Matt and Kim have made a career out of creating upbeat, catchy pop anthems that seem tailor-made to get concert crowds smiling, singing and jumping up and down.
The music on the duo’s latest album, Almost Everyday, should have that same effect. But lyrically, a little darkness has crept into the songs, mixing a few clouds in with the usual sunny disposition of the music.
“We’d been lucky enough to have a comfortable life and a positive life, and I think a lot of our albums, the songs reflect that,” singer/keyboardist Matt Johnson observes in a recent phone interview. “But it was interesting to get the inspiration from having a tough year and how that, kind of in a therapeutic way, [led us] to write songs to kind of just discuss this and try to get things off of our chests. And that was new for us. We didn’t do that all the time, but that was new for us.”
The difficulties began when Johnson’s partner in the group, drummer Kim Schifino, suffered a torn ligament during a concert in March 2017. This meant reconstructive surgery on her leg and a long and grueling rehab that forced Matt and Kim to stop doing one of their favorite things — playing live shows — for the better part of a year. Add in a world around them that featured the tragedies and heartache of mass shootings and a divisive political/social climate, and it seems perfectly reasonable that the songs the duo created during this period aren’t all cartwheels and giggles.
In particular, the specter of death pops up on multiple occasions throughout Almost Everyday, although not in the kind of serious or heavy-handed ways many artists deal with this topic. More often than not, the emphasis isn’t on finality as much as it is on the importance of making the most of the limited time one has on this planet.
The notion of life being temporary —filled with special people, times and experiences that can be gone at any point — resonated with Johnson as he had to stay put. It was the first time in his adult life when he wasn’t able to tour and fully experience the life he and Schifino have created in Matt and Kim.
“It made me feel like this was a time after the band, like we were a retired band,” he says. “I had never taken that kind of time [off], and it made me reflect on, ‘Remember when we used to be in this band that would tour around the country and play shows for people?’ I felt like I had this bit of this It’s a Wonderful Life perspective on what if this was all gone? I think that made its way into the album.”
If there’s a bit more grit, and cohesion, to the lyrics on Almost Everyday, the music on the album shares the buoyant, even celebratory, catchy-as-can-be character of the five previous albums Johnson and Schifino have released since forming Matt and Kim in 2004.
If anything, though, the music is bigger and bolder sounding than ever on Almost Everyday.
“We’re an indie band and we don’t want to not be an indie band. That’s the space we want to be in,” Johnson says. “But we also were like, ‘What is the [current] version of indie music?’
“We’re big fans of bands that are in hip-hop and pop music, and my feeling is that when I listen to music now and it doesn’t have things in that sub-beat range and stuff, it’s almost like it’s missing a spectrum of sound,” he says. “We’re like we wanted to still keep the indie mentality, but add it into a world where we’re listening to these DJs who give you huge spectrums of just sonics, from super-deep lows to pristine highs and how do we make that part of what we do?”
Almost Everyday came out in May 2018, and Schifino was back to her usual self, dancing and jumping on her drums on tour — until recently. In early August, she fell on stage at the Maha Festival and tore an ACL. She’s been undergoing physical therapy and will be back in action for the duo’s fall tour, which will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Grand album. That 2009 record features the gold-certified single, “Daylight,” and was the commercial breakthrough for Matt and Kim.
In addition to playing Grand in its entirety, Johnson says the group will play a selection of other songs, sure to be crowd-pleasers. “The biggest satisfaction I get on stage is what makes the audience excited. If I see them jumping up and down and singing along, I’m so into it,” he says. “If the audience wants to hear ‘Daylight’ 15 times in a row, they’ve got it. But I think they like it a little more diverse.”
ON THE BILL: Matt and Kim. 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax Ave., Denver. Tickets are $32.50-$35, axs.com.