Mating Ritual’s music embodies one of the most universal aspects of life: transition. Whether it be his ever-changing sound or lyrical themes, the Los Angeles-based artist’s strength lies in his ability to constantly evolve–and effectively capture that evolution in his music.
Case in point: the latest single from his upcoming debut full-length album, How You Gonna Stop It? “Thief” takes a swift turn from Mating Ritual’s uptempo pop-tinged alternative releases with an ambient, synth-heavy foundation and melancholy, distorted vocals reminiscent of early Daft Punk and Hot Chip. The track was synched on the hit ABC series, How To Get Away With Murder earlier this year, and fans have been demanding its release ever since.
Ryan Marshall Lawhon of Mating Ritual will host the How You Gonna Stop It? record release party on June 24 at The Hi Hat is Los Angeles. Not only will it feature performances and DJ sets by likeminded artists ranging from Sir Sly to Dyan, but all proceeds will benefit Planned Parenthood. Pick up your tickets and support the cause here.
Your first look at “Thief” is below, plus get to know more about Lawhon’s inspirations, Smooth Jaws label, and forthcoming album in our Q&A below.
OTW: “Thief” seems slower and more melancholy than your previous releases—what was the inspiration here?
MR: “Thief” is one of the older tunes on the album, written when I was really into dance-y bands doing ballads, like earlier Hot Chip and Future Islands. I love electronic music and tend to find the slower atmospheric songs to be the more interesting of the genre. “Thief” is probably the most electronic/synth-based song I’ve ever made, and those vocal samples and 808’s juxtaposed with a somber ballad really does it for me.
OTW: What’s the meaning behind the name, Mating Ritual?
MR: I’m endlessly intrigued by the way technology is shaping our culture, especially the way it’s affecting the romantic tendencies of younger generations. A better match is only a swipe away, creating this never ending FOMO cycle that is ending relationships at a speed that puts the divorce rate of the baby boomers to shame.
OTW: If you had to describe your music without using any genre names, what would you say?
MR: Larry David visiting Coachella.
OTW: Where do you seek inspiration for your lyrics?
MR: Most of my lyrics are sparked by some petty observation I’ve made about someone else, which usually snowballs into some esoteric internal argument about the state of the world. Sooner or later I settle on the less is more philosophy and simplify the song ideas and metaphors into something more relatable to anyone who’s not in my head.
OTW: What else can we expect on the How You Gonna Stop It album? Does it follow a particular theme or narrative?
MRL HYGSI is about transition. Transition from child to adult. From dating to single. From employed to unemployed. Everyone handles these situations differently; I tend to repeat my mistakes over and over again and the majority I’m exploring whether I’ll ever get out of this cycle. I still don’t have that answer, but even if I never do, I now know that I’ll be alright.
OTW: Tell us how you started your Smooth Jaws label and what you seek in potential artists to sign?
MR: I’ve been in multiple bands prior to MR that signed with major labels, and I wanted to try something completely different with this project. Turns out I’m not the only one with that opinion of modern day labels so some likeminded friends and I started something we felt matched our ethos about music.
Right now we’re focusing on the release of How You Gonna Stop It? but we’ve been talking with some amazing LA artists who have similar ideals. No genres, just good music.
OTW: Who are 3 artists on your Ones To Watch list and why?
MR: I’m very into Big Thief, Royal Headache and Perfume Genius right now, though I’m not sure those really qualify as up and coming bands anymore. Perfume Genius’ new record especially has been on repeat. The way he and Blake Mills put such an emphasis on avant-garde production without losing what makes a tune timeless–the songwriting. Really powerful record.
OTW: What else is on the horizon for Mating Ritual? What’s your ultimate goal as an artist?
MR: We’re having a big party in Los Angeles to celebrate the release of the record on June 24th. We booked some amazing bands for a mini-fest of sorts, and every dime is being donated to Planned Parenthood.
Outside of touring and making more records, it’s tough to definitively say what comes next for Mating Ritual. All I know right now is I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had playing music, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.