From The Carpenters to The White Stripes to The Captain and Tennille, some of pop's most beloved powerhouses have come and gone in the form of the almighty boy-girl duo —typically bound either by blood or romance.
Such is the way of real-life couple and bandmates Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino, aka Matt & Kim. In slightly less than a decade, the duo has traveled a vast distance in a very short time, steadily upgrading from reluctant Brooklyn basement party staples circa 2004 to present-day nationally touring festival favorites. Their commercially viable, critically favored blend of synth-driven punk and hyperactive dance pop has scored them countless commercial and television placements, and performances at the world's biggest music festivals. Nevertheless, Matt & Kim are still repping DIY ethos and maintaining their place as an intimate party band.
"How we started out was just playing parties, basements and BYOB situations," says Johnson. "Before we ever made an album, we were touring like that. I think that kind of made this vibe where we always wanted to bring the party. When venues started growing, crowds started growing — our concern was, 'How do we keep the party?' "
It's an understandable dilemma and a pretense that'd be easy to snub if their living, breathing, crowd-surfing audience wasn't there to mirror it consistently and in bigger numbers over the years. It doesn't hurt that Johnson and Schifino feed their fan base generously. They intercut their own hits with truncated covers of guilty-pleasure party jams, pelting the audience with confetti, balloons and other random mementos.
"Our audience gives us so much visual feedback," explains Johnson. "There are so many bands I love, [but] the most you can get into them is, like ... bobbing your head. That's when they're really killing it. But for us, we have an environment where you can see people getting into it — crowd-surfing and jumping around or whatever."
Additionally, via stage banter, interviews, digital content and their viral-prone music videos, the duo is an open book. They have a TMI, full-disclosure policy that allows their eccentric personalities to dictate the group's brand.
Matt & Kim's video for "It's Alright" from last year's Lightning shows the pair clad in only their skivvies, lying in the bed they presumably share, performing an uninterrupted, choreographed routine. It's a mild gesture compared to the viral gold they struck back in 2009 with "Lessons Learned," wherein the two stripped naked while running through Times Square — the latter clip earned them a "Breakthrough Video" moon man at MTV's 2009 Video Music Awards.
"Onstage it's just gotten worse and worse, where I'm the one smacking my hand against my forehead thinking, 'Kim, I can't believe you just said that!' " says Johnson in regard to his partner's tendency to over-share. "That's just her. I think it comes out uncontrollably onstage."
Johnson cites their recent Bonnaroo performance as evidence. After encouraging attendees in the back to crowd-surf all the way to the front, Schifino distributed packages of baby wipes to the audience encouraging the ladies to "clean up" before any mid-festival coitus.
"We're an open book," says Johnson. "In a way, it was an accident that we became a band named after our first names, but on the other hand, it seems totally fitting, because we're just kind of on a first-name basis with everyone. We're not behind a band name, it's just 'Matt and Kim.' "