Lovers' rock

By CAITLIN E. CURRAN  |  December 12, 2008

"Our biggest arguments have been when we're on the road and we get lost," he says. "We have arguments then like we'd never usually have. GPS is the thing that I've found that saved our band — and our relationship. It's our miracle, our relationship counselor. Spread the word to other bands."

Long before acquiring this magical piece of relationship-saving technology, Johnson and Schifino met at a party, when they were art students at the Brooklyn campus of the Pratt Institute. They started dating first; then a friend gave Schifino assorted pieces of a drum set, and Johnson acquired a keyboard, and they began to experiment in the bedroom of their apartment, with a towel muffling the drums in order to avoid disturbing any sound-sensitive neighbors.

"It wasn't an idea to start a band," says Johnson. "We'd just work out a beat, I'd work out a melody, and she'd tell me to make it faster." The lyrics come last, and they're often nonsensical — sometimes Johnson simply Frankensteins them together, via random selected sentences from pages of Schifino's writing.

Eventually, a friend talked them into playing a gig, and that led to more shows, a self-titled album (and a sophomore release, coming this January on Fader Label), and the inevitable intermingling of life as a couple and life as a band — which, Johnson says, for Matt and Kim, are not two separate entities.

"There's no difference at all distinguishing between the two. There's no clocking out. We spend so much time together that we only have one cell phone. And that pretty much sums us up."

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The Submarines
I think it might be harder than it is easier.

That's the candid truth that John Dragonetti, one half of the synth-tastic, Postal Service-y power-pop band the Submarines (who'll play the Middle East in February), gives me on the phone from Los Angeles. Dragonetti is a West Coast dweller now, but he and wife/co-Submarine Blake Hazard had their musical (and romantic) beginnings in Boston. In the late '90s, a friend introduced Dragonetti — who had attended Berklee for two semesters and played in a psych-pop band called Jack Drag — to Hazard, a solo pop singer-songwriter.

"I loved her voice," says Dragonetti. "She was the first person I had worked with who could really sing." The two began collaborating, and eventually embarked on a European tour together, though they were playing backup for each other, rather than performing as one band.

"We fell in love when we were touring," says Dragonetti. "Touring can be a lot of fun with your partner, because you're sharing this crazy experience." Four years later, the two followed one another across the country to LA, eyes wide with visions of Hollywood success. Before that could happen, though, they broke up.

Heartbroken, Dragonetti and Hazard both tumbled headfirst into songwriting, each channeling their pain and loneliness into music. And then, after six months ("It felt like forever," says Dragonetti), they gravitated toward one another again, reconciled, and began to navigate the mass of emotional dirges they'd accumulated. At the time, they saw this collection of songs merely as time capsules — musical snapshots of a particular emotional state of mind — and also maybe a chance to feel closure with regard to this dark time-gap in their relationship. They resumed work on that material — this time together — and then Nettwerk, a Canadian record label, saw their musical relevance and released the album (Declare a New State!).

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