall in Houston on Friday, April 13; and the Bomb Factory in Dallas on Saturday, April 14. Cruisr and Twinkids open. Find tickets here.