NAKED AMBITION: Matt and Kim Score Bacardi Commercial, Take It All Off In Times Square…Then Get Hit By a Bus

by Arye Dworken

Yes, we’re fully aware that Matt and Kim‘s sophomore album, Grand, came out months ago, but there’s  no denying how the duo’s hit their stride as of late. We can’t help but think that it has something to do with self-titled‘s appearance with them on MTV, but it’s probably a result of the couple’s tireless touring, R-rated run through Times Square, and that one Bacardi commercial.

And like the repeated refrain of their song “Don’t Slow Down,” Matt and Kim are heading into the studio in the near future to record Album No. 3. Here’s what Matt had to say about all of the above and much more…

self-titled: What’s going on?
Just lying in bed.

It’s 12:45:?
Yeah, well we just got back from New Zealand and Australia and I’m wiped. We stopped in L.A., but it was a long-ass trip.

How was Australia and New Zealand?
The shows were awesome. People were super into it, and we had some good crowds dancing.

Did people see you on our show together, Subterranean?
People definitely saw us. We got feedback about that on our MySpace. We looked good.

We sure did. So tell me about the land down under?
We never went to Auckland before, but it was like a cool section of Brooklyn. We weren’t expecting sheep in fields but it’s a super cool place with a real art movement there.

It’s quite a trip.
Well, its like when women have babies, I bet. You forget the pain of giving birth, but I right after I did the trip to Australia the first time, I was like, I’m never doing that again. But you forget:

What are you doing now?
We’re going to do a few weeks in Europe and then head over to South America. After we get back from there, we’re going to do these weekend warrior-like shows and for a few weeks, we’re going to do weekend shows.

Matt & Kim work incredibly hard:
Yes, that’s definitely true. Before Grand came out, I remember thinking, these shows aren’t so fulfilling because we playing the same venues, in the same settings, Grand definitely pushed us forward to bigger venues, broadening our audience.

I heard “Daylight” on a Bacardi commercial the other day:in fact, it’s on your website!
Well, you know I came from a punk rock background, where this is selling-out. It’s such a turn-off. But I feel like that was just ignorant teenage thought. I understand it in the way that music is special and people don’t want to share you with everyone.

I remember our first commercial for an Orange global campaign and people wrote us angrily, like we’re never going to listen to you again. And I responded to all of them, “We need to make some money. We keep our show prices lower, we’re not selling a ton of records:it’s not like we’re going to do a cigarette ad, and it wasn’t like bikini-clad beer commercials.” We’re not hiding away from it.

Has something like that given you some newfound attention?
Well, we’re in month five of this album and we’re in the iTunes charts again. I think it was in the Top 40 alternative charts:and now weeks after we’ve kind of faded away, we’re higher on the charts.

Commercials are great exposure:and speaking of exposure:
Oh, man.

Let’s talk about the “Lessons Learned” video. It’s kind of a big deal to get naked in Times Square and I don’t think that Pitchfork really tapped into the insanity of this decision. Like you guys aren’t Johnny Knoxville types.
I came up with the idea for that video. We could have done it on Bedford, but Times Square is the most iconic public place in America. I mean, how great of a story is it to tell people that yeah, I stripped in Times Square. Of course, people were wondering what was going on, and so we told them we were making a toothpaste commercial. There’s nothing less glamorous than making a toothpaste commercial.

How did you get Kim to do it? She was very hesitant. And especially since it’s your vocals–you could have done it alone.
I’m persuasive, I think. I also promised to her that she wouldn’t get arrested.

That’s a pretty empty promise. You can’t guarantee that.
I had fingers crossed behind my back.

You did this in February when it was freezing cold. What time did you do this? And why then? Spring is a nice time to be naked.
Around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. We really wanted that tourist traffic.

In the video, you’re throwing all your clothes in the air. Are you that wealthy these days?
We didn’t want to lose our clothes! We had this dude run behind us grabbing clothes. We had the choice of wearing clothes we didn’t care about but you’re doing a video. You gotta wear clothes you look good in.

You threw your underwear in the street so I’m assuming you didn’t get them back.
I can’t remember actually. Ha. I brought a few pairs.

I would check eBay to see if they turn up. I’m watching this video as we speak and there’s a crowd of people looking at you guys completely naked. How strange was that?
I was so completely detached from the moments. It didn’t even occur to me that people were around.

That cop beat-down scene is pretty heavy.
Or as we call it, “the Michael Bay Bad Boy shot” when the dude lets Kim go, he did that because the director kept yelling “we have a permit! We have a permit!” The cop apologized for it and was making sure that he didn’t ruin the shot.

Will there be an online leak of the unedited version that will make you as famous as Kim Kardashian?
Ha, ha. I don’t foresee that happening. And the video is now airing on MTV and they’ve been super cool about promoting it so maybe nudity gets you far.

What about the ending of the video when Kim gets hit by that bus?
I think there always needs to be a surprising ending. There needs to be pay-off for a music video. You’re watching three or four minutes and then at the end, it’s like, huh, I didn’t expect that.

You’re really good at coming up with affordable but interesting video treatments. What’s your approach to videos? Doing something cheap but attention-grabbing?
I went to school for film and I think in a visual context. You know, it’s my same philosophy with music that less is more. I think what it all comes down to is a decent idea. I think the problem is that most bands don’t have a big idea.

Your primary focus is the band for long-term?
Oh, yeah. Surprisingly, yeah. I mean, I never expected Matt & Kim to be a profession, like this would become our main gig but it’s happening that way. To have an album out by next summer would be ideal.

A lot of people consider Grand to be the mature record. Was that intentional to progress the production value and the sound?
Well, a lot of the reviews on iTunes for example, a common comment was, yeah, the first record is good but you need to see them live to get it. I don’t know why that is because we recorded those songs like a live show. So rather than making the new record sound like the live music, we decided to record the songs the best way that we could. Rather than taking live music and making live music, we were going to take songs and make them recorded music. A lot of times a good recorded song and a good live song are two very different things.

Will there ever be a consideration of expanding the line-up?
I can see adding someone, but there’s some strong chemistry between me and Kim:I can’t imagine adding someone to this. We have a strong connection like even in the stuff we’re listening to. We’re into a lot of hip-hop and I think that comes out in our music. Our songs are hip-hop songs with me singing. But we wouldn’t rule out collaboration. It’s more theoretical now but we have a couple of people we’d love to approach to record with.

I remember that after “Yea Yeah” video people were throwing food at you during shows. Are people getting naked now because of the “Lessons Learned” video?
I haven’t seen that yet but maybe it should start happening now. It has happened when we did sweaty warehouse shows but not in a comfortably air-conditioned room.