INTERVIEW / Matt Johnson of Matt & Kim talks Injuries and Self-Made Music Videos

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Photos and Interview by Rickie McCanna

I recently sat down with Matt Johnson of the indie power duo, Matt and Kim ahead of their ‘Grand’ Ten Year Anniversary Tour which kicks off Thursday in Cleveland, Ohio at the Agora.

The duo are also viral video stars known for their innovative video concepts, from their captivating music videos to their “Matt and Kim Show Ya Stuff” vlog which allows fans a personal glimpse into their lives off the stage. Notably, Matt and Kim took home an MTV Video Music Award for “Breakthrough Video’’ for their self-made video “Lessons Learned” in which they stripped naked on a wide-eyed walk through Times Square on a very cold winter day. 

Matt and Kim recently started a podcast of their own, aptly titled The Matt and Kim Podcast, where the two of them discuss crazy hypotheticals. There are a lot of laughs, but the conversation is as thoughtful as it is fun. It's all very Matt and Kim. New episodes drop weekly. 

To mark the anniversary of their sophomore album GRAND, Matt and Kim announced the GRAND 10 Year Celebration Tour where, for the first time ever, they will play their breakout album in full + a few fan favorites. Self-recorded by the duo in Matt's childhood home in rural Vermont, the album features hits “Daylight”, which is certified RIAA platinum, “Lessons Learned”, whose video won the VMA for Breakthrough Video, and fan favorite "Good Ol' Fashion Nightmare". 

Find tour dates and much more at: 

I did want to start at the beginning since this is an anniversary tour, I know you and Kim met in college and you moved into together fairly quickly, what made you take that huge step right at the beginning of your relationship?

I mean, I think I was young enough so I didn’t recognize it as a huge step. At 20 I was in college and had gotten a house with some friends, and even going back further I shared a room with my brother for 17 years, and then I went to college and shared rooms with people and then had my own bedroom for two months, and then I moved in with Kim. So maybe I just wasn’t cut out for that alone life. I was staying at Kim’s place so often anyway I just thought, ‘think all the money we could save if we just shared a room together.’ I feel like my parents weren’t super psyched about that at 20, but I think it worked out in the best way it could have.

Your music videos are so fantastic, usually, you see a lot of cinematic or moody videos in the indie scene but yours are so lively and have a ton of choreography and a handful of them are even in one take. Do you normally hire a team or do you take full creative control with your videos?

It’s varied over the years, we’re always super involved and almost all of the ideas for the music videos have been ours and we sometimes needed extra hands and minds to make it work. We’re proudly an indie band, and I look at a lot of other indie videos and I love aesthetically pleasing things, I went to film school, I’m into photography, but there’s a lot of videos that [I think] like, “yeah graphic designers will love this but I don’t know who else is going to”. For us, I always come back to the energy of the music and I just want to try to match that with the video. And I also say a lot, I would want you to be able to hate the song but love the still video, it would be my mark for a successful video.

We definitely had a choreographer for the “It’s Alright” video of us sleeping in bed with our eyes closed while doing a choreographed dance. Tanisha Scott was our choreographer who has later gone on to do such things as the Drake Hotline Bling video, she’s done amazing, tons of other videos., she even worked with us on the Hey Now video which we never even thought of as an official music video when we made it and it was so cold, Kim couldn’t feel her feet at a certain point. It was January and we were out there shooting, no permits as we’ve been known to do, we told people we were shooting a student film when we got stopped.

We just did this video for Go Go where the only people on set were Me, Kim, PA Assistant, two dancers and they’re parents because they were 15. Audrey who’s 15 (dancer playing kim) choreographed it herself, I shot, directed and edited it myself. You know we have other stuff where it’s just the two of us riding around, no other help, there’s a video for Let’s Run Away where we used this idea where you spin a GoPro and get what I call ‘the Poor Man’s Bullet Time Effect’, Bullet Time is what they did in the Matrix where they jumped and the camera spun around them, but you’re just spinning a GoPro on some fishing wire trying not to hit yourself in the head.

I’ve seen you guys live multiple times and I know you’re extremely active on stage, I know two years ago Kim tore her ACL and it was really hard on you guys, was it a wake-up call and do you guys take extra precautions now when it comes to dancing and stage performance, or do you just keep going crazy?

Well, for better or worse we keep going crazy, and she tore her ACL, meniscus and her MCL, she really did her knee in and we had to cancel all our shows that year. She got surgery right away and had to recover. Go back to two months ago and she tore her ACL in her other knee standing on top of her drum set, the drum tipped she came down weird. Lucky she didn’t tear those other things and decided to wait until after this tour to get the surgery so she has no ACL in her right knee and going to be in a brace. The show must go on.

You guys are tough.

Kim’s tough. I just hold on.

It’s nice to see you guys are still super active, I see a lot of bands that aren’t exactly 20 anymore and they don’t do a lot on stage, it’s nice to see you guys so active and have a good stage presence.

Yeah, it’s so important for our show, I’m nervous that Kim’s supposed to take it a little easier but that she won’t.

Speaking of being 20, I saw you guys are posting a lot of throwbacks for the original Grand tour, what’s a memory that sticks out from the original tour?

It’s funny, it all kind of blends, there are so many shows and us just going through the footage brings back so many memories about it. I don’t know if I can specifically remember one, but one thing I do remember is that it was one of our last tours in a van, before we moved to a tour bus. Granted the tour bus is great, you go to sleep on it at night and sleep a full night then, wake up in the next town. But, when we were in the van that’s when we would stop at truck stops and see things along the way, being in a bus you don’t see anything you just wake up in a parking lot at the next venue. I do have fond memories, we would just road-trip, it was us and a few friends, just trudging around in the van, playing shows and goofing around.

What do you hope for the future when it comes to your music?

I guess I hope to do collaborative stuff, I don’t even know who with. I think it would be fun to branch out and do things with other people, see what happens there. It’s weird, there are so many other genres of music whether it’s electronic or pop or hip-hop or whatever, collabs are so common almost in every song but in alternative music, it’s almost pretty rare. Which I think is unfortunate, going back to the fun of it all, just being in a studio with other people and busting our asses, making songs. Just would be fun, that’s what I want to do.

Do you ever see yourself producing?

I do think so, I’ve dabbled in it and have produced some of our albums, I recently worked with Bohnes on a song called My Friends which is amazing, he has a great voice. I think it’s really fun to work with someone with a great voice because that is not me, that was fun and hopefully, there’s more of that in the future.

Rickie McCanna