I first encountered The Ghost Ease on a dreary, rain-drenched night at Mississippi Studios. Fidgeting my way through the crowd and obsessively fooling around with my camera, my interest was piqued after seeing bassist Laurence Vidal hovering around the venue in a cape, looking appropriately mysterious, and oddly cool. I downed my beer, gathered my equipment, and decided to photograph their set despite having come for the headliner.
The Ghost Ease shuffled onstage, lead singer Jem Marie gave introductions in a breathy half-whisper, and they launched into their set. The three women who had floated quietly onstage a few minutes before transformed into three semi trucks playing chicken in a parking lot: Marie’s ear-slicing guitar synchronized beautifully with her sirenic shrieks as Vidal’s rock-steady bass lines and Nsayi Matingou’s bombastic, machine-gun drumming all danced deftly around each other, orchestrating an impressive ballet of elegant destruction. One thing led to another and their label’s co-founder, Rich Jensen, approached me about sending him some photos—and my relationship with The Ghost Ease (and Cabin Games, their Seattle-based imprint) was born.
The band hearkens back to a different time in music history when grunge was king. As dynamic of a group as you’re likely to find, it’s a sound strongly reminiscent of the aforementioned era of the early ’90s, and they’re certainly not afraid to own up to it, frequently citing pockets of influence from acts such as Nirvana and The Breeders. Their connection to the heyday of grunge runs deeper than inspiration, however. Jensen, an early collaborator with both K and Sub Pop Records, was immediately drawn to them, quickly signing the group to his latest endeavor, Cabin Games. On top of that, their debut album with the label, RAW (listen below), was made alongside Steve Fisk, a juggernaut in the Seattle grunge scene who produced albums for Nirvana, Beat Happening and Soundgarden over two decades ago.
Jump forward three months and I’m on a plane to New York, getting ready to photograph the band during the 2015 CMJ Music Marathon as their national tour wound down. It wasn’t until I’d traveled with them a bit and seen their performances that I grasped exactly how versatile The Ghost Ease are. They aren’t just an extremely good Portland band, they’re an extremely good band, period—breathing new life into a Northwest sound as heavy as the steady rain that envelopes it.
The band played two packed NYC shows, filled to the brim with fervent hipsters, neo-punks, metalheads and concert-circuit veterans. Each set was like a tidal cycle, ebbing from ear-shredding arrangements into haunting, delicately constructed respites before crashing again full force into the eager crowds. The enthusiastic reception of an East Coast audience was a true testament to the band’s appeal outside of PDX, and more than reassuring in terms of predicting their upward trajectory.
Apart from all of that—the music, the touring, the oft-perceived idyllic rock star lifestyle—The Ghost Ease are people. And they’re genuine people, each with their own quirks, mannerisms and flaws—all staggeringly intelligent, caring, driven, personable and, for the most part, emotionally open. Simply put, they’re a band that loses very little in the transition from life to stage, and their music is a beast of its own, ready to conquer the world, capture hearts and leave them bleeding on the ground.