Befitting a pair of New England transplants attending the artsy and elite Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Matt & Kim began their career underground playing neighborhood warehouse shows and DIY houses like this city's now-defunct Screamer House.
Befitting a pair of New England transplants attending the artsy and elite Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Matt & Kim began their career underground playing neighborhood warehouse shows and DIY houses like this city’s now-defunct Screamer House.
“It was a place that threw shows in their living room,” singer-keyboardist Matt Johnson remembers of the South Campus spot. “They made dinner for you when you came through.”
There was never anything exclusive about Matt & Kim’s music, though. When they joined forces in 2004, Johnson and bandmate Kim Schifino developed a reputation as magnetic performers, sending punk kids with cutesy sensibilities into spasms of joy with their dance-infused piano pop. Who needs pep rallies, anyway?
Soon the rest of the world caught on. Within weeks of releasing sophomore album “Grand” last year, Matt & Kim played to a packed Skully’s. A few months later, they were headlining CD101 Summerfest at LC Pavilion in front of 5,000 fans.
The duo played Summerfest for a second straight year last month in the wake of program director Andyman Davis’ unexpected death.
“I didn’t know what the mood was going to be, but it seemed more like a celebration of the people he helped and what he had done,” Johnson said.
He dedicated closing number “Daylight” to Andyman, crediting CD101’s influence with breaking the band in other cities.
“Him being a Matt & Kim supporter helped us more than I could explain,” Johnson said.
Now the band is coming to Columbus yet again in the lead-up to a new album, “Sidewalks.” Lead single “Cameras” is circulating online, but fans who show up at Newport Music Hall when the doors open at 7 p.m. Friday can hear the album in full.
“Sidewalks” is Matt & Kim’s first studio recording and first with a producer.
“The last one, with ‘Grand,’ we literally recorded that in the bedroom I grew up in at my parents’ house,” Johnson said. “We just did it ourselves.”
A new setting didn’t make for a new speed. Although Matt and Kim tend to be associated with spontaneous expressions of glee, their albums have always been the product of many months of micromanagement.
Now that they’ve soundtracked Bacardi commercials and “Entourage” episodes, Matt & Kim are bound to lose some of the staunchly independent crowd that first supported them.
Johnson said no matter how popular they get, the band tries to fend off cries of “Sellout!” by keeping ticket prices relatively low and performing with bands they actually like, such as this tour’s openers The So So Glos and Vacation.
“It’s nothing about money or more people knowing about you,” Johnson said. “I love writing music, and I just want everybody to hear it.”