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Duo boost energy on latest album

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:55 PM

It's never easy to duplicate the energy from a live show in the studio. Being able to pull off that feat was on Matt and Kim's mind when the pop-rock duo were working on their latest album, "Lightning," which dropped Oct. 2.

"There was a certain something our last album (2010's "Sidewalk") lacked," vocalist-keyboardist Matt Johnson said during a phone call from Syracuse. "We wanted to ramp up the tempo and just give everything a boost this time out. We wanted to achieve a certain rawness that comes from our live shows."

Johnson and drummer Kim Schifino ratchet up the verve quotient throughout the celebratory 10 songs from "Lightning." The new M&T tunes are bright, boisterous and just plain fun.

"It's always about having a good time with us," Johnson said. "We had another blast making this one."

"Lightning" isn't a sonic departure. Matt and Kim, who will perform Wednesday at the Ritz Ybor, continue to craft catchy, synth-driven pop rock, which is slick, witty and irreverent.

"We had no desire to reinvent ourselves," Johnson said. "I think there are some aspects that are different, but I think you can tell that this is a Matt and Kim album. It's a logical follow-up to our prior albums. It's a little more lively."

Johnson proves he has more range on the keyboard as he adds a few more sounds to the band's sonic palette.

It's curious why Schifano isn't let loose. She appears to have power reminiscent of monster drummer Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney fame, but she plays it relatively safe.

"Maybe we should go that way in the future," Johnson said. "Kim kicks butt. You should see her biceps. She really is that powerful. She could play a harder style. Maybe things will change with the next album."

Perhaps, but since "Lightning" just struck, it'll be a while until the Brooklynites reconnect in a studio to make more dance-pop.

"I'm hoping we're out on the road for a long time," Johnson said. "That's what we figure on. It's a good time for us now. The songs are fresh and still relatively new to us."

Matt and Kim, who formed in 2005, are still relatively fresh to music fans. The pair, who have four albums to their credit, met in 2001 while attending the Pratt Institute of Art & Design.

"There was an immediate connection with us," Johnson said. "Kim hit on me. I was intimidated by her tattoos and the fact that she's a little older than me. Kim wanted to learn how to play drums, and I wanted to play music my entire life. I never thought I could make a living doing it, but somehow we've been able to do it by playing what we love. It beats the alternative.

"We could be doing something else, putting our expensive art school educations to use, but it wouldn't be able to touch doing what we're so passionate about. If you have a chance to do what you really love, you have to keep that going."

'MATT

AND KIM'

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Ritz Ybor, 1503 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa

Tickets: $22; (813) 247-2518 and ritzybor.com

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