Despite the imagery their name evokes, Ellie Mae & The Ricochets are more about serene harmonies than rowdy gunfire. Led by front woman Ellie Mae, the free-spirited folk rockers blend earthy vocals with spacious guitar lines for a dreamy, yet haunting sound. The Costa Mesa-based band is comprised of Mae and her two guitarists, and supported by a rotating rhythm section. Among their carousel of band mates is indie stalwart Matt Costa, who took the group under his wing and produced their debut EP, Tangled. With elements of folk, surf, and indie, Ellie Mae & The Ricochets took Costa's lead and the result was an album that's evocatively rich. The trio hits The Wayfarer with a full band every Monday night in November in support of their new release.
While the group has a spirit comparable to Mazzy Star and Neko Case, Mae's delicate lyrics and strong vocals carve out a style all her own. The singer/guitarist got her start busking on piers along the coast, but it wasn't until she summoned the courage to sign up for an open mic night that she found her future guitarist. Guitarist Casey Snyder became enamored with Mae at the open mic, and the pair struck up an immediate friendship that quickly gave way to songwriting sessions.
"Casey and I really hit it off that night," Mae says. "It's funny how life has a way of leading you to people when you least expect it. I feel like our styles were different but there was definitely something drawing us together."
The two musicians came from opposite ends of the songwriting spectrum, Snyder having just parted ways with surf act Hindu Pirates, and Mae taking influence from the likes of Joni Mitchell. They forged ahead and circled in guitarist Spencer Roberts to form Ellie Mae & The Ricochets. After writing a few tunes together Mae was invited to be a part of a soundtrack for a surf documentary, "The Wave I Ride." The film also reeled in Costa for the soundtrack, who fell under the spell of Mae's hypnotic vocals during an early recording session.
Costa recruited her to sing with him on the soundtrack, and not long after the impromptu vocal spot Mae and her Ricochets asked Costa if he'd be interested in helping them record an EP. The solo artist and Reverend Baron bassist obliged, agreeing to produce the group and release their debut EP on his Colored Glass label. Snyder's surfy riffs and Mae's ethereal arrangements aligned under the guidance of Costa, who sat in on bass and keys for Tangled.
"I'd seen them live before, they really carried the songs. So I said what the hell, why don't we go in and try to record this," Costa says. "They really surprised me while we were recording. They stepped up to the plate with their songwriting and their thoughts on the sessions. To see them make developments like that during the process was impressive. They're only scratching the surface of what's to come."
Tangled's six songs are fit for early morning waves or sultry summer nights. The title track is a lovesick charmer that showcases Mae's natural affinity toward harmonies, and "After Dark" and "June Gloom" resonate with emotion. Mae has a knack for both lyrics and arrangements, and notes that while Costa helped shape their sound, it's the band that brought her out of her shell.
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"Writing has always been a way to clear my head and get my thoughts across, sometimes I struggle with talking to people directly," Mae says. "But that being said, my songs are my babies. Sharing with the boys has been really good for me, I had to learn how to let other people in. Everything fell into place, and we're finding our way."
Ellie Mae & The Ricochets perform at The Wayfarer, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 764-0039, www.wayfarercm.com. Mondays during November, 8 p.m. Free. 21+. For more on Ellie Mae & The Ricochets visit target="_blank">www.facebook.com/elliemaeandthericochets.