Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino are animal lovers, but because they’re on the road nine months out of the year as indie pop duo Matt & Kim, the Brooklyn couple isn’t able to have a pet right now.
“Kim and I have wanted a dog for a long time,” Johnson said recently from a tour stop in North Carolina. “In Atlanta … we visited the shelter and walked some dogs.”
While they are unable to be dog owners themselves, the two are using their current tour – which stops Friday at the Fox Theatre in Oakland – to encourage their fans to adopt from local pet shelters.
Johnson grew up in rural Vermont among cow pastures and always had a dog. And Schifino’s sister was a vet at a shelter in New York that was bursting at the seams with surrendered pets, typically from those who found new apartments where pets were not allowed.
“Maybe they thought, ‘Oh, it’s OK. I’ll bring my pet to the shelter and he’ll get a new home,’” Johnson said. “But that’s not the way that usually works. This place; their goal was not to euthanize. But in reality it was impossible because it was so overrun. So essentially these people were surrendering their pets, because they got a cool new apartment, to be killed. People should know that there are animals that are in need of a home.”
For their tour, the duo found animal shelters local to each city, and the shelters will have representatives on hand, right next to the merchandise table, with information about adoptions.
“It’s not always like us to put our causes forward,” he said. “Usually we just want to do something that … inspires people to go out and do what they are concerned with. But every now and then we need to use this soapbox that we have.”
Of course, the tour is also in support of Matt & Kim’s new album Lightning, their fourth since the duo broke out playing house parties in 2004. Like their previous albums, Lightning is a combination of Schifino’s emphatic percussion begging for clap-alongs, and Johnson’s synths and energetic vocals.
Johnson and Schifino recorded and produced the record themselves in an apartment that used to be their home before they bought a townhouse in Brooklyn. While the townhouse was being renovated, the two continued to live and record in the eight-foot-wide apartment for several months.
While many couples would have broken up after being cooped up together in such a small space, Matt and Kim somehow survived for seven years.
“I think in any other relationship I’ve been in it would be a total disaster,” Johnson said. “We would have killed each other a long time ago.”
Even though the walls were paper-thin, neighbor complaints weren’t an issue because their neighbors were equally loud.
“Neither of us complained each other, once,” Johnson said. “It was an unspoken agreement that we were both going to be loud.”