Matthew Koma Says He's Not 'Ready' to Write Winnetka Bowling League Songs About Fatherhood or Marriage (Exclusive)

More than a decade into his career, Matthew Koma’s first album is finally here

Published Time: 04.06.2024 - 06:31:04 Modified Time: 04.06.2024 - 06:31:04

More than a decade into his career, Matthew Koma’s first album is finally here.

On May 31, the multi-hyphenate musician and producer’s band Winnetka Bowling League, also featuring Koma’s brother Kris Mazzarisi and Sam Beresford, released their debut album Sha La La, a reflective collection of songs encapsulating the frontman’s experience in his 20s.

The alternative project comes from the perspective of Koma, now 37, who’s father to three daughters —Banks Violet, 5, Mae James, 3, and Townes, born in May —shared with wife Hilary Duff, who also has son Luca Cruz, 12, from a previous marriage.

Sha La La was released just weeks after the pair welcomed Townes, meaning Koma’s month of May was quite eventful — but which of the milestones was more highly anticipated? “Well, I’ve had babies before, but I haven’t put out an album,” Koma jokes to PEOPLE. “That being said, definitely the baby.”

Koma first rose to fame in the world of dance music, notching hits including Zedd and Foxes’ “Clarity” as a songwriter in 2012 and Tiësto’s “Wasted” as a vocalist in 2014. After releasing various singles and EPs as a solo artist, he launched Winnetka Bowling League in 2018 and put out a few more short-form projects as the band found its footing through the COVID pandemic.

The debut album has been a long time coming, but he’s happy to have been able to grow before putting a full-length project into the world. “The best way I could put it is, I feel like you get to try on a bunch of T-shirts before you pick the one you're going to buy and you're like, cool, this is the fit, now I know what color I definitely don't want, and I know that that one's too tight,” says Koma.

“It just feels a little bit more like we're able to say, ‘OK, we've arrived at the identity of this thing,’ which is cool,” he adds. “It feels really good to have a body that's a bit bigger and feels like there's a bit more for you to be able to dig your teeth into.”

Throughout his career, Koma has made music with many collaborators, across several genres and under the guidance of multiple record labels. With Winnetka Bowling League, he’s gotten the chance to streamline his sound into what feels natural for him.

“It's a really confusing process to then try to reel it in back to like, ‘I want to make s--- that feels like me — what is me? I don't know, it seems like these people over here have been telling me that that's me, and I still think it's listening to Elvis Costello on Squeeze and s--- that I grew up on,” he says. “When we started the band, it was like, ‘Cool, the slate's clean. Let's only operate on the gut feeling of, ‘Does this feel in line wit -

h something I want to put out?’”

The process resulted in an album only Koma could’ve made, as the project features hyper-specific lyrics about his experiences, from listening to Anderson .Paak while ordering food at a Halal cart to Dawson’s Creek plot points and not caring about astrology.

“It was fun to just pause and think about some of the stuff that brought us here — or, selfishly, brought me here — in life and feeling somewhat capable of surviving, whether it's body dysmorphia or mental health,” says Koma, who’s previously opened up about his experience with an eating disorder.

Some topics, however, weren’t on the table as he wrote Sha La La. “I'm not really ready, or I don't think I'll ever be hungry to relate to an audience on fatherhood or being a great husband. Those just aren't the songs that I've ever heard and been like, ‘I want to listen to that again and again,’ and I don't really care to share that part,” he adds.

At some point in the future, Koma may feel ready to write about Duff and their kids, but now’s not that time. “So many of the songs I've written, it's like you're writing about war while you're in the war, and it's nice to be a bit removed from it now and be able to both justify the feelings that that person had when I was in it and also pacify it a little bit,” he says of crafting lyrics from a perspective of reflection.

Now that the album’s out in the world, Winnetka Bowling League is preparing to hit the road later this month for a North American tour that lasts through late July. Despite Koma’s love for performing live, he didn’t exactly set out to travel with a newborn at home when planning the concerts. 

“I don’t want to f---ing leave,” admits the artist, who plans to fly home between many shows to spend time with family. “We plan things differently now than we did when we were 18 and would tour for six months straight.”

With an adjusted schedule to account for fatherhood, the tour will be well worth it for Koma, who hasn’t played an extensive string of Winnetka Bowling League shows in about two years.

“The hour-twenty on stage rules. It’s the best,” he says, excited to spend time with fans and his brother on the road. “I think having Kris as part of it is probably one of the only things that keeps me sane and able when we're touring. It's like, ‘Alright, we're still continuing the thing we've been doing since we were 2.’ But it's tough to be away, for sure.”

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