When Music Triggers Visceral Memories: The Power of Matt and Kim

Matt and Kim perform at Riot Fest 2018 in Chicago. Photo by Conor Bezane

Music is an intensely powerful and hellaciously galvanizing force. It fuels our existence, feeds the mind, and scorches the soul.

Some of us get goosebumps when we hear a favorite chorus, a dynamic solo, or a particular lyric that resonates with us. And ultimately music links itself indelibly to our memories.

In my case, I heard some live music recently that brought back some intense memories of an old boyfriend, who is no longer with us.

Matt and Kim are a dance-rock duo from Brooklyn — Matt Johnson plays keyboards and sings, while Kim Schifino keeps the beat with her drum set. They are not married but they are definitely a cute couple. Their banter between songs is hilarious if not profane.

I saw Matt and Kim the other night at the Riviera in Chicago. I was alone, unable to find anyone free to go with, so maybe that’s why I was feeling particularly introspective. I ended up giving my extra ticket to a disabled vet in a wheelchair so that he could sell it.

The concert was Matt and Kim’s 10thanniversary tour celebrating the release of their breakthrough album Grand. And since then they’ve become hugely successful.

If you’ve read my book, you’ve encountered Jeffrey, my deceased boyfriend of two years who lived to play rugby and was a music fanatic with a fierce addiction to alcohol. He didn’t drink the hard stuff, but he sure could put away a six-pack or three. I’m guilty of the same, whenever we hung out.

Jeffrey was a sweet guy, but an alcoholic of the most dismal kind. When he drank too much, he was an angry drunk. He was also a die-hard Republican and I am a bleeding-heart liberal. There was ugly dialogue, late-night screaming matches, and door slamming.

Jeffrey was the nicest guy when he wasn’t under the influence. He was constantly giving out hugs to every friend he met, new and old. And he loved learning about new music.

I made many a mixtape for Jeffrey. And one of the first albums I introduced him to was Matt and Kim’s debut Grand.

The album is a near-perfect whimsical smile from ear to ear. Its first single “Daylight” was featured in a Bacardi commercial as well as the video game NBA Live 10. One of their more recent tracks, “It’s Alright,” is in a series of Buick commercials that are still airing as we speak.

Listening to those songs — the ones off Grand — in their order of appearance, brought me right back to Jeffrey. We used to sit on the back stairs of his Logan Square apartment with my laptop listening to Matt and Kim or The Thermals at maximum volume. As always, we were swilling beers.

Although our relationship was somewhat of a Dumpster fire, I try to think of the happy moments. The debaucherous rugby parties. Thanksgiving with his mom and brother. The Pride Parade. And summer afternoons at Hollywood Beach, the gay beach in Chicago.

I wonder what he would be like today. I know he voted for Trump, but what he would think of him now? Would he be supporting impeachment? Or would he decry us Democrats for being delicate snowflakes?

If Jeffrey were alive today, and if he was sober, he would probably be one of my best friends. He would be a joy to hang out with. But alas, the drink took him. As it does with all too many of us. Every time I hear Matt and Kim, I will always think of Jeffrey. Jeffrey died by suicide in the summer of 2017. Rest in peace, brother.

Check out a couple of Matt and Kim videos below. And if you haven’t had a chance to read my book yet, it’s available on Amazon.

Conor Bezane is a writer who covers mental health. He’s contributed to MTV News, AOL, and VICE. His first book The Bipolar Addict is available now on Amazon.

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