After an injury, a year off the road and a new album, Matt and Kim play Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Who: Matt and Kim
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Saturday, Aug. 18, 9:30 p.m.
How much: $55-$85
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
As the indie pop duo Matt and Kim took the stage at the Vaiven Festival in March of last year, drummer Kim Schifino leapt from an elevated platform with the soaring exuberance fans have come to expect from her. But when she landed and twisted her right knee, it was clear something was wrong.
Adrenaline pumping, she sat behind her kit and actually played through four songs. But as she cried in pain through the duo’s signature hit “Daylight,” they gave in and left the stage. The band soon learned that she’d torn her ACL and would need nine months to recover.
After about 14 years of nearly nonstop touring, Matt and Kim were off the road for a full year.
It’s hard to imagine Schifino sitting still for more than a moment, if you’ve ever seen Matt and Kim live. She has elevated crowd-surfing and stage acrobatics to an artform in the band’s sweaty, silly, celebratory shows. A month into Kim’s recovery, they started writing songs for a new record.
The time off the road resulted in the thoughtful new album, “Almost Everyday,” released in May, and a monthlong tour that kicks off at Belly Up Aspen on Saturday. It’s the second leg of their return tour and their first show at Belly Up, though they played a memorable set here in Wagner Park at X Games in 2014.
“We’ve been lucky to have a very good life, to be able to do what we love with the person we love,” keyboardist and singer Matt Johnson said in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles. “And then you get a wrench thrown into those gears. But there is a certain amount of creativity that comes out of the struggle.”
Matt and Kim have been paired creatively and romantically since their days as art students at the Pratt Institute. With their typical goofy sweetness, they often say onstage that they’re “partners in music and partners in sex.”
So the injury was more than a professional hiccup.
“I was surprised when the album was done how many references there were to, like, ‘We’re not dead yet,’” Johnson said with a laugh. “It’s just what we were thinking about. It felt like the end of an era because we weren’t on the road and we had been for 14 years before that.”
The songs on the new record are upbeat and danceable as ever, but there is a strain of melancholy in these songs. The big booming singalong “Forever” includes the line “Don’t want to live forever if things stay like this.” And the sweet a cappella number “Happy If You’re Happy” is like a themesong for nursing a loved one back to health.
Sharing every aspect of work and personal life may be a challenge for some, but for Matt and Kim it works.
“Anyone else who works with their significant other or spends every waking second of every day should have killed each other by now,” Johnson said. “For some reason, with us, it keeps going.”
It’s an intense partnership in the personal and professional realm and in just about everything else.
“The nice part about doing the band together is that our successes or failures or whatever, we get to share those together,” Johnson said. “It’s not about one person trying to pick the other one up. I feel like I wallow more. But Kim, there is no stopping her — she is up early and exercising and makes me feel guilty for sleeping in.”
They’ve mined their offstage life to create a brilliant and hilarious social media presence, including YouTube videos and the series “Matt and Kim Show Ya Stuff.” (They also made a two-part video explaining what happened with Kim’s injury and the music they wrote for it ended up being the opening instrumental track on the new album).
“We wanted another way to be Matt and Kim,” Johnson said. “So we started making these YouTube vlog videos and it’s really cool.”
While the comments section on YouTube is notoriously brutal in its criticism and trolling, somehow, Johnson notes, the community that’s grown around Matt and Kim’s videos is largely positive and supportive. It is as if the pair’s megawatt smiles, enduring positivity and irreverence have inoculated them from internet hate.
Their most-viewed vlog is a silly instructional bit titled “How to Pee in a Car.” Why? Johnson laughs, “because I guess perverts are rampant on the internet.”
The pair tapped a number of friends for guest vocals on the new album — a list that ranges from Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus to Santigold and Kevin Morby. They brought in the guests to capture the communal sing-along nature of a Matt and Kim concert.
“There is something about the energy of our show live that I really love,” Johnson said. “It’s why we did it. And a big part of that is a ton of people singing along on the songs and hearing all those voices — it’s more like a choir.”
The new album continues the band’s refinement of punk-rock simplicity, sugary pop positivity and thudding dance beats to form downright irresistible tracks.
Matt and Kim are proud of the new record. But, in keeping with their aggressively fan-first approach, they’re not a band that goes on the road and plays all the new stuff to the exclusion of more familiar songs.
“I’ve gone to see bands I like who are on tour after they put out a new album and they play the entire album,” said Johnson. “It’s so annoying. I’m like, ‘You have a whole body of work! I want to hear stuff from all of it!’”
They spread their set lists around their six-album catalog and they have a well-established knack for offbeat cover songs — the pair will often play their spin on current chart-toppers, old-school party starters like Van Halen’s “Jump” and some hip-hop deep cuts like DMX’s “Party Up.”
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The octogenarian debutante’s 14 paintings were hung in March but went unseen until last month when the Aspen Art Museum opened to visitors following a closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. The works date from the 1990s to 2019.