The Ghost Ease

Interview with The Ghost Ease

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  Interview with The Ghost Ease
- by Benjamin Toledo

How did you three find each other? What made you decide to start making music together?
 
Jem Marie : Nsayi and I met in Portland. I viewed Nsayi as a musical goddess after seeing her play in her previous band Kusikia. We'd see each other around at shows and at one point we just came to talking about the bands we love.  I then thought it would make sense to collaborate musically. After a few months of playing together in Ghost Ease, we agreed that the band needed some bass and Fabi came to mind. We three gave rehearsal a shot and the connection felt right. So, here we are. 
 
Nsayi Matingou: I met Jem through friends and would occasionally see her around town. I always felt this intuition that it would be a fun experience to play music with her. I eventually got to see her perform and was really moved by her voice and the mood of her music. From then on things came together quickly. Even though I had barely played drums before and didn't have a kit or space to practice, we both seemed to think it was a good idea for me to go ahead and jump on. We played our first show together just weeks after our first practice. Fabi I have known as a fellow shredder for years. I was stoked that she was into the idea of playing bass in Ghost Ease. I had secretly been hoping for it.
 
Fabi Reyna: I'd seen Ghost Ease around town and after listening to their album I got really into them. I basically asked if I could play bass with them. I had just started playing bass a few months before with a band called Chain and the Gang. 
 
Does one of you primarily write and arrange the songs or is the process more collaborative?
 
JM: It's both. I write the songs on guitar and I'll hear a specific drum beat or bass part in my mind. I then briefly demonstrate the parts to Nsayi and Fabi and they add their own touch to it.  
 
Does this apply for lyrics as well? Are there themes and ideas you find yourself drawn to when writing words to the music?
 
JM:  I write the lyrics. I draw my inspiration from all things clairvoyant, oneiric and emotional. 
 
Do you always write with your live show in mind? Are there certain tracks that you don’t play live and save for an album?
 
JM: I wrote our song "Raw" that way and I consider it to be the most fun to play. I envisioned us playing before a large crowd when I put that song together. The song has a call-and-response part at the end that I feel our audience could participate in if they wanted to. 
I do have a list of tracks that I've omitted from our live set list, partly because I no longer hold the same feelings I had when I first wrote those songs and I prefer to stay true to my feelings. It's a sign of personal growth and leaves room for new material.
 
What was the process of recording your self-titled album like? Was it quick or was it a more meticulous experience? 
 
NM: Recording has always been a stressful race against the clock in my experience- whether the deadline is a few months, weeks or days - this was no different. And I don't think that it helped that mercury was in retrograde for a large portion of the recording sessions. But, this was the first time I had worked with family, in contrast to the friends and strangers of the past. Joey (my cousin, Pupilated Dials' head engineer) and I have been exploring music and supporting each other for years - so that was a very comfortable relaxing vibe to work with personally. At the time that we recorded this last album, Ghost Ease was a two piece - so I would describe the process as repetitious. Repeated attempts at capturing the right dynamic moments between the two of us.
 
JM: Repetitious, for sure. There were most definitely moments of meticulousness, but we had to move quickly because of a deadline we set for ourselves. It was also almost impossible to find decent lengths of session time since we recorded in the attic of a shared house, so there was some tension from that. The house would literally shake from how incredibly loud we were. Anyway, we needed to push through and make do…and that's exactly what we did. When the album was complete, we celebrated with a bottle of champagne, which Nsayi accidentally sprayed all over the kitchen. Cascading effervescence and roaring laughter. It was quite the spectacle. It almost felt like a cartoon.
 
The album is full of contrasts, from soft vocal melodies and fragile guitar patterns to heavy distortion and crashing cymbals. This range is easy to showcase live but can be difficult to capture on a recording, how did you go about catching these dynamics in the studio? 
 
NM: Like I said, repetition. Also we were recording on tape - which is an excellent means of capturing the dynamic warmth of raw sound.
 
Was there a specific tone you were searching for when recording?
 
JM: Moody, ethereal and melodic...hand-and-in-hand with the cozy warmth of raw sound that Nsayi is talking about. 
 
Portland is saturated with talented bands, can you name a few that stand out to you?
 
JM: Portland bands I love are Sad Horse, Kusikia, Like A Villain, Hey Lover, Older Women, Reynosa…I really want to include the phenomenal Ashley Eriksson, Stephen Steinbrink, Broken Water, La Luz, Megabog, Younger Shoulder, and Pleasure Beauties…though, they're from Seattle and Olympia. They do often swing through Portland, so perhaps they can count, too.
 
FR: My favorite bands in town are Palo Verde…really anything LKN does….Marisa Anderson and Edna Vasquez. Other than that, I love La Luz and Tacocat in Seattle. 
 
NM: I feel like Portland is going through a bit of a transition at the moment as far as favorite bands go - people move, bands break up, life etc. But these folks never fail: Like A Villain, Sad Horse, Marisa Anderson, Palo Verde/LKN and Amenta Abioto (though she just moved to Seattle)...
 
What are some of your favorite venues to play? 
 
JM: Playing at house venues are the most fun because of how intimate they can be. People get really into it, being all cramped in a basement or living room, and I feel like we're not playing AT them, but feeding off of their enthusiasm, and playing with them. It becomes a true shared experience. Regular venues are fun, too, but houses take the cake. Unfortunately, good Portland house venues are very few and far between at the moment. I hope that changes soon. 
 
NM: Houses. Hands down. Where have they all gone? 
 
FR: I prefer to play house shows as well. They're more spontaneous and they feel the most genuine. They're the most fun. 
 
Describe the Portland music scene in five words or less?
 
FR: People trying to make shit.
JM: Ambitious for the most part.
NM: Damp.