DURING THEIR recent performance at PDX Pop Now!, the Ghost Ease played an inspired set for what could be considered their highest profile show to date. Drummer Nsayi smiled wide, bashing her kit with Bonhamesque power. Bassist Fabi Reyna and guitarist-vocalist Jem Marie locked eyes and instruments as Marie unleashed a blast of snarled chords.
Talking to the Portland three-piece over cocktails a few days later only reinforced a sense of the band's chemistry. As they tell it, the Ghost Ease is "all about feeling"—a sentiment that peppers the conversation.
There's also something to the name. Marie says her biggest influence was her mother, who passed away six years ago. "It was heartbreaking, needless to say, but it pushed me to start writing songs," she explains. "She's a big influence on what I write, and my performances."
These three women don't take this assemblage for granted. The Ghost Ease make music that's angular and visceral, tempered with hooks and big choruses. It's music that could only be made by these three particular people, which explains why Marie feels so fortunate to have found them. "I feel fate really did bring us all together," she says.
The Ghost Ease as a name has been around for some time. Marie—who started learning guitar from her mom (who was once a member of Gloria Estefan's Miami Sound Machine) at age six—began playing acoustically using loops. It was a hint of what was to come, although even Marie doesn't know quite how to describe her music. "It's tough because it's feelings—it's abstract," she says. "But I knew I wanted to express the music in a more intense way."
Marie started playing with Nsayi, who'd never played drums before, in July of last year, and began transforming her songs into something noisier and more dynamic. The Ghost Ease recorded what would become their debut album—released this April on cassette—in a house onto half-inch tape. The fleshed-out recordings are as loud and clangy as their live sets. As Marie recalls, "We were so loud the chandelier would shake."
That was just as a two-piece. Reyna—who's toured with Chain and the Gang—joined a few months ago, giving Marie more space to escape with the guitar. Over the course of her life, Marie's philosophy hasn't changed—it truly is all about feeling with the Ghost Ease.
"When you're a kid, you don't want learn theory," Marie says. "You want to play from the heart."