A buoyant kiss of sweet summer heat, Mating Ritual’s fourth album ‘The Bungalow’ is a groovy LA party that comes for the connections, but stays for the memories made. It’s a fun embrace of life’s upswings (and downturns) that knows the best will never last.
Stream: “The Bungalow” – Mating Ritual
Mating Ritual have long been a bright spot on the horizon, but never before has the indie band sparkled with this much warmth and cheer.
2020 has been a year so full of pain and hardship, that it feels all-too fitting – a stroke of dumb luck, perhaps, or just impeccably good timing – that one of our favorite indie bands would return to the fore with a radiant record so full of life and energy, that it brings out the light in all who listen.
A buoyant kiss of sweet summer heat, The Bungalow is a groovy LA party that comes for the connections, but stays for the memories made. It’s a fun embrace of life’s upswings (and downturns) that knows the best will never last – but perhaps in capturing some of the good times on record, Mating Ritual have come a little closer to bottling their own musical tonic – a sonic elixir of sorts.
So what if there’s an ironic, tongue-in-cheek undercurrent running from head to toe? The Bungalow is a safe space where anything goes; from a listener’s perspective, it’s an escape and an indulgence all at once, and maybe that’s exactly what this year needs.
Life is a Rhythm
And you can play it the way you want
Live by the river
Or rent a POS by the beachfront
If you want to
You can make due
Some mini mansion in Beverly Hills
But if you’re into what I’m into
Then come on
Life in the bungalow
Can make you feel invincible
It ain’t like life on Rodeo
If you like Tokyo
And hate what’s on the radio
Come over to the bungalow
I’d like to show you around
– “The Bungalow,” Mating Ritual
Released August 21, 2020 via Smooth Jaws, The Bungalow is Mating Ritual’s dynamic fourth record in as many years. The duo of Ryan Marshall Lawhon and Taylor Lawhon (previously both of Pacific Air), Mating Ritual emerged in the late ’10s as a feverish expression of finessed and raw indie rock / pop; in the years since, the project has seamlessly evolved into a multicolored tapestry with neither bounds nor rules. With the ultimate goal of making 5 albums in 5 years (a previously undisclosed fact), the Lawhon brothers have made Mating Ritual into a vessel of inner and outer expression. Such early hits as “I Wear Glasses” and “Cold” from debut album How You Gonna Stop It? are faithful representatives of the band’s ethos, but even they barely crease the surface of a now-opulent and expansive artistry. (Back in 2017, Atwood described said debut as “a world of false starts, regrets, nostalgia, self-reflection, introspection, and uncertainty; a world of hope, second chances, opened doors, growth, and hesitant optimism.” The description holds.)
Clocking in at a cool 37 minutes, The Bungalow is an expansive journey inviting all to dwell in a range of emotional highs and lows. Encompassing everything from rock and pop, to disco, Bossa Nova, and beyond, The Bungalow combines the height of the party, the euphoria of the afterparty, and the brooding waves that wash over us the next day. “Loosely inspired” by the band’s home in East LA, it’s a moody outpouring made for all those outsiders who claim to hate the “inside”, but secretly wish they were there all along.
Or, it’s just a soundtrack to some really good vibes.
Finished on the day before mandatory quarantine began in Los Angeles, The Bungalow reminds us of pre-COVID days, with its tongue-in-cheek take on LA culture (think: vapidity) blending seamlessly into an intoxicating desire for carefree, easy living. Rollicking songs like “The Bungalow,” the hypnotic single “Voodoo,” and the sun-soaked “Elastic Summer” display this marriage best, balancing soulful beats and sublime instrumentation with aching vocal work and heartfelt reflections on the past and present.
Elsewhere, darker moments like the brooding “Moon Dust,” “Raining in Paradise,” and the pulsing, poignant “Unusual” (written with Jane Holiday) showcase the band’s softer, more subtle side. Here, they tap even deeper into their lyrical prowess, their songwriting expertise, and a willingness to experiment with new sounds and flavors in order to capture fleeting moments – whether it’s the desire to relive a long-gone memory or feeling, or the recognition that no good thing lasts.
Mating Ritual are up-front about the fact that much of The Bungalow is tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic, at least to a degree; it is by no means a “concept” record, however it certainly captures the band’s somewhat cynical headspace throughout 2019 and early 2020. That doesn’t stop these songs from evoking a wealth of feelings, nor does it keep Mating Ritual from coming off as anything less than their full, authentic selves: If a song “slaps,” it slaps. The Bungalow doesn’t feel at all forced, fake, or false; rather, Mating Ritual’s latest collection of sunny bangers and cloudy immersions is multi-layered and nuanced beyond belief, forcing fans and first time listeners alike to revisit its music a second, third, and fourth time in order to appreciate the depth and full character of these songs.
If we’re being honest, we’d love to visit The Bungalow right about now. The quarantine blues has hit hard, and there’s no place we’d rather be than in the good graces of our friends, loved ones, and even those acquaintances who are always around, and we’ve just never taken the time to really connect with them on a one-on-one level. Alas, since we cannot be there for the foreseeable future, this album is our next best bet: A summery, sweet adventure, The Bungalow is that party you can come back to time and again whenever you need a little taste of the limelight’s seductive euphoria.
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Mating Ritual’s The Bungalow with Atwood Magazine as the Lawhon brothers go track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their fourth full-length album!
Stream: ‘The Bungalow’ – Mating Ritual
:: Inside The Bungalow ::
Welcome To The Bungalow
Welcome to the Bungalow. Take in the sights and sounds. Clear your mind, pet a cat and let the smell of teak and tobacco wash over you. For the next 40 minutes leave your troubles behind, you’re at The Bungalow now.
The Bungalow is a very tongue in cheek song about loving Eastside L.A., and kind-of-literally, our house and studio we record at. We enjoy throwing parties here and have very specific tastes, and this song is kind of poking fun at that.
Voodoo is about a guy unaware he’s being ghosted. A guy who finds himself so charming that no one could ever not be into him so he comes up with excuses as to why he’s been left on read. On a production note, this was the first song on the album that I really dove into sampling and that inspired a lot of the rest of the album.
Inspired by Carly Simon and Bananarama, “Elastic Summer” is about a couple who only hang out when they’re drunk, and they love it. No thinking about hangovers or work the next day, just treating each night like it’s their last (which sounds amazing right about now, as I write from my 6th straight month at home).
The Third Steepest Street In America
The party is winding down and it’s time to drunkenly walk somewhere to look at the stars. Luckily I live on the third steepest street in America.
Written with our friend Jane Holiday, Unusual is about finding the positivity in a strained relationship. We tried to tell a story through the vocal production, a story that you can feel and relate to even if you don’t listen to the lyrics at all. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but if you focus on the the highs, sometimes that’s all you need.
King Of The Doves
A few years ago we coined the term “dove” with a few friends. We needed a word to describe the 2019 Wast LA man. Someone who hates the word hipster, but definitely is described as such, someone who’s taste in music has expanded to Bossa Nova and Pasty Cline, and does drugs more casually than he ever thought he would. Meet the King Of The Doves.
Heart Don’t Work
One of the few not sarcastic songs on the album, “Heart Don’t Work” is the point in an on-again/off-again relationship where you realize it’s finally over, and accept it. Musically it’s inspired by several songs off my mom’s Pure Moods compilation.
My Postmate Is Here
It’s the next morning and there’s no way your headache is going to let you cook. Time to order in (again).
While it was written last year (again with Jane Holiday) ‘ok’ seems more prescient now than ever. It’s about the hopeful feeling of nostalgia you get after you have lived in ignorance long enough that your mistakes have caught up with you. Sometimes it is too late to fix things, and all you can do is live with the memory and hope that one day everything will be okay again.
Raining In Paradise
In a genre we’re calling “Emo Yachtrock,” “Raining In Paradise” is about exactly what it sounds like. No matter what you do, it will eventually rain in paradise.
Moon Dust is about wanting to recapture a feeling with someone you know you can’t. The memory of what once was keeps us coming back, for better or for worse.
So Long, Los Guapos
Thanks for stopping by, until next time…
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📸 © Kevin Doan
:: Stream Mating Ritual ::