EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Midi Matilda
Midi Matilda isn’t afraid of anything. The San Francisco darlings have braved supposedly haunted concert venues while on tour over the last few months, performed unrestrained atop high-speeding truckbeds for music videos, and, without any hesitation, agreed to a photoshoot on this Owl Mag writer’s three-story North Beach roof.
The Bay Area duo, consisting of the coolly detached, cerulean-coiffed Skyler Kilborn and the ebullient, ever-graceful Logan Grimé, blitzed onto the local scene after meeting at Berkeley’s Ex’pression Arts College just a few years ago. The resulting act—that SF locals can catch at Rickshaw Stop this Friday—is a dynamic, two-stepping, chord-roaring pop-infused outfit that defies categorization. Here they sit down on an unseasonably warm San Francisco afternoon to talk their recently wrapped tour, trademark dance moves, and their upcoming Outside Lands debut.
Owl Mag: Hey guys! Alright so you’ve been back for about, what, less than a week now?
Skyler Kilborn: From the second leg of the tour…well, just over a week.
Owl Mag: So what’s next? More interviews? More shows?
Kilborn: We have a show at Rickshaw Stop [In San Francisco]. It’s soon…like now.
Logan Grimé: Well, we’re doing that, I don’t know, and we’re doing the Outside Lands thing.
Owl Mag: Oh yeah, just that little Outside Lands thing. Haha. Ok, so the EP Red Light District came out last year, and then you released it through the new label this year. I wanted to talk to you about a couple songs and your inspirations on them. Let’s start with “Daydreams.”
Kilborn: “Daydreams” took a while for us. It was one of the first tracks that we made as Midi Matilda. We actually weren’t even Midi Matilda when that song started. It was one of two songs we released when we first designed this group, so it was a long time coming actually. We were still trying to find out what our sound was and what we were going for.
Grimé: That one sat as like…the instrumentation wasn’t working. It was an instrumental track that sounded different for many months. And I remember trying to make up little random vocal…like I remember randomly scatting on it. Do you remember having difficulty?
Kilborn: Yeah, we were trying to figure out what the vocal style was going to be on top of it. We tried a lot of different things and one day it just clicked and once that happened, we took the song more seriously and decided to finish it, and at least do a video for it. It was kind of a turning point for that song. It took a year for the conception of that song to [where it is today].
Grimé: Not a consistent year.
Kilborn: No, not consistent at all.
Owl Mag: And Logan, you did the video for that and you shot it at the studio?
Grimé: Yeah, we shot it at the studio at our college [Ex’pression Digital Arts College] on a green screen. After that we went out and projected it onto stuff in the city. It took a long time.
Owl Mag: Ok, next up—“Love and the Movies.” That video is bananas. Were you afraid for your life on that truck [when you were shooting the video]?
Kilborn: I wasn’t afraid enough. I wanted it to go faster.
Owl Mag: How fast were you going?
Kilborn: I think the fastest we went was 40 MPH.
Owl Mag: WHAT? 40?? And you were standing?
Grimé: Well, some of the wide shots, you’ll see, we did like one scene where we went really fast. It was at the end, after we got comfortable, but mostly it went pretty slow.
Owl Mag: Like your hair is all is all over the place…
Kilborn: It was like 100 degrees out.
Owl Mag: Did you fall off?
Grimé: Fuck, we should have had like all types of safety precautions. In fact, at one point we shot fireworks off of it while we were going.
Owl Mag: Ummm…awesome. Why isn’t that in the video?
Grimé: It didn’t really work that well because we were just jimmy-rigging it.
Kilborn: And we didn’t actually shoot the fireworks—we did shoot some smoke bombs off though. Fireworks didn’t wind up making it out because it was so dry out there. We were afraid it was going to light a big fire.
Grimé: Wouldn’t have been nice.
Owl Mag: So, why put the rural, pastoral scenes against the scenes of you guys like dancing in suits?
Kilborn: [We were] going back to our farmer roots.
Owl Mag: Do you have farmer roots? I know you, Skyler are from Texas, but you’re from here, right Logan?
Owl Mag: So not farmer.
Grimé: Yeah but [I’m from] like up the way [in more rural California].
Owl Mag: Do you want to tell me a little bit about the song? It’s a pretty straightforward song, lyrically I think, but is there anything you want to say about it?
Kilborn: Well, what do you think the song is about?
Owl Mag: Whoa, I’m not being interviewed, you’re being interviewed. Ha!
Kilborn: Haha, the song is about, sort of a time in my life where a lot of changes were happening. The lyrics themselves…not important. But the song itself, we were listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen at the time—a lot of The Boss. I was listening to David Bowie, ’80s stuff, just kind of getting influenced in that direction, so the song ended up having a lot of those elements right off the bat.
Grimé: And dance moves.
Kilborn: And dance moves.
Owl Mag: Yeah, let’s talk about those dance moves. You guys do a lot of choreography, and it’s awesome. One of your sisters choreographs them?
Grimé: Mine. Yeah, she choreographed most of it and then we tweaked some of it to make it not as feminine.
Owl Mag: And you do them on stage!
Grimé: And we do them on stage. I’m sure we’ll do more things like that. Also, LMFAO was pretty awesome. I think at the time, “Party Rock Anthem” was really hot.
Kilborn: The twisty feet [dance moves].
Owl Mag: Are you going to do that on stage at Outside Lands?
Grimé: Fuck yeah.
Owl Mag: Alright, so you guys played Café du Nord last year, and it seems like right after that, you guys really blew up a bit. You played BFD last June, and then just went on tour with Shiny Toy Guns and Dirty Heads—what has all that been like?
Grimé: It’s been a learning experience. It has all been really positive. Getting to go play for a ton of people each night and getting to go meet all of them, I think that has been the biggest take away—just getting to connect with a ton of people. Every night, just meet new people, meet new friends and just take them onboard with us on the journey. And I just like the dynamic of trying to travel around the country and to try to see stuff while staying on some sort of regulated schedule to get places on time.
Kilborn: It also helped to really shape the live show. Because you do it every night. You see what works, and what parts of the show people react the best to and try to hone in on those parts.
Owl Mag: So I don’t really feel like Dirty Heads is really in the same genre base as you…what was it like kind of mixing it up?
Kilborn: It was our first tour so, I think now, having done that we’d love to go on tour with bands that might be a little more fitting to our style, but it was good at the time. It was kind of a challenge too because we had to win over the reggae fans, so some of them really liked us. The Shiny Toy Guns fans typically liked us. That was cool.
Owl Mag: So next time you go on tour, what type of bands would you like to work with?
Kilborn: We would love to tour with Capital Cities—they’re friends of ours. That might happen in the near future.
Grimé: Probably Katy Perry. And Gloria Estefan. You know I was thinking about this earlier…the Bieber.
Kilborn: Yes, J. Bieber.
Owl Mag: The Biebs.
Grimé: There are certain groups that I’d love to open for, but I think what would be more valuable—I’d love to open for a band that I really enjoy and have people enjoy us opening for them. You know, because you could open for like, Daft Punk, but that would be a disconnected audience.
Owl Mag: Absolutely. Any on-the-road stories?
Kilborn: The ghost tour was pretty fun. There was this guy at [one] venue, and he was really passionate about this ghost tour, so he took us and Shiny Toy Guns and a bunch of people in the crew and—he probably does this pretty regularly because he has a whole routine—so that was cool.
Grimé: It lasted like an hour and a half.
Kilborn: It was a really long ghost tour and we saw zero ghosts. It was zero scary.
Grimé: We saw more ghosts at The Rave [in Milwaukee].
Kilborn: Yeah. Damn right.
Grimé: Oh, I know a scary story. Or a story that was just fucking nuts. It was when we were driving in Vermont. And it was—David [The Owl Mag photographer, who went on tour with them] was driving—and it was snowy and icy all over the place and there was just a patch of road that just that was kind of barren, there were just a couple lanes on it. So, we had to just go really slow. And we saw three accidents within 20 minutes—and we saw them happen! One car flipped over, like fully upside down. And we saw one crash over the divider. Saw another one fly over the side. It was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever seen.
David (The Owl Mag photographer): I put the car in a super low gear, and we started to skid a little bit because the engine locked up. And then we knew after that, while the roads were icy.
Grimé: I have one more. We have a new song, that’s a cover song that we shot. We were just finishing it up, and we shot it while on this tour. It consisted of converting the hotel room we were staying in into a studio…on Skyler’s birthday. Skyler’s birthday a.m.
Kilborn: It was a wake-up call.
Grimé: We took a sheet, from the bed and gaff-taped it to the window and shot it—like the same type of thing as “Daydreams.” It was edited and then turned into a really big stop-motion book. And we shot a video in the car on the way home. The first 300 pictures or so, we had bought a printer at Staples and we were in the hotel room printing them out. It said it could do 2,700 images, but it only lasted for 300. The toner cost like $75 but that was really the only cost for the video.
Owl Mag: Not bad!
Grimé: Yeah, not at all. Not bad in the grand scheme of things.
Owl Mag: What are you working on now? Any new material?
Kilborn: We have a studio in Richmond (California), so we’re just demoing songs and getting ready for a new record. February is our goal.
Grimé: Yep, just new music.
Kilborn: We have a couple songs we’re working on with John King from the Dust Brothers—he’s down in LA. Just trying to spend the rest of the year writing and playing shows.
Owl Mag: Ok, so as far as influences go, what kind of things are you listening to for the new album?
Kilborn: Lots of EDM music. Personally, I’m listening to a lot of Madeon right now, Empire Of The Sun, some just straight up dance music and I’m also listening to a lot of James Blake’s new stuff. Pretty cool. Also some indie rock like The National. Classic vocal styles. We blend a lot of different things together for this record—a lot of ’80s, like 1986-1988. Like, when pop was doing…
Grimé: We’ve been listening to some Rod Stewart.
Kilborn: Yeah, a lot of Rod Stewart.
Owl Mag: Haha, ok, out of left field.
Kilborn: And Mick Jagger.
Grimé: Oh yeah, Mick Jagger.
Kilborn: Watched a lot of Rolling Stones documentaries.
Owl Mag: Like his moves? Or like his…
Kilborn: Yeah. Moves.
Owl Mag: Haha cool. Do you have any other non-musical influences?
Kilborn: I just finished Season 3 of Game of Thrones. Do you watch that?
Owl Mag: I have seen all of the episodes.
Kilborn: You’ve seen the third episode, so you know what happens to Jamie?
Owl Mag: Haha yes.
Kilborn: That’s inspiring.
Owl Mag: Ok, so how about that Outside Lands? That’s a big fucking deal. How were you approached to perform?
Kilborn: We were on tour when we were asked if we wanted to do it. After discussing it for a bit, we decided it was a good idea. We decided not to wait. It’s kind of a long story. But we’re very excited.
Owl Mag: Who are you excited to see?
Grimé: Oooh, hard question. It’s a really good lineup this year.
Owl Mag: Yeah, Paul McCartney is finally showing up.
Grimé: Yeah, I’ve never seen him play live before so that will be fantastic. I’m excited to see Nine Inch Nails. I’m not a huge Nine Inch Nails fan, but I’ve seen some of their recorded stuff, what their live show is like and it’s ridiculous. Saw Phoenix a couple years ago and they were awesome.
Kilborn: Vampire Weekend.
Grimé: Yeah, they’re amazing. They are awesome live. Who else is headlining?
Owl Mag: Willie Nelson is one…
Kilborn: I’m surprised Willie Nelson is still going. He’s looking a little feeble these days.
Owl Mag: I got to ask, Skyler, you have the signature blue hair. What’s that all about?
Kilborn: I haven’t been doing it for that long but I guess I wanted to do something that really confused people or got them turned off or got them really excited and happy. Just something dramatic. It’s also really easy to recognize me now, like when I’m walking through a crowd you see me at the merch table.
Grimé: It’s true, it beings people over, like, “Oh! Guy with the blue hair! The first time it happened in Dallas, we realized everyone was saying, “Oh there’s the guy with the blue hair.” It’s a landmark.
Kilborn: It’s just fun.
Owl Mag: Have there been any really memorable moments where you feel like you’ve made it?
Kilborn: [shakes head]. I don’t feel like we haven’t made it, but I don’t feel like we’ve not made it either. In the moment, you just kind of decide to own it or not.
Grimé: Yeah, it’s a state of mind. You have to [own it], because if not, it’s not fun.
Kilborn: It’s got to be for a good reason. To give the crowd a good time and for you to have a good time.
Check out all the amazing photos from our exclusive shoot HERE.