June 28th, 2011
01:53 PM ET
When Brooklyn based duo Matt & Kim arrived in Philadelphia as part of their “Sidewalks” tour in early June, the temps were so sweltering that drummer Kim Schifino says she almost threw up on stage.
Good thing their next stop brought them to Atlanta on a thick, humid day, where the heat from outside was felt even more in the grungy confines of The Masquerade, where the two were set to play.
But the sticky weather actually hit the perfect note for the band, consisting of Kim and singer/keyboardist Matt Johnson, since they love nothing more than to throw a “sweaty dance party.”
CNN caught up with the two to talk "Sidewalks," live music and why they welcome a little pre-performance anxiety.
Matt and Kim's romance and musical adventures began in 2004 after they met at the Pratt Institute in New York, right around the same time they started learning their instruments.
“One day I was like ‘I want to learn how to play the drums,’” said Kim. “And he had a keyboard he wanted to figure out, so we just decided to learn together.”
The combination worked well for them, and their friends began to demand performances.
“Forced to play a show, couldn’t think of a name, [they] listed us as our names – boom. The rest is history,” said Matt.
Currently on tour after their third full-length album “Sidewalks,” Matt and Kim came back to Atlanta, where they recorded last year with producer Ben Allen. Known for his work with artists including Gnarles Barkley, Animal Collective and Christina Aguilera, the duo spent several months working with Ben.
Like the producer’s resume, Matt and Kim don’t feel their music necessarily fits into one category. On tour they’ve accompanied a variety of acts, from punk-rock band Against Me, to the DJ Girl Talk, to hip-hop group The Cool Kids.
“Wherever people want to go out and dance and have fun, that seems to be where we make sense,” explained Matt.
“Sidewalks,” released last November, is Matt & Kim’s second album from the FADER Label, following their ’09 disc, “Grand,” featuring the hit “Daylight.”
Meetings with other labels happened before landing at FADER, including a sit-down with the legendary Rick Rubin from Columbia. But the two quickly realized that FADER, which also has a publishing and film division, was a better environment to harness their creativity beyond just music.
“We like the idea of a multimedia company and something that wasn’t just trapped into selling albums, because we knew that was going down,” said Matt.
But when Matt & Kim play live, they give fans an entirely different experience. For Matt, recorded music and live music are two very different art forms.
He compares studio recording with acting for the screen. “With recorded [music] you want little nuances that people pick up the fiftieth time they’re sitting in their car listening to it,” Matt said. “But when you get on stage, [you] just strip it down to a beat and a melody.”
They also don’t miss out on the fun. In what’s become a show stopping staple, Kim puts down her drum sticks, climbs atop the hands of “strong looking” crowd members and booty dances to a techno beat.
Describing their show as having “high energy” is an understatement. The adrenaline often possesses Matt to stand on his stool with one foot while bending down to keep playing the keyboard. And it’s a joy that keeps Kim grinning from ear to ear, with arms flailing (you have a better chance of a UFO sighting than a smile-less Kim on stage).
So back in that small, stuffy room upstairs at The Masquerade before the concert, Matt and Kim explain that despite playing shows for around seven years now, they still get this “not nervous, but anxious” feeling – and they hope that never changes.
“The second you don't get that feeling anymore, is when you don't care anymore, and the thing is, we care,” said Matt. “So hopefully that won't go away.”
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