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Winnetka Bowling League’s freshly dropped EP, ‘Congratulations,’ sits on my screen almost mockingly. On the cover, a hand cuts a slice of cake, while what appears to be a shot glass sits close by. Everyone could use a shot (or two, or three) right now, but I wonder what they could possibly be celebrating during these times. As it turns out, a lot.

The EP opens with “Kangaroo” where electric guitar perfectly melds into psychedelic synths and self-deprecating lyrics bring forth the realization I’m right where I’m supposed to be. The EP’s namesake ‘Congratulations’ follows with a sunny, upbeat tune that questions the authenticity of other’s displayed happiness. “CVS” fills your head with gentle melodies and an urge to immediately fall in love. Whether you’re driving to the grocery store, lying in bed, or dancing around with friends, Winnetka Bowling League has a song and a sound for everyone. 

More than anything though, Congratulations feels like an ode to growth. It covers the highs of love to distrust and fears of opening up, the freedom of unabashed self-acceptance, and learning to be present in each moment of your life. Each message is layered under zingy, pop tunes and witty lyrics, wrapped in California imagery, and neatly packaged to listeners in every stage of life, but especially those looking for a pat on the back and someone to say, “Hey, it’s going to be okay.”

Surprisingly, this EP was finished at the start of 2020, long before whispers of quarantine, nationwide protests, or Instagram feeds were clogged with black boxes but no actions.“We toured for about two months playing these tunes right up until quarantine hit,” Matthew Koma, frontman for Winnetka Bowling League, told LADYGUNN. This feels like a testament to Winnetka Bowling League’s tone-setting genius and lyrical-spirit. To create music that can evolve to meet listeners’ individual needs during rapidly changing times is no small feat. 

LADYGUNN recently chatted with Matthew Koma about Congratulations, quarantine creativity, and accountability in changing times. 

Has knowing there won’t be any tours for the foreseeable future changed the way you approach your music and its creation? It must feel weird to have to think about past performances and the emotions that come with them. 

It’s definitely odd. Part of the fuel that keeps a band going is what you get from playing live shows. It helps inform the music, what’s working, what feels natural, so it’s really weird to take that out of the equation. I don’t know if it changed our approach to making music as much as it changed the thought process behind how to release and support the music. Instagram live shows have been really fun, but even that feels limiting after a few. You can’t replicate being in a room, experiencing a live show. 

2020 has brought on a lot and has a lot still to come. Re-examining police violence, Black Lives Matter, a pandemic, voting (soon), there’s a lot happening. How have you all been getting involved, encouraging and interacting with your fans and community, and using your platform?  

There’s a lot happening, but it’s all overdue. It’s encouraging to hear our loudest conversations be around topics that need it most, especially in a lifetime where we’re typically so distracted by things that make us feel comfortable. It can all feel like this long, dark tunnel sometimes but we’re in it now, which is a step toward the light. 

We’ve all been involved in our own ways, helping to spread information and perspective that resonates with us, contributing to causes we believe in. As a unit, it’s been really nice to have each other and this little world we’re building where; hopefully, people come to for some moments of joy. 

CVS is definitely one of my favorites on the EP, but I’m a sucker for a good love ballad. Let’s unpack this song! Was it a culmination of love experiences or your ideal relationship/ present relationship (I know you’re married to the ICONIC Hillary Duff)? Do you think CVS is an underrated store?

I think CVS, the store, is celebrated appropriately. People who know, know. The song is really about that transition from having your guard fully up, to allowing yourself to experience all the exciting things about falling in love. As you go through relationships, I think you sort of develop these defense mechanisms so you don’t get hurt or let down. Those first frames of love are really special and it’s a very specific feeling in time when you give yourself up to the idea. 

The EP makes me think of sunshine, it’s so upbeat and feel-good. If you have one feeling or image you want listeners to take away from it, what would it be? 

I’m so bad at answering these questions. I’ll be really happy and listening to records that most people would hear as super depressing but they hit me differently. So I guess just hoping listeners have any sort of experience with it is a cool thing. 

Given the changing social climate of the US, how are you all, as a group, holding each other accountable during these times? Do you think there’s a way your music can generate productive change within the community? 

I think the healthiest thing we’ve been engaging in is dialogue. Conversations, sharing ideas, challenging our thought process. There’s a lot of information out there right now that’s so easily accessible and there’s a ton to be accomplished by listening, reading, and absorbing it.

You all have been listed under ‘New Alt’, ‘Feel Good Indie Rock’, ‘Et Alt’, and a ton of other playlists by Spotify. How would you all describe your sound?

New Alt meets Feel Good Indie Rock meets Et Alt!

You’ve probably worked on a lot of music virtually. How is that? Is there anything positive that you hope to incorporate in future album-making?

Creativity via virtual avenues, in general, has been really fun. In Los Angeles where you could spend half of your day sitting in traffic, it feels strangely more productive to dial into a Zoom and go. I really like it.




photos / courtesy of artist

story / Kinsley Cuen

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