The Lounge-O-Leers
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The Lounge-O-Leers

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by Dan Currie

At 10:30 my friend finally shows up and orders a black Russian. He sneers at the Emerald. It's a nice enough little bar, equal parts emigre bartenders, plastic gingham tablecloths, and a Bon Jovi-only jukebox.

"These guys are fantastic," I cry, pointing to the back of the barroom. The live act is bedizened in white tuxedos. At the keyboards is the shaggy, Charles Nelson Riley-esque Ricky Ritzel, and accompanying him on vocals, a brash cymbal, and some other drums is Aaron "Hot Rod" Morishita, who strikingly resembles a young Yoshiro Mori, braided ponytail and all.

"Oh, yes. The Lounge-O-Leers. Don't tell me you've never heard of them," he laughs. "Aren't you sick of this stuff by now, all of this 'Oh, ha, ha, kitsch, yoom, bernab, loo, loo, loo'?! "

The kitschy pop duo is indeed one of the most tedious hazards in modern New York City music: all of those empty and unfunny references to slightly celebrated, forgotten jazz ages; the evasion of any clear statement, even a happy-go-lucky one, in favor of infallible coyness; all that bullcrap.

And yet what the Lounge-O-Leers offer is different; they aren't pretending to be anything but a couple of weird guys playing weird music. Their tunes provoke a cocked head and a grin, but the covers aren't just funny. They're actually good.

They rework extremely familiar songs to sound unsettlingly fresh, such as "Mrs. Robinson," laden with artificial vibraphone and Zooma zooma zoom's (or Zoom zoom zooma's, I can't read my notes) from Hot Rod.

Or try the inevitable barroom dose of "Love Shack." I thought it would take an utter torturing of that song to keep me from puking. These guys brutalized it with a rumba beat and left me grinning. The same is true of the strongest songs in the set -- songs that seem to have been created to annoy. "Flagpolesitta!," "Walking on the Sun," "Smooth," and "Thong Song," just to name a few, are covered to the edge of intelligibility. "Karma Chameleon" resounds with greasy electro keyboards. "Oops! . . . I Did It Again" lives and breathes like the Word of God. The Lounge-O-Leers rephrase boring songs into bizarre classics.

The most depressing and yet wonderful thing about the group is the seemingly endless list of songs -- not to mention scores of commercial jingles and television theme songs -- numbing the nation that they can recombine and revive.

"Do you guys know New Order's 'Blue Monday'?" I ask after thumbing their black binder of songs in search of my favorite secret pleasure. It took me a minute of intense, self-conscious reflection to ask.

Hot Rod grins and takes out a pen to write it down. "No, but that's a great idea. We would have a good time with that one!"
- The Village Voice

"Let's Do Lounge"

Ricky Ritzel and Aaron Morishita cool off at Judy's

Until a few years ago, Yma Sumac, Les Baxter, and the Jackie Gleason Orchestra -- the lounge sounds that graced luaus and Tupperware parties -- seemed as distant and archaic as castrati. Now they’re hot all over again by way of CD reissues, and bands like Combustible Edison have reclaimed the aesthetic of cocktails and conga drums.

Ricky Ritzel and Aaron Morishita teamed up last year to become the Lounge-o-Leers, and their mambos, cha-chas and frugs have landed them a twice-weekly happy-hour gig in the bar at Judy’s. White-jacketed, bespectacled and utterly poker-faced, they manage to simultaneously stand out and fade into the background, providing an oddly perfect ambience for cocktail chatter.

Their repertoire includes the likes of “Sukiyaki� and “Music to Watch Girls By� as well as TV themes from That Girl and Peter Gunn, and film scores like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Goldfinger. Ritzel’s electronic organ throbs; Morishita’s bongos pound; and it’s all too retro-cool for words.

“Ambient music expressly for the entertainment of the subconscious mind,� is how the Lounge-O-Leers bill themselves. And that describes them perfectly. They’re not the kind of combo you listen to; they’re a group you like to hear over the murmur of your conversation and the tinkle of the ice in your glass. Close your eyes, and it’s 1962 -- you’re at a cocktail party in Passaic.

-- Eric Myers - Time Out New York

"Lounging With The Lounge-O-Leers"

By: Michael Portantiere
Meet the Lounge-O-Leers
(Emenar Records)

What can I say that hasn't already been said? The Lounge-O-Leers are to rock and roll what Anna Russell was to classical music, and what Jonathan and Darlene Edwards were to the great American songbook. In the fine tradition of those musical pranksters, the Lounge-O-Leers -- aka Ricky Ritzel and Aaron "Hot Rod" Morishita -- lift intentionally bad music to the level of art. Never has such an awful album been so thoroughly enjoyable.

Perhaps the world's most frightening club act, though it's a close contest, the Lounge-O-Leers traffic in what their press materials describe as "planned mediocrity." They are (in)famous for their appearances at such New York hot-spots as Fez, Judy’s Chelsea, the Emerald, and -- how perfect is this? -- Hannah's Lava Lounge. "They are to music what Austin Powers is to film," raved Joey Reynolds of WOR Radio. "This wacky, synthesized duo plays the sounds of the Caesar's Palace elevator," beamed the San Francisco Weekly. Not to be outdone, the Lounge-O-Leers describe themselves as "the hottest musical duo since the Captain & Tennille."

Their latest CD has been issued on the Emenar Records label (a name which I'm willing to bet should be read as "M and R," for Morishita and Ritzel). It contains a marvelous sampling of the group's oeuvre, from an uptempo rendition of "Science Fiction Double Feature" (The Rocky Horror Show) to a stoned arrangement of The Rolling Stones' "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction" to a unique version of the title song from the Broadway musical It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Superman! The Lounge-O-Leers have a knack for taking the hooks of famous songs and making them their own; just wait till you hear what they do to the "wo-wo-wo" section of Simon and Garfunkel’s "Mrs. Robinson," not to mention what they do to the rest of the number. They also pay homage to Nirvana ("Smells Like Teen Spirit"), Madonna ("Like a Virgin"), Abba ("The Winner Takes it All"), and The Supremes ("I Hear a Symphony"). Nor do the boys ignore the inexhaustible font of culture that is television; on the contrary, they put their own special spin on the theme songs of Mission: Impossible and The X Files.

It’s often said that art has the power to change our worldview, and the
Lounge-O-Leers offer incontrovertible proof of that thesis. Should you
happen to catch one of their live performances or experience them on CD, you may never be the same again. -

"Experiment in Terror"

*This Issue’s Spotlight CD*
The Lounge-O-Leers
Experiment in Terror

The sound contained within Experiment in Terror is the sound that has attached itself to our collective synapse over the last half of the 20th century. This disc is brilliantly synthesized (both literally and figuratively) by a couple of swingin' technonerds who go by the name of Ricky Ritzel and Aaron "Hot Rod" Morishita.

Recorded completely live at a studio in NYC, Experiment in Terror pushes songs that we all know and love/hate/love/hate through the Lounge-O-Leers' blender of love. What squeezes out the other side is ambient music that will pervade your soul, and maybe help you pervade the soul of the lady you're with.

When was the last time you've heard a decent cover of "Perry Mason Twist?" Eons. And "Xanadu," everyone's guilty pleasure, is brought out of suspended animation (the Federal government had all copies of that ELO/Gene Kelly/Olivia Newton-John cinematic opus destroyed, a few copies survived, and were mercifully passed into the hand of the LOLs), and given the supreme treatment it always deserved.

And we've all come to realize that Jim Morrison was nothing but a glorified lounge lizard (king), so "Riders on the Storm" absolutely thrives in the Tom Collins-soaked context. My personal fave is "Munsters/Spooky Medley." My only sadness comes when I realize that Fred Gwynne is not around to enjoy the sparkling sound of the Lounge-O-Leers.

– Ed Kaz!

- Cool and Strange Music Magazine

"The Best of Citysearch"

The Lounge-O-Leers
Irony meets credibility as this lounge music duo covers everything from true rock classics to AM radio schmaltz

Somewhere in the trippy ether between lounge, space-age bachelor pad and modern pop reside The Lounge-O-Leers, whose performances are distinguished by true musicianship and cover versions that praise and damn with equal amounts of cheese, cynicism and genuine affection.

Ricky Ritzel on keyboards and vocal and Aaron "Hot Rod" Morishita on vocals and percussion posses a vast multi-genre set list comprised of music's most beloved and reviled tunes -- including "What's New Pussycat," "Achy Breaky Heart," "Peter Gunn," "Girl From Ipanema" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" -- plus TV show these from the Nick at Nite roster and beyond. The group has brought their ambient tunes to bowling alleys, cabaret venues and Atlantic City.


A Groovy Good Time!
You'll be humming along, you know all the words, but what song IS that they're playing? Could be the TV theme song from THE MUNSTERS in a medley with the 60's hit SPOOKY, a Britney hit or a Beatles classic. You never know WHAT you'll get, but you KNOW you'll have a GROOVY GOOD TIME! So, put on your leopard smoking jacket or your Pucci mini dress and let it all happen to YOU!

Don't Miss!
Take your out-of-town friends and family to see The Lounge-O-Leers. Take your New York friends, too. Trust me, there is nothing like their music in Topeka, Albany or wherever! These guys are one-of-a-kind! - Citysearch New York City

"Wow! It's the Groovy Sounds of The Lounge-O-Leers"

Artist  The Lounge-O-Leers
Release Date 2001
AMG Rating  Four Stars
Genre  Rock

AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Ricky Ritzel and Aaron "Hot Rod" Morishita have come up with a unique and very entertaining album where they cover pop, country, and other assorted well-known tunes that both make the charts and put some solid kick in them. Both of these multi-instrumentalists supply all the music and do the vocals. And they do all of this on the improbably named label Emenar. Most of the pieces are from the 1998-1999 period, but there's one oldie, "A Summer Song" (from 1964), that was originally recorded by Chad & Jeremy and reached number seven during that year. This entire session is pure unadulterated groove done with humor and a bit of satire of the original, as they hit the groove right on the head with their pounding keyboards. Not all the covers are pure pop. "Mambo No. 5" is out of a Perez Parado chart with lyrics by Lou Bega, who recorded the tune in 1999. Peter Gunn, from the late-'50s TV show with the same name, gets a slam-band workout by the two performers – not quite the original Ray Anthony record. No pop icon is safe from the audacious antics of these loungers. They even go after dominant divas with their interpretations of Celine Dion's "My Heart Go Will On," Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger," and Britney Spears' "Oops...I Did It Again." In keeping with homespun lounge psychology, there's a strange but sincere instruction for living and drinking (especially drinking) on "Everybody's Free (To Feel Groovy)." There's fun all around on this happy album with homemade arrangements, which gives
this popular music a much different twist than the original versions. This album could liven up a party by seeing how many can identify the tune and who sang it when.

Recommended. – Dave Nathan - All Music Guide


Wild Thing/Guantanamera
Perry Mason Twist
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Goodbye Columbus
The Munsters/Spooky
Riders on the Storm
Ya Ya Twist
Experiment in Terror/I Will Survive
Get Off My Cloud
Miss Marple
Maniac/The Odd Couple
Stairway to Heaven
Bad Girls

Science Fiction, Double Feature
Satisfaction/Cast Your Fate to the Wind
Walking on the Sun
Mrs. Robinson
Quiet Village/Like a Virgin
I Will Follow You
Smells Like Teen Spirit
MacArthur Park
Mission: Impossible
The X Files
Free Bird
What's Up?
Light My Fire
The Winner Takes It All/I Hear a Symphony

My Heart Will Go On
Livin La Vida Loca
Someday/A Summer Song
One Week
Beautiful Stranger
All Star
Nobody's Supposed to Be Here
The Way/Besame Mucho
Mambo #5
Flagpole Sitta
Oops!...I Did It Again/Peter Gunn
Everybody's Free to Feel Groovy (aka Sunscreen)

I Try
Pink Panther/No Scrubs
Most Girls
You Only Live Twice/Millennium
Survivor/Girl from Ipanema
The Real Slim Shady
Drops of Jupiter/Love's Theme
Beautiful Day
Music/Smooth Operator
Say My Name/Stop in the Name of Love
Jeannie/Genie in a Bottle
It Wasn't Me
Breathe/I'm a Believer
Stan (the Man)

Rock the Boat
Love Potion #9 (in Chinese)
Don't Know Why/Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
Rebel Rebel
Karma Chameleon
I Don't Want to Miss a Thing
Six Feet Under
Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows
The Game of Love
Lady Marmalade
Ciao, Ciao (Downtown in Italian)

I Want to Hold Your Hand
Everyday People
Car Wash
Shake Your Groove Thing
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Walk Like an Egyptian
Man on the Moon/Angela
Good Riddance
Can You Feel the Love Tonight
Your Body Is a Wonderland
Get Busy
Superman (It's Not Easy)

A Shot in the Dark
Music to Watch Girls By
The Look of Love
Summer Wine
Magnificent Seven Cha Cha
Red Rubber Ball
The Fool on the Hill
Young Girl
Watermelon Man
One Mint Julep
Call Me
Un Homme et une Femme
Love American Style
Tijuana Taxi
Sunshine Superman
Secret Agent Man

I Kissed a Girl/Theme from Rosemary's Baby
Pon De Replay
Since U Been Gone
Don't Cha
So What
Viva La Vida



Times change. Styles change. But not the curiously ageless Lounge-O-Leers. While the world races around them, the boys remain true to their signature hyper-bachelor-pad musical style, perfected at the lounge of the Omaha Howard Johnson in 1966. Under the festive glow of colored tiki lights, experience The Lounge-O-Leers' brand of "Music to Live By" -- described by Time Out New York as "...swinging bachelor pad music from a couple of cool retronerds... [who] manage to keep lounge music funny without resorting to cheesy excess."

Twists... Mambos... Frugs... Cha Chas... Cool Jazz Stylings... and more. But wait! This is no nostalgia trip through the tunes of the sixties. It's all the songs rattling in your head that you swore you'd never want to hear again. Ricky and Hot Rod raid the poppiest chart hits of the last five decades and transform them into a living soundtrack for the grooviest party since the Summer of Love!

Named the best local New York City band in the readers/audience polls of both CitySearch New York and New York Press, The Lounge-O-Leers are Ricky Ritzel on keyboards/vocals and Aaron "Hot Rod" Morishita on percussion/vocals. The Lounge-O-Leers have appeared widely throughout New York City, and beyond -- ranging from Caroline's Comedy Club to Carnegie Hall to The Filmore New York @ Irving Plaza; from The Taj Mahal in Atlantic City to The Encounter Bar and Restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport; and from the cafeteria at State University of NY at Purchase to society functions produced by Colin Cowie. You can also enjoy the unique sounds of The Lounge-O-Leers on their stereophonic CD recordings, currently receiving radio airplay on stations from Baltimore to Houston to San Francisco to Rome.

Join The Lounge-O-Leers for the hippest, happiest, happening sounds this side of the swinging '60s.