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This past Saturday night, I went and watched Matt & Kim perform at the Fox Theater in Oakland, California. While being a band with only a keyboardist and drummer, they are known for their upbeat music and energetic crowds. I walked into the show with high expectations, as it was my second time seeing them (I had seen their amazing performance at Live 105‘s BFD in 2010), and I expected this show to be better than the last because it was not in an outdoor venue with a short amount of time to play. Simply put, they delivered one of the most energetic performances I have ever seen and exceeded the expectations I had.
As the lights went down, after The Thermals delivered a fantastic opening, I could feel the energy radiating from the crowd. The keyboard and drums were set up on a small raised platform on the stage, illuminated by the stage lights. Matt and Kim ascended the stage and took their places, Kim at the drums and Matt at the keys, and dove into “Block After Block”, their newest single off their album Sidewalks. This immediately pumped up the crowd and got everyone jumping, pushing, and singing every word at the top of their lungs.
As they continued their show, they connected with the audience and encouraged everyone to get involved, even the balcony. Instead of just asking everyone to sing along and jump up and down like the typical band, they threw out deflated balloons and told us all to blow them up. I enthusiastically grabbed one of the balloons and began to inflate it. Matt then told us to hold onto them until he said “One, two, one, two, three, four!,” which meant to the crowd that we would be dancing to their song “Yea Yeah.”
As soon as the song started, the balloons went flying around and the crowd was going crazy – the balloons continued to get tossed around throughout the rest of their set and I never saw one touch the ground. Their crowd interaction did not end there, as Kim would look at people in the audience and point or smile at them – I was lucky enough to get about a minute of her eye-contact and it genuinely made the show better. She would also step away from her drums and run out to the crowd and grab the hands of fans and even hand out her drumsticks. Matt would do the same when he could and would reach out to the crowd and encourage them to sing the words instead of him. The entire show was filled with amazing energy from the both of them – the jumping never stopped and the singing continued long after the show within my ears.
They ended their set with their most popular song “Daylight”, and when the crowd commanded them to perform an encore, they did something I had never seen before. Instead of just performing another song, they did a mash-up of all the hooks within all of their songs including: “Daylight,” “Cameras”, “Yea Yeah”, and “Lightspeed”.
Matt and Kim completely blew me away. Instead of being the same band I saw with the same great live performance, they got better. They reminisced on their last time in the Bay Area (at BFD), where Kim did her infamous “booty dance” for the first time, and after announcing this, she recreated it for us. They also reflected back on their first show in Oakland, where they played to a cafe filled with six people, and the show got shut down because they were not the “acoustic” band that the manager had thought.
While being just two people, Matt and Kim deliver one of the most energetic and genuinely fun performances I have ever seen. With the show that I experienced on Saturday night, I know that Matt and Kim love what they do and could tell that they see themselves performing and creating music for a very long time.
Iration is a Southern Californian based band that formed in 2006 when the members attended UCSB. All coming from Hawaii, the band has created a powerful sound that fuses reggae, rock and pop. They released their “Fresh Grounds” EP in February and have been touring all year, most recently as part of the Winter Greens Tour with Rebelution. I had a chance to sit down with Iration’s bassist, Adam Taylor, and ask him about how Iration came to be, their influences, marketing strategies and their next tour.
TC: You guys are all from Hawaii but met in Isla Vista, California. How did Iration form?
AT: Iration formed while we attended UCSB. It started as a hobby and then developed into our career.
TC: Do you pull a majority of your influence from Hawaii or where you live currently? How is that influence brought out in your music?
AT: Initially from Hawaii, but these days I feel like we’re influenced by our surroundings here in Santa Barbara and while on tour. It comes out in the way we approach creating songs and the way we perform live.
TC: You released your “Fresh Grounds” EP in February and are setting out on tour. What are you looking at to accomplish with this next tour? How will this tour be different than other tours you have been on?
AT: We want to bring out all our fans as well as gain some new ones. We want to play well and give the audience a really fun and memorable experience. We’ll be playing new material off our new CD as well as two covers that are really fun to play. We’ll also be experimenting with some acoustic stuff on this tour.
TC: Who would your dream tour lineup consist of?
TC: You guys have played at many colleges, especially in California. Which college town has given you the best fan response? Why did you choose to play colleges as opposed to regular venues?
AT: Calpoly in San Luis Obispo is great and so is Northern Arizona University. We play colleges because you typically get a large built-in crowd and often times students that have never heard of you get exposed to your music.
TC: What is one of the craziest things you have had happen on tour?
AT: My amp had a power overload and caught on fire on the past tour. That was pretty crazy!
TC: What is your best fan memory?
AT: Hanging out with Kelly Slater on stage!
TC: Your band’s website is set up like a blog on the homepage. Did you design it this way in order to connect more with your fans?
AT: Yes. Social networking and having a strong viral presence is really important to us and it’s a great way to connect with fans.
TC: What are some of your favorite ways to reach out to your fanbase?
TC: Do you have an online marketing strategy in place?
AT: We basically like to keep up a strong presence online and be in constant communication with our fans. It just comes down to us enjoying what we do, and we love to write back to fans and hear what they have to say online.
TC: How does your MobBase mobile app fit in to this strategy? What has the response been from fans?
TC: If Iration owned a coffee company, what would be the name of your special blend and most popular pastry?
AT: Our drummer does own a coffee company on the big island of Hawaii, called Kona Homestead Coffee! If the others owned one, we’d call our special blend ‘Kona Gold’ and our pastry would be the Butternut.
Iration is currently on tour around California their next dates are:
Big Light is a San Francisco based rock band that emerged onto the scene in 2007. They are now considered one of the Bay Area’s hottest up and coming bands and released their debut full length album, Animals in Bloom, in March 2010. I had a chance to sit down and talk with Fred Torphy, the lead singer of Big Light, about their album, where they have gone since, and how they are using technology to connect with their fans.
TC: Big Light seems to pull its sound from a variety of sources. What are your major musical influences?
FT: Well, I think everyone in the band will cite different influences. I think Jeremy would probably cite a few contemporary bands. I’m more influenced by cats and movies than music. But I like Tom Waits and Nathan Moore a lot…
TC: Do you pull a lot of influence from San Francisco, where you live now, or Rhode Island, where you grew up?
FT: I’m influenced by everything that happens in my life, so I’ve probably picked something up from every place I’ve ever spent a good bit of time in. San Francisco, Rhode Island… Sure, but I would also need to add a few other places to that list. I lived in Burlington, VT for six years studying archeology and then getting back to playing in bands, something I had done since grade school but put down during college, for the most part. I started writing my first songs in Burlington. “Monster”, which is on Animals In Bloom, was something I started writing in Vermont.
TC: You guys have played in a variety of venues in San Francisco. Which venue has been your favorite to perform in and why?
FT: The Independent in San Francisco – hands down the coolest place to play in SF, staffed by some of the nicest people working in music. It’s our hometown gig.
TC: In which one have you gotten the best crowd response so far?
FT: Putting the Independent in SF aside, The Brooklyn Bowl in NYC is an amazing venue that always has a great audience.
TC: “Triceratops” was recently made available for Rock Band on XboX. What caused you to sign this deal with Rock Band?
FT: We like the idea of people from different scenes learning about Big Light through a game… I think it’s cool to infiltrate a whole world that was completely alien to me until recently. It’s not like we’re background music for a video game. People playing “Triceratops” on Rock Band are interacting with our music in a really interesting way.
TC: Were there incentives for this?
FT: The exposure it offers is certainly an incentive. There isn’t a huge check coming to us from Rock Band or anything like that. You can buy our song for a buck.
TC: How did the majority of your fan base react to this?
FT: As always, they are supportive.
TC: Did anyone bring up the idea of “selling out?”
FT: Well, “selling out” usually involves making a bunch of money, so no it hasn’t come up.
TC: Being one of the up-and-coming bands in the Bay Area, where are you hoping that your album “Animals in Bloom” will take you?
TC: Big Light has played a variety of music festivals such as: Noisepop, SXSW and Outside Lands. Which festival has been your favorite to play?
FT: High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, CA is my favorite festival, hands down. I’ve been six years in a row, and Big Light has played the last three years. I met my girlfriend there. I’ll always show up for that one, as long as they will have us.
TC: Is fan connection easier at a festival or at a normal show?
FT: Sure. Everybody shares their drugs.
TC: Have you shared the stage with any artists you have looked up to?
FT: Yes. The guys in The Mother Hips, Marco Benevento, The Slip, Nathan Moore – we’re lucky to have worked with all of them. Nathan, in particular, is someone who I’m extremely honored to be working with on a semi-regular basis. I learned how to sing and write through studying his music. Now we collaborate and write the occasional song together and started a band called The Dun Four.
TC: You guys are really active in online and mobile marketing – what does your digital marketing strategy consist of? Can you comment on any initiatives that went really well?
FT: It’s how people live their lives now. Facebook is an important tool for every band, I suppose. It also just brought down a 30-year-old dictatorship in Egypt. It’s ubiquitous.
TC: How does your MobBase mobile app fit in to this strategy? What has the response been from fans?
FT: Well, those fans that have an iPhone find the MobBase app helpful for keeping up on what’s happening with us. I get a kick out of all the technology that we employ to do business. It’s a lot different from when I was in high school, putting up posters and using word-of-mouth, literally. The internet had no role in my life back then… These days every band needs the web to exist.
TC: If Big Light was a superhero, what power would he possess and what would his costume look like?
FT: He’d be able to stay up for days in a row playing music. His costume would be all black, naturally.
Big Light’s next show will be at Slims on 4/20/11 for $13.