If working journalists had a quarter for every time a touring musician said their particular town was one of the artist’s favorite places to play, they wouldn’t have to be working journalists anymore.
So when one-half of the electronic dance-punk duo Matt and Kim — which plays a concert Friday at the Ogden Amphitheater — insists that Utah is one of those places, you’ll forgive the skepticism.
“Utah has been — and Salt Lake City, you can look on the record — I’ve mentioned it as one of my favorite spots to play,” said Matt Johnson, vocalist/keyboardist for Matt and Kim. “I’ve used a few cities as examples, for many years, of places with a certain type of explosive energy, and you’ve got it there.”
And apparently, the feeling is mutual. In announcing the Ogden Twilight lineup earlier this year, organizers said Matt and Kim “has probably been one of the most requested artists we’ve had over the years.”
Johnson says he and drummer/partner Kim Schifino, who formed Matt and Kim 15 years ago in Brooklyn, have never played Ogden but they’re no strangers to Salt Lake City. He says they’ve played shows in Utah for many years, and it’s always “one of the most energetic stops” in terms of audiences.
“Our last show there, the whole place — literally from the beginning to the end of the show — the entire venue was jumping up and down,” Johnson said in a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles. “It was like a trampoline. Even before we came on stage, the audience was so loud and exciting.”
Johnson, who hails from Vermont, wonders if there isn’t a similarity between the Green Mountain State and Utah.
“Where I grew up, you didn’t get every single show,” he said. “Whereas, being in New York City you get jaded, thinking, ‘If this band is playing Manhattan it’ll probably play Brooklyn, so I’m not crossing the river for it.’”
Although Matt and Kim still consider Brooklyn home, these days they’re based out of L.A.
“As a band that was identified so deeply with Brooklyn for so many years, I’m drinking in the California Kool-Aid,” Johnson laughed. “The pace out here is slower. I grew up in Vermont, so I wasn’t really made for New York.”
Although Johnson describes Matt and Kim’s genre as “indie dance music,” he points out that their music has a bit more energy to it.
“Indie is known for being kind of sleepy, kinda moody staring-at-your-feet, and we’re more upbeat,” he said.
The music has also been called pop-punk .
“For sure, onstage we have lots of elements of pop music,” Johnson said. “But the way Kim plays the drums, and the way the mosh pit forms, it’s more like punk.”
Music critics have described Matt and Kim’s most recent album, “Almost Everyday,” as a little less “cheery” than previous albums. Johnson concedes that it’s a fair assessment of the album, but he also thinks the album captures a bit of what the band was going through at the time.
“Everything is a little snippet of where you life is at, in the moment,” he said.
In March 2017, Schifino suffered a traumatic knee injury on a stage in Mexico, and the couple was forced to cancel their remaining shows for the year. He admits it was pretty hard on them — especially Schifino
“Other bands might have gone on and done the shows and had Kim just sit there, but Kim’s the kind of performer who likes to dance on top of the drum kit,” he said. “We just couldn’t do that to audiences.”
As a result, 2018’s “Almost Everyday” was something of a reflection of that setback.
“The theme of death, in a way, comes up in a lot of the songs,” Johnson said.
But even a relatively darker Matt and Kim album is still pretty upbeat, Johnson admits.
“If anything, the songs are saying, ‘Be happy with what you have before it’s gone,’” he said. “So we have a new appreciation for life.”
Johnson says they’ve been writing new songs of late, but that doesn’t mean another album is imminent.
“I don’t know if there’s another album in the works, we just feel inspired to write music, and we’ll see how we lay it out,” he said. “We’re six albums deep now, but you know what? I never feel like anybody ever says, ‘My favorite album of this band was No. 7.’ So we’re not in a rush to get there, we just have some songs that need to exist.”
Matt and Kim have also gotten a bit more personal in their songs.
“We avoided talking about our relationship, for years, in our music,” he said. “We didn’t want to end up Sonny and Cher, singing love songs to each other.”
Matt and Kim — both the couple and the band — pretty much happened by accident, according to Johnson. His interest in music began after his older brother got his first guitar.
“I was a year younger, so I thought ‘I guess I gotta get a bass now, so we can play music together,’” he said. “But I literally never in my life expected I could be a musician.”
Indeed, Johnson initially went to school for film and “assumed I’d be in that world.”
But after Johnson and Schifino met at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute and quickly moved in together, he says Schifino “randomly” decided she wanted to learn how to play the drums.
“We fell backwards into it,” Johnson said of the Matt and Kim show. Everything was an accident. Even our name was by accident.”
About that name: Matt and Kim’s first show was back in 2004, at an art gallery opening for a friend in Queens.
Recalls Johnson, “This friend was, like, ‘You play, right?’ And I said, ‘No, Kim is just learning drums and I can’t really play.’ He said, ‘OK, you’re opening.’”
Johnson says the friend simply put their first names down on the flyer — Matt and Kim.
“It was all be accident,” he says.
After that, Johnson said they decided they needed to figure out a proper band name, but they struggled with it for so long that eventually — again, by accident — they just stuck with Matt and Kim.
“This is what we are,” Johnson says now. “We are the people, Matt and Kim. What you see is what you get. But being on a first-name basis with listeners just makes sense.”
Oh, there were a few other band names the couple considered. Like, Scream Team.
“When Kim was, like, 8, she had a fake band where she played a tennis racket with her brother and neighbors,” he said. “The called themselves the Scream Team — that was one of the names we thought of for the band.”
Although they didn’t adopt Scream Team as the band’s name, Johnson says it is the name of their fan club.
The Matt and Kim concert, with special guest Ladies of LCD Soundsystem, is part of the 2019 Ogden Twilight series. The show begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, in the Ogden Amphitheater, 343 Historic 25th St. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $50 for VIP seats, available through www.24tix.com.
The Matt and Kim website offers a warning to Ogden concert-goers on its tour dates page: “Language not suitable for all ages.” Subsequent dates on that tour page have been amended to read the more playful: “Language is definitely not suitable for all ages because of Kim.”
A new feature for the Matt and Kim Ogden Twilight show will be an official pre-concert celebration from 4-7 p.m. Friday at The Monarch, 455 25th St., in downtown Ogden. The event will feature local artists, music, food and beverage vendors. Admission to the pre-concert party is $5, which organizers say will benefit local arts initiatives for O1ARTS.
Additional pre-concert events will be held at the remaining six Ogden Twilight concerts in the 2019 season.