After Matthew Koma co-wrote Demi Lovato’s song “Easy” from their LP The Art of Starting Over, the two instantly became friends. “We were just texting each other. Mostly memes and shit,” Koma tells Rolling Stone as Lovato lets out a cackle. “When you find artists who are equally as good a hang as they are a talent, it makes life so much more fun and exciting.”
On Feb. 4, Lovato, along with Koma’s band, Winnetka Bowling League, released the breakup ballad, “Fiimy,” an acronym meaning, “Fuck it, I miss you.” And on Thursday, they dropped a live rendition of the track. When Lovato first heard a snippet on Koma’s TikTok nearly two years ago, they immediately fell in love with the emotional song. “I honestly was just being a supportive friend and said, ‘Dude, that’s incredible. Can you please send it to me so I can cry?’ It’s just such a tearjerker,” the singer says. “And he actually responded with ‘Do you want to help me finish it?'”
The two spent the next several weeks concocting new lyrics for the track, with Lovato adding a verse inspired by their own real-life heartbreak. Starting the verse with a line about seeing a past love with “a family now,” Lovato later sings, “How I felt so undeserving of you/And loved you more than I will admit to/A hundred reasons and counting still/Never stopped and I never will.”
Rolling Stone caught up with Koma and Lovato to talk about Winnetka Bowling League’s new five-track EP, Pulp, and the future of Lovato’s music, which the singer says is a return to their emo-rock roots:
Matthew, what made Demi the right pick for this song?
Matthew Koma: It was just a no-brainer. When they showed interest in wanting to even collaborate, I was just fucking stoked. We finished the lyrics over text and it was one of those things where it wasn’t forced, and just organically came to be — those are always the best ones. Especially with somebody like Demi, whose voice you’re so used to hearing and grew up listening to, it’s fun to hear how that instrument brought a song you started in your bedroom — and in your underwear — to a completely different level. It’s surreal. We’re just really thankful that somebody would take the time that Demi has to make the tune as good as it could be. We’re very lucky.
What do you look for in another person when deciding whether to collaborate?
Demi Lovato: I have to be a fan of that person’s music and artistic expression. And obviously, I’m a fan. We’ve worked together before. And so this was a no-brainer for me too!
Koma: Same. I’m a huge fan of Demi’s and what they’ve done and honestly, they’re just a rad person. You don’t necessarily get that with everybody. When you find artists who are equally as good a hang as they are a talent, it makes life so much more fun and exciting. And even rolling out the song just feels fun, because it’s like, ‘Oh, shit, we get to do this together.’
The lyrics of the song are so relatable. We’ve all been through difficult breakups. Is it safe to say that the lyrics were inspired by real life?
Lovato: For me, definitely inspired by real life. We did this one early last year so some time has passed. Today, I’m feeling good being alone — but I definitely had my sad moment, for sure.
Definitely. What about you, Matthew? Obviously, you’re married to Hilary Duff and have two young daughters, but have you been through that, too? Were you channeling some past stuff?
Koma: Yeah, I think a lot of the time is when I sit down to write, it’s not necessarily reflective of something I’m currently going through. For me, it has always been more of a looking back process and digging into stuff that I can look at with some distance and tell that story. It feels a bit more removed. Something like this, it’s a sentiment everybody has felt — so it’s easy to clock pictures of that version of it.
Is it weird to relive those moments with the lyrics now that the song is finally going to be out? Or is that just part of the process?
Lovato: I think it’s part of the process. Sometimes I write songs and by the time I release them, I’m in a totally different mindset. Whether that’s the case or not, at some point in time, those were true lyrics coming from my heart from where I was in that moment. I never neglect the past and how I felt in the past. I just wear my lyrics like a badge of honor like, ‘Yeah, this is what I’ve been through.’
Matthew, the track is part of a new EP for Winnetka Bowling League. Talk to me about it.
Koma: It’s called Pulp. And we really enjoy putting out EPs because it’s a quick way to release music and move on from it. I typically hate everything I make two weeks later, so it’s nice to have five or six songs and then move on from it and not make these long records — especially given how people are digesting music now. People could probably expect slight disappointment. [Lovato laughs.]
Have you listened to it, Demi? Did you like it?
Lovato: I haven’t heard anything else, but I’m excited to.
Koma: Demi is my friend. I don’t want to disappoint them. [Koma laughs]
A few days ago you had a funeral moment for pop Demi. Is that version of Demi in the past now? Are we letting them go? Or is this just a new era?
Lovato: I would say it’s a new era. I’m ever-evolving, ever-changing. I’d like to put the rest of my music behind me and start fresh in this new era for this next album — but I do that every album cycle. It honestly wasn’t a funeral. It was a label meeting and we just all happened to be in black and I was like, ‘Wow, this is like a funeral for my pop music.’ There wasn’t an actual funeral.
Are we going back to the rocky, emo early days?
Lovato: That, but better. And also, there’s a bit of… and when I say heaviness, I don’t mean lyrically, but heaviness as in some of the sound that I haven’t done before, which is exciting. It’s a new era reminiscent of my first era.
And for you Matthew, now that we have the EP coming out, what else is in the works for you and for the band? Can we expect to see you guys on the road?
Koma: Yeah, we’ll be touring a bunch through this next year. We’re about to go to Europe for the first time, and then the States — and yeah, more music, more shows.
It feels like we’re in the final stages of Covid. What are some of the lessons that you have learned over this very lengthy pandemic?
Lovato: I’ve learned how to be alone. I think that at the beginning of Covid, I wasn’t alone. A part of that situation was me not wanting to be alone and then I really came to terms with it. Ever since I’ve been alone, I feel like I’ve learned more about myself. I’ve become more secure in the person that I am. It was just time that I needed to spend by myself because I feel like my whole life — well not my whole life, but ever since I started dating — I was always talking to somebody, or hooking up with someone, or in a relationship, and these past two years have been truly transformative for me.
This week marks two years since you performed “Anyone” at the Grammys. Looking back at that, how are you today? What’s it like to look back at what was going on in your life back then?
Lovato: I’m definitely in a better place than I was two years ago. And not that I was in a bad place — but like I said, I’ve just learned a lot about myself. Today, I’m more focused. I’m more clear-headed and excited to be working on new music.
Matthew, what was it like to spend some time in quarantine with your family?
Koma: I was definitely grateful to have had a forced break, because especially with young kids, you don’t get that time back. As somebody who’s toured so much of my life, it’s easy to forget that there’s identity outside of what you do for a living. When you’re constantly thinking about artistry and songs and touring, it’s easy to forget how important you are outside of that. That was definitely a lesson that I think has allowed me to get back into touring and being more into it, but I feel more appreciative of it because it feels elective instead of this, ‘I have to do it’ kind of thing.
Is there anything you hope to manifest in 2022?
Lovato: I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’ve actually been trying to live in the present moment so much and not think about the future. I’ve done a lot of future tripping in the past, and some manifestation as well, which has been rewarding and insightful — but for me, I’m just trying to stay present.
Koma: It gives me way too much anxiety to think about the next 15 minutes. It’s too anxiety-provoking for me to think about anything past Thursday. [Lovato laughs]
Random question for you. What’s a misconception about you that you think is worth setting the record straight?
Koma: I have really jacked legs. I don’t have chicken legs. They just photograph that way.
Lovato: And for me, I’m not changing with the new music. I’m just going back to my roots!
Demi, I know you explore extraterrestrial life on your Peacock show Unidentified. How has that journey changed your life?
Lovato: I’ve seen some things that I can’t explain. To me, that just grew my concept of God. It’s been inspiring to me. And it’s also a part of my spirituality now.