Over the years, Matthew Koma’s name has been most closely associated with dance music. During the EDM boom, he wrote or co-wrote songs like “Spectrum,” “Clarity,” and “Find You” with Zedd, “Wasted” with Tiësto, and “Dare You” with Hardwell. He appeared as a vocalist on several more tracks, including a collaboration with legend Giorgio Moroder.
You will hardly find a trace of those four-on-the-floor beats in the work of his new band, Winnetka Bowling League. The upbeat, sunny pop/rock of the foursome comes from guitars and occasional synths, combined with a songwriter who, originally from New York, has fully adapted to the California life.
amNewYork caught up with Koma to talk about his new act, his songwriting career and what New York will always have over Los Angeles.
How does a Long Island guy end up writing an EP full of songs that feel like California?
I moved to Los Angeles about 10 or 11 years ago now, but funny enough, a lot of the first EP was written in New York. It was the first time I went back and lived in New York, for a three- or four-month period, since I was a kid. And I think because Los Angeles had been the backdrop of much of my later life, being away from it and having that distance allowed me to write about it in a different way than if I was just coming to my studio every day in California.
The band is only two EPs in, but it feels like your sound is already evolving.
I think any band, there’s evolution in sound, in evolution, in spirit. A lot of that is sort of dictated by playing shows, touring, just becoming more of a band or homing in on what exactly it is [we do]. Part of the excitement is being able to explore a little bit, and the common thread is the songwriting and the fact that it’s coming from the same place — just different corners of it. … And from playing the first batch live a bunch of times, it was a different spirit when we played live versus just recording in the studio, and I think that helped pushed the direction that the second collection went in.
You’ve written some of the biggest crossover tracks in EDM’s history. But there’s almost no trace of it in the band’s sound.
The first EP, I think, had this MO from the beginning that I wanted to do stuff so far from anything I’ve been doing in the last five or six years, especially in the electronic space. But then you stop being so scared of it; those songs were a lot of fun to write, and these were just the next five that came out.
Is there more pressure on you as your band’s primary songwriter than when you were this dance music gun-for-hire?
I feel like there’s less apologies, or less pressure to do something that you want to walk outside and say is yours. … It’s nice to be selfish in creating stuff that I like, and then having faith that there’s people out there who’ll hear it and like it too. And not investing in how big that number is. If I learned anything through working for years in a space that I didn’t totally relate to, it was that it didn’t matter how successful it felt, or how successful it was, it didn’t resonate the same way as doing stuff that feels really true.
When you get back to New York, what’s your first stop?
Probably Russ and Daughters, probably for a good bagel. It’s not the same out [in L.A.]. They try, but it’s just not.
Winnetka Bowling League performs Wednesday, 8 p.m. at Elsewhere, 599 Johnson Ave., Bushwick, elsewherebrooklyn.com.