Matt & Kim are an achingly sincere band. They play energetic "punk pop" on keyboards (Matt) and drums (Kim). They're a couple. They named their band Matt & Kim. Bands simply don't get any more straightforward than this.
That sincerity would merely be cute if not for Matt & Kim's insanely catchy music and exuberant delivery. Their songs combine insistent drumming and gleeful keyboard hooks with raw, excited vocals. They're bound to draw comparisons to Mates of State—both groups feature boy/girl couples on drums and keys—but Matt & Kim radically improve on that band's syrupy-sweet pop by adding a much-needed jolt of spastic noisiness.
"We'd never do any kind of a love song," explains Matt. "It's just not our style."
The couple met four years ago, while they were both attending the Pratt Institute in New York, and began playing music together two years later. They approach their band not with the studied focus of art-school grads but rather with the do-it-yourself amateurism of punk rock.
"Kim had never played drums, but always loved watching drummers," says Matt. "I had never really played keyboards or sang, but I found this really cool '70s synth and thought, 'Yeah.'"
This wide-eyed sense of adventure is at the core of Matt & Kim's aesthetic, and working as a duo has made it easier for them to have fun while still making truly compelling music.
New York has been both a struggle and a source of inspiration for Matt & Kim, and they've been able to carve out a space for themselves there amid the hundreds of other aspiring acts.
"Out of all the great towns we've been to, we both couldn't see living anywhere besides Brooklyn," says Matt. "It's tough coming up with the extra 300 bucks every month for a practice space and having a van that is impossible to park every night. When we moved out of our last apartment, we spent a month living out of a storage space. We have a roommate, and we share a room, and I think it brings things down to close to [the cost of] other towns. Of course, our apartment is only eight feet wide, and the stairwell looks like you could crash through it at any minute.
"You just gotta make it work if you don't want to spend a lot of money; live in closets, old industrial buildings, whatever," he continues. "And that's part of what makes things in the DIY scene here great; you have to be a driven person if you're living here. But the shows are super fun, and there's so many things happening.
"Mostly we roll with shows that double as parties. We are asked a lot to play venues in Manhattan, but we generally turn them down, preferring Brooklyn lofts with cheap door prices and BYOB situations. One of our last tours was about 10 weeks long and I think we played less then five established venues."
Recently, though, Matt & Kim's growing success has affected hometown shows for the band, and their current tour supporting French Kicks has them playing larger clubs instead of basements.
"Lately some [Brooklyn loft shows] have become a little unsafe with bigger turnouts. But I guess tonight we're playing the Bowery Ballroom."
Don't expect any moon-eyed, Mates-style cooing from them at their shows; Matt & Kim's raucous performances are more basement-shaking punk than practiced pop. Live, Matt & Kim most closely resemble their fellow Brooklyn punk popsters Japanther, combining chaotic, physical enthusiasm with anthemic hooks and huge sing-along choruses.
"It's all about having fun for us, and hopefully for those watching. [I]f it's not fun, then why do it?"