The week of April 20th marked two significant historical events.
- Posted on Nov 2nd 2010 2:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
"It starts with the beat," singer and keyboardist Matt Johnson tells Spinner, describing the songwriting process he and drummer (and girlfriend) Kim Schifino used on 'Sidewalks,' the new album they recorded with Gnarls Barkley producer Ben Allen, and the pair of self-produced records that came before.
Johnson says many of the new songs were born out of ideas that popped into his head and survived his whittling-down process of quality control.
"I'd recorded things as we'd gone along throughout the year," he says. "I'd think, 'Oh, that's cool,' and I'd record something on my phone. I figured out 75 percent of it is crap, but there's 25 percent gold in there."
The lyrics come later, Johnson says, and while they're not exactly random, they're often "train-of-thought" and "based on what feels right."
"Instinctually, people like music because of the beat and melody, something they can nod their head to and hum along to," he says. "Everything else is not necessarily instinctual. It's intellectual."
Packed with the kinds of killer dance and hip-hop beats that make Matt and Kim's live shows such cathartic, aerobic experiences, 'Sidewalks' is also notable for its range of synth sounds. Johnson says he's become more comfortable on the keyboard, an instrument he came to late in the game, after getting his start in adolescent punk bands.
"I came from a guitar-and-bass background," he says. "I didn't come from electronic music, nor do I know a lot about keyboards or anything. The only reason I play a keyboard is I found this really cool-looking one when I was 15 years old, and when I was 20, I was like, 'Maybe I should figure out how to play this because it looks so cool.'"
"I get inspired a lot of times by different tones," he adds. "I got this old '80s synthesizer called an MS 2000. That song 'Cameras,' [the lead single off 'Sidewalks'], the sound that it starts with in the beginning, which sort of sounds like a cat in heat or something -- 'Wah, wah, wah' -- that sound is ridiculous. I've never heard it before in a song, and I just wanted to use it. Sometimes different tones and things can inspire you to write."