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Quarantine Chilling With Winnetka Bowling League’s Matthew Koma

Winnetka Bowling League
Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Songwriter/producer extraordinaire Matthew Koma should be out on tour with his band right now. The guy’s got a Grammy! Instead, the Winnetka Bowling League frontman is riding that quarantine lifestyle like the rest of the country. Only his might include more mac ‘n’ cheese and chicken nuggets.

Koma rang Music Choice from his home in LA where he lives with his wife actress Hilary Duff and their two young children. Koma told us he’s been on baby patrol with their 18-month-old (lots of mac and nuggs lunches) and Duff has taken on teaching responsibilities for their oldest most of the time. It’s not all Blue’s Clues and finger painting these days for Koma though, he’s still writing and recording, and the band is still putting out new tunes. Just last month WBL released the wildly infectious “Kangaroo” (4/17 on RCA) with a buzzing backbeat and chunky guitar riffs. It’s going to sound awesome when the sun starts beating down this summer (it still sounds awesome now, duh).

Koma took us through what his life’s looking right now from the toddler cuisine to the awkwardness of performing live online to getting into a Grateful Dead phase. Read on for all the details and be on the lookout for Winnetka Bowling League on Music Choice’s Alternative channel.

Music Choice: You’re calling from LA, what’s the home set up like there for quarantine?
Matt Koma: I have a wife and two kids so it’s a bit crazy. It’s a full house but everyone is healthy and getting through the days.

MC: How are you guys making it through them? New hobbies or…
MK: Our eight-year-old is in full school curriculum mood which is six or seven hours a day. My wife is teaching him, and I’ve been on baby duty with our 18-month-old. We watch tv shows she digs and do paintings or get the crayons out. It’s sort of a bit Groundhog Day but we’re healthy so can’t complain.

MC: What are some of the children’s programs you’ve been enjoying?
MK: We are big on Dave and Eva in our house. She’s also been rediscovering the classic Blue’s Clues. That’s been kind of rad to see her get really into something.

MC: How has cooking been going for kids day in and out? Are you doing mac ‘n’ cheese non-stop?
MK: It’s funny. Kids don’t have the most refined palates. It’s a lot of mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken nuggets, and waffles. Stuff that if there was more balance and we weren’t quarantining they wouldn’t have as much. But there are definitely days when I’m like “of course you can have mac ‘n’ cheese for the second time today.”

MC: Besides being a parent, you’re also a musician! You have done some live performances online. How have those been for you?
MK: They’re weird when you’ve spent years playing in front of an audience and having that energy to feed off of whether its people clapping or hating you. You feed off it. Now I’m sitting in front of my phone and playing these tunes that fall flat. Being a fan of other people who are doing it, I try to view my performances in that maybe others out there view mine the same way. I don’t think it gets normal; it’s just how things are.

MC: Do the online performances ever become difficult to actually get the phone out and do them? Since you’re not touring do they feel like a necessity for your band and music?
MK: No one has the answers. We don’t know when we’ll be able to get back on the road so part of me is not wanting to overplay and keep in mind, we may be doing this for a while and to keep things interesting.

What’s unique for me, before I started this band, I had a lot of other songs that I started the band to shy away from. I’ve developed a better relationship with those songs because I can’t do the same show as last week so I can get into some old titles. They have been fun to revisit. We are a newer band so playing online is a necessity to a degree to keep fans engaged.

MC: Since being more online with the performances have you found yourself engaging more with fans online whether it be replying to comments or anything since you can’t see people face to face?
MK: We were about to head out on a tour where we would have played 200 to 300 seat venues. Now we may see that same number of people on a livestream. I’ve felt more comfortable exposing things that I normally wouldn’t like turning the camera on myself when I’m writing. Fans can’t see us concert but maybe the diehards care to see stuff like that. The conversation has been opened up more.

MC: Do you have a place set up to record at home?
MK: I have a studio about five minutes away from the house. It’s mine so no one is in it. I can go there and chip away. In the first three or four weeks, I didn’t because I was in the mode of getting used to the new routine and figuring out how everything would work. Now that we’re getting closer to a new normal, I’ve been incorporating getting back to work whether producing and writing for other artists or working on band stuff.

MC: That can be nice. “I’m leaving the house and going to do my work.”
MK: Strangely enough when we aren’t touring my life isn’t that much different. I’m pretty anti-social. I wake up and hang with the kids and go to the studio then come home for dinner.

MC: Right, now you just have to wear a facemask when you pick chicken nuggets up on the way home. Besides touring and musical things, what do you miss most from life before quarantine?
MK: Working on music with people I enjoy spending time with. Whether that’s bandmates or other writers and producers. I feel odd doing the video chat sessions. It can be productive but not the same as sitting in the same room. You never feel that one magic moment or like you’re cracking a song’s code. I miss that contact and the ability to create something out of thin air.

MC: Now you’re worrying about everyone’s wifi signal.
MK: Right. It’s productive but not the same. You’re going to miss what someone is saying or you can’t hear the track they’re playing.

MC: It was your bandmate Sam’s birthday recently. Were you guys able to do anything?
MK: Mysteriously in my phone calendar it said “Sam Birthday Celebration” but no one will admit to putting it in there. I was like “what time is the celebration?”  and no one knew what I was talking about. We all got on the phone and wished him Happy Birthday.

MC: I’ve definitely been on some very large video chats for birthdays and it’s just like 30 people cheersing their webcams.
MK: The best one I’ve seen so far was with my 18-month-old for a friend of hers. The parents sent these little tea sets to all the kids and they met on a call and sipped fake tea one afternoon. It was very funny.

MC: I read you mention getting into the Grateful Dead recently. Do you have a favorite live album right now or a go-to record?
MK: There is so much to digest it can be overwhelming. I was with a friend who’s a big fan and he told me to start with American Beauty. So I did that and then he sent me some live albums to check out. One being a Nassau Coliseum show and I’m from Long Island so that one is cool. It’s so much material so I chip away when I have a few free minutes. I’m in a phase right now and I’m enjoying it.

MC: Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
MK: Stay safe and stay home. Take care of yourself and we can’t wait to be in the same room no matter how many feet away playing music for you.

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