Brooklyn dance-punks Matt & Kim are as “do-it-yourself” as it gets. They record albums in their own apartment, spend hours in teleconference with aggravating journalists and lug tons of gear through crowded airports all by themselves.
Matt Johnson, who handles vocals and keyboards, and drummer Kim Schifino are indie auteurs with opening-act egos and they’ll visit Syracuse for a performance at the Westcott Theater, 524 Westcott St., on Thursday, Oct. 4, for an 8 p.m. show. They haven’t played the Westcott in more than two years, but little has changed since their last Salt City trip, including their hands-on approach to, well, everything.
In November 2010 the duo released their third album, Sidewalks (Fader), a cohesive, hip-hop-infused record that was yet another step in their sonic evolution. The production was clean, the instrumentals were complex, and each track was entirely unique. There were even slow songs, a fact that surprised many longtime fans expecting an album full of restless, head-bobbing punk nuggets.
Sidewalks seemed as if the formerly unkempt art students (Johnson and Schifino met while studying at the Pratt Institute) had transformed themselves into a gleaming pop machine. A subsequent tour with Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance only reinforced this perception.
“I loved that album,” defends Johnson. “But I feel like there were certain things that, in my mind, were a little over-polished.”
This cleanup was due, in part, to Gnarles Barkley producer Ben Allen, who assisted Johnson with the knob-twisting on Sidewalks. Although Allen’s input and experience were surely appreciated, his involvement added a foreign element to the duo’s isolated creative track. Johnson and Schifino produced and recorded their self-titled debut and their sophomore release Grand (Fader, 2009), the album that brought them their first sliver of pop spotlight.
“With Grand, we recorded that ourselves,” Johnson says. “It sounded raw because we had no idea what the hell we were doing.”
Lightning (Fader), their new album set for release on Tuesday, Oct. 2, is back to classic Matt & Kim. The studio sheen is gone, since a majority of the album was recorded at the pair’s Williamsburg apartment.
“It sort of has a parallel with our life in general,” Johnson admits. “There’s nothing we do in life that doesn’t involve the band.”
By reverting back to old form, Johnson and Schifino have, whether by fate or intention, accomplished something both critics and fans have long anticipated: they’ve captured the Matt & Kim live sound “in studio.”
“We had issues with how the drums were recorded,” Johnson says. “It’s a weird thing because we’re about having, especially live, a big loud drum presence: Kim and her brute force. Weird for a five-foot, four-inch petite woman. We made sure going back into Lighting that there’s plenty of songs on the album that have that presence, which I think kind of got lost on Sidewalks.”
The new single, “Let’s Go,” is a churning dance jam with a ridiculously catchy chorus. Schifino’s drums dominate the mix.
Like most Matt & Kim music videos, the visual accompaniment to “Let’s Go” possesses a homemade quality. It was filmed with a single stationary camera and features streetball player and self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Ball Handler” Patrick Roberts, a.k.a. Pat The Roc.
Johnson met Roberts at a charity basketball game and the two kept in touch. When it came time for the “Let’s Go” video, according to Johnson, “We thought, what had the energy of the song? And, we thought of Pat.”
Shot at Trevor Day School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the video depicts Roberts inside a gymnasium dribbling to the uppity song. Johnson and Schifino sit in the bleachers behind Roberts.
The pair plans to tour the United States throughout October and November. Surely, the material on Lightning will make for raucous live shows. “There are a lot of songs on this album that are some our fastest and rawest yet,” Johnson says.Tickets to the Matt & Kim concert are $20. For more information, visit thewestcotttheater.com.