MATT & KIM + SMOKE RESTAURANT.
Tunes N' Spoons : 2 :
With their new album, Sidewalks, scheduled to be released on November 2nd, 2010, the upbeat, dance punk duo, Matt and Kim returned to Dallas to perform at a packed House of Blues on Friday night. We were fortunate enough to interview them over a delightful dinner at Smoke Restaurant, an upscale southern-style barbecue favorite in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas. Cheers.
So you guys met in Brooklyn. Pratt Institute?
Matt: Yeah,I was there for film, Kim was there for illustration. Pratt's a pretty broad art school education. I never did too much drawing when I went there. Actually, once freshman year, I had to take a nude figure drawing class. I never drew anyone, let alone naked people. It was fucking terrifying. But yeah, the education was pretty broad. I graduated and did a bunch of film stuff until we started playing music together.
Kim: We started in a music and art based community where you go and see your friends play music at lofts and parties on weekends. I had graduated, Matt just was about to graduate. It actually wasn't like we wanted to start a band, we just wanted to learn how to play. Then, a friend pushed us to play for this show but we didn't have a name. We said to one another, "we're not a band, we don't have a name." Basically, in order to play, we had to come up with three songs. Well, we only had three songs. The promoter put us down as "Kimberly and Matt" so we just went with it that night. I only get called Kimberly when I'm in trouble, so we changed it to Matt & Kim. It just seemed to work. Plus, it looked better graphically. That's how it all began.
Matt, do you have any film projects you're currently working on?
Matt: Only in our music videos. We're planning out our next one. I play a big part in the other videos we've done. The only time we apply our $100,000 art school education is when Kim does our album covers and what I do working on our videos.
Do you create the concept for the videos?
Matt: For the videos, we've done "Yea Yeah" and "Lessons Learned", one where we get food thrown at us for 3 1/2 minutes and the other where we take our clothes off in Times Square. Those were both our concepts.
Kim: Everything that is "Matt & Kim" has us involved in it, even if its a sticker design. At times, I'm sure its very frustrating for our record label.
So being here in Dallas, how do you both feel about inspiring R&B icon & Dallasite Erykah Badu's controversial music video, "Window Seat"?
Matt: The idea for the "Lessons Learned" video initially came from the "Yea Yeah" video which was really simple - one take, three cameras. I asked myself; "How can we make a video that is even simpler, yet more potent?" I just wanted one shot and one camera. I really believe in things that you can explain in one sentence and still be curious about, such as "two people take their clothes off and walk through Times Square." It seems like something you would watch, right? Also, the song lyrics to "Lessons Learned" seemed to fit the idea. The song is about the freedom of hitting rock bottom. I thought, 'there's a hell of a lot of freedom in walking naked through Times Square.'
When Badu called, we talked on the phone for awhile. She's an artist I like and respect. I was flattered and thought, 'Man, you want to do this video too? That's awesome that she's using my idea that we created.' Then I was kinda like, 'Wait, that's fucked up.'
But we thought about it and discussed it. Erykah mentioned, "You're the first to take the walk, I'll be the next to take the walk and we can encourage others to take "the walk" - as a movement of liberation sort of thing. Also, she gave us the credit at the beginning of the video. So it's nice the video directed more attention to people who wouldn't have found out about us otherwise. It worked out. She got prosecuted didn't she?
Kim: [regarding Erykah's charge] I think it's more conservative down here. In New York, we have tons of friends that strip down and ride their bikes through the city, naked. When we were doing the video, you could tell who were tourists and who were locals. People from New York just got out of the way and moved on. Tourists definitely took pictures.
Your live shows are incredibly interactive.
Matt: Well I think we came from a situation where we used to play in real intimate environments, whether it was at house parties, basements, lofts, art spaces, or whatever. People always ask, "how did you adapt and play larger shows like festivals?" We don't. We play the exact same way we always have. I think having a connection to the audience means more than a connection to the music. If you can make a connection.. like we are all humans and we are all here together...it makes a big difference. We just try to be ourselves.
Are there other artists that have helped influence Matt & Kim's performance style?
Matt: I got into playing music from years of being into punk rock. Attending those shows were just crazy -- less about playing music and more about getting wild, like breaking guitars. I never got into going to see bands where the audience just sat still and nodded. So we make sure to bring some of that crazy attitude with us. Our whole theory is just to be honest on stage. Kim and I are psyched to play and we let it show -- it's activating. But when you just act bored on stage, it's really just... boring.
Photo of the 100 Mile Cheese Plate with
Almond Brittle & Honey Comb AppetizerMatt, Matt & Kim's second album, Grand, wasn't recorded in an actual studio, but at your childhood home in Vermont. Was Sidewalks recorded in a similar way?
Matt: Sidewalks was recorded in the studio but when we recorded our first album, we recorded in the studio with limited time (9 days). We didn't have much money and it was very restrictive. Going into Grand, we decided, rather than recording quickly in a studio, we can buy stuff to record with and figure it out at home. We spent nine months on Grand. Going into Sidewalks, we had enough money and means to record in the studio but still spend as much time as we wanted to. It was a much better situation.
What influenced the Sidewalks title?
Matt: It just felt right. Titles are really hard. Band names are really hard, hence Matt & Kim. We went through a lot of different names. Actually, for our new album, we almost used Deluxe, but our distributor advised the most confusing thing that you can name an album is.. Deluxe. People could think it's a deluxe edition of Matt & Kim. So, Sidewalks just felt right. Kim and I work on what feels right.
Kim: We also printed out a couple names and looked at it graphically to see how it would look. All three albums are my art work with a common theme throughout. We wanted to maintain that.
You guys perform a range of covers during your live performances - Survivor, Alice Deejay, Biz Markie. What music do you listen to? What artists can we find in your iPod?
Kim: I listen to a lot of hip-hop, a lot of top 40 stuff. Matt listens to a lot of indie music. We play these festivals, like Coachella, and people ask; "Hey, who do you want to see?" I said, "We have to fly out early to see Jay-Z!"
Matt: We listen to whatever is fun. We have no guilty pleasures. Anything goes. Hey, if that Bieber track is hot, then that Bieber track is hot!
Kim: The almond brittle is really good.
Speaking of food, during your international touring, did you have any unique experiences with food? Any interesting stories?
Matt: I blame 12 years of public school hot lunches for making it so I'm not very picky when it comes to food. I used to love chicken patty sandwiches and pizzas. In New York, it seems like people are so picky about their pizza. I go by that old rule; "Pizza is like sex - even though it's bad, it's good." I'm very tolerant of almost any type of food.
Kim: We were recently in Japan and we actually didn't eat sushi there!
Matt: We just flew back to New York, driving back to our place, FROM JAPAN, and Kim says; "Hmm...let's get some sushi." I'm like, "Kim, we just came from JAPAN!"
Kim: There was no time to eat sushi! We landed in Tokyo, hopped on a bus and they took us straight to the Fuji Festival site. We spent four days on this site eating their catering which was.. awful. On the last day, we were eating there and then [pauses] who was there Matt?
Matt: ...and Thom Yorke comes in, gets a plate of food, sits in a corner by himself, takes a bite, pauses, sniffs, looks over at Flea [of Red Hot Chili Peppers] and signals for both of them to immediately leave. I said, "Man! I've been eating this three times a day for four days!" I felt like I had to eat it!
What's your favorite restaurant back home in Brooklyn?
Matt: In New York, you could eat out every day, three times a day and never run out of restaurants, but we tend to frequent places we're familiar with.
Kim: It seems like everything we love closes, so it might be a bad sign if we love a restaurant. [Laughs.] There was an amazing Mexican restaurant called "Bean" in Williamsburg. It closed seven years ago. We have yet to find a replacement.
Matt: There was this place called Planet Thailand on North 7th and Bedford in Williamsburg. It was awesome, but pretty basic, ya know..the basic Pad Thai. At one point it closed down and the front door said, "Due to health inspection, now closed." But once we found out it reopened, we were the first ones there. Also, we go to Grace Kitchen in Clinton Hill, one of those real authentic Chinese food spots. You can fill up on sesame tofu for like $3.
Kim: There is also this place called Vanessa's Dumpling House on Eldridge and Grand. You get four pork dumplings for a dollar!
Matt: Peter Luger is also one of best steakhouses in America. It's a place you have to go when you're in Brooklyn. I haven't been yet but I want to go.
Smoke Restaurant Entree Selections :
Photo of Cast Iron Seared Sea Scallops
We started out with the 100 Mile Cheese Plate consisting of fresh Pepperjack, Montiaso, and Montasio Festivo with Chile Ancho crust cheeses. The appetizer plate was supplemented with a sweeter honey comb and almond brittle. Next, we dipped into the Heirloom Tomato and Radish Salad with blackberry vinegar, Summer savory, and sea salt, the Cast Iron Seared Sea Scallops with brussel sprouts, pancetta, lemon and white beans, and the Lettuce & Herbs Salad with Smoke vinaigrette.
On the other side of the table, we had lightly beaten, rich Cheese Grits and Hominy Casserole, Blue Cheese Cole Slaw topped with ground cayenne pepper, Smoked Sausage Platter consisting of Spiced Pork Andouille, All-Spiced Rabbit, and Beef Paprika Fennel Seed, Macaroni and Cheese, and Matt's Sweetcorn Griddle Cake & Vegetable Platter selection with roasted sweet peppers, cilantro, and garden greens.
[To Matt & Kim] What are your thoughts on Smoke's dish selections?
Matt: [regarding his entree] The Griddle Cake is phenomenal! It's so good! It's excellent -- it has a certain amount of sweetness to it. I'm also really into the cheese grits and hominy casserole, I think this is delicious. I wanted to try and get into grits now that I'm into the South. Try the Heirloom tomatoes - they actually have a really good sauce and taste to them.
DESSERT: The Blue Berry Buckle & Preserved Peaches - Blueberry cobbler with sweet vanilla ice cream and cinnamon topped with heavy cream.
Matt: This dessert is like eating batter, which is something that I love!
Kim: Yeah, it almost has a sweet cookie dough taste to it.
Photo of Blue Berry Buckle & Preserved Peaches
House of Plates:
The Smoked Sausage Platter had an array of fresh, ornately presented meats -- some gamier than others, but all distinctive and incredibly tasty. At Smoke, we had the fortune of eating scallops that were plump, perfectly opaque, and mild (qualities that are sometimes seemingly hard to achieve in Dallas). The Cast Iron Sea Scallops were seared and sauteed in a sweet lemon sauce and festively colored with white beans and greens, a combination that lifts the taste, encapsulates the texture, and truly brings it home.
Ah yes, cheese - the ever so comforting ingredient to our Southern savory. Cheese Grits, Hominy, & Macaroni and Cheese...feels like home. Smoke succeeds in making this traditionally modest creamy component look elegant. Epicurian to a certain extent. The Blue Berry Buckle was a sweet showcase. By the end of our salt and spice tour, we craved it. The elements that made up the dessert worked in a way to accommodate both the ice cream and pie lovers. It's simple, right? Blueberry cobbler goes into a bowl of vanilla ice cream. In actuality, it lends a velvety nuance one has to experience before actually attempting to describe. It's smooth. It's... delicious.
Tim Byres's Smoke at The Belmont on Fort Worth Ave. is a clash of an old smokehouse and a Southern fine dining establishment. In entering, you're welcomed with a barbecue smell that punches you in the face. Suffice it to say that if we went anywhere else that night, we wouldn't leave others with much doubt as to where we ate. But, that's how it should be. Aesthetically speaking, it's clean and contemporary inside with a touch of tradition. If you feel like experiencing some academic nostalgia, order from the scantron. You'll get all the benefits of answering A, B, C, or D without the downside of test anxiety. The meats? It's clear. One can appreciate their passion to please. Smoke works a fine canvas. They make their entrees look like art. The taste? The Sausage Platter is perfectly seasoned and juicy. The Pork Spare Ribs are the best ribs I've had. Service was impressive. Digest @ Bar Belmont. Best view of Dallas.
A special thanks to Matt & Kim, Owner Christopher Jeffers, our server David, from Smoke Restaurant, Sheila Kenny from Right On! PR, Mitch, and Brian Lowe from Live Nation / House of Blues.
Matt & Kim are:
Matt Johnson - vocals/keyboards
Kim Schifino - drums/vocals