Why Metro Detroit Is One of Indie Band Matt and Kim’s Favorite Places

The duo’s vocalist and keyboard player talks touring their sophomore album in full and the cult-like popularity of the song “Daylight” 
Matt and Kim
Matt and Kim photograph courtesy of Caleb Kuhl

The decision to tour their sophomore album, Grand, in full to commemorate its 10-year-anniversary wasn’t an obvious decision at first for indie-pop band Matt and Kim. “We battled it for a little bit,” says Matt Johnson, who serves as the duo’s vocals and keyboard player alongside Kim Schifino on drums. “We didn’t want to look back, but that album changed everything for us.” A decade after its release, Matt and Kim have five more albums under their belt, but the adoration for Grand and the album’s single “Daylight” — which reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart when it premiered — remains strong. “People tell us about these experiences they had, and all these lyric tattoos from songs,” Johnson says. “We can’t let this anniversary go by without doing it.”

A stop at Royal Oak Music Theatre, on Oct. 21, is part of the Grand – 10 Year Celebration Tour. Along with performing the album in full, the band will play other fan-favorite songs and tape an episode of their Matt and Kim Podcast in front of a small VIP audience before the show. In anticipation of all of the above, Johnson spoke with Hour Detroit on what makes the Detroit area one of their favorite stops and why he thinks the material on Grand still resonates with fans.   

Hour Detroit: Is it true that you haven’t played all the songs off Grand live before? And, if so, what are you excited to play this time? 

Matt Johnson: It’s true, yeah. For some reason, we’re not one of these bands that when we put out a new album we play the whole thing. I like to know songs when I see a band live, so we warm up to it slowly and sometimes we never play them all. There’s an instrumental [on Grand] called “Cinders,” which is one of the fastest songs we’ve ever wrote. There’s a slow song called “Turn This Boat Around.” I mean, “Good Ol Fashion Nightmare” has been this beloved Matt and Kim song for many years. It comes in and out of our set time and time again because we just haven’t quite figured out how to tackle it correctly on stage. I think we nailed it this time.

Aside from playing Grand in full, how else are you celebrating this anniversary during the tour? 

We’re always adding new things to our shows. We now have these terrifying naked blowup dolls with our faces printed on them that we send out into the audience. The new one has been this 6-foot inflatable unicorn. You hook a hose into its butt and it sprays water out its horn (laughs). We’ve been bringing that on stage. Our whole thing is how to break that front wall of the stage where it’s not just about what’s happening on stage but it’s about what’s happening the whole room. I put the Detroit area in my top five cities as places to play because of the energy of the crowd. That’s everything to us. People are jumping around and moshing and crowd surfing and getting wild. If I was looking out at an audience and they were just bopping their heads it would be like a comedian telling jokes and nobody laughs. I can see the immediate reaction and feedback of people singing along and yelling and dancing and jumping around and all of that. that’s everything that fuels the show. We get that there, so I’m excited.

How do you think you’ve evolved since the album came out in 2009? 

Evolution is a weird thing. I don’t like to think that we’re evolving in one direction. I put up [on Instagram] a month or two ago how crazy it was that “Daylight” hit 100 million plays on Spotify when Spotify wasn’t even out in the U.S. when it came out. It’s about people who just kept coming back years later, and now I was just on Spotify the other day and it got another 4 million plays in the last couple months. It’s just so wild. I don’t know if we were ever meant to have a song like that. We’re a proud indie band that is happy to have a sort of cult thing, and it’s weird to have that one song that found its own life. People are still walking down the aisle to it. It’s unbelievable for a song that me and Kim were sitting in a bedroom in Vermont writing (laughs).

Why do you think the material is still resonating? 

I assume maybe its authenticity and honesty. I think there’s a beauty, for a lot of bands early on, when they have no expectations of having a big single or whatever. They’re just honestly making the music that’s within them without other expectations. Sometimes I find that bands have a tough time recapturing that because they have all these label people around them and people that are searching for a certain sound when it’s not what just comes out. [Grand] was our second album, I don’t think our first album is that great. I don’t think there was much expectation for it when we made that album. Going back to me then and saying, “in 10 years from now, you’re going to be playing rooms of thousands of people and playing this,” yeah, he wouldn’t believe it if I told him (laughs). 

What do you have going on past this tour? 

The podcast has been a weekly thing that we’ve been doing. We’re having fun doing it. It’s just casual and a fun way to put ourselves out there aside from the music. We are working on new music; we’ve been in the studio quite often. Some of the songs, I think, are going to terrify Matt and Kim fans and some of them are going to be perfect for them. But I don’t know exactly what the plan is. I’m not in a rush to make a new album. I want to do some collaborative stuff. I’m excited to be making new music but I can’t say there are any real plans for it.

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