“Sometimes reality is crazier than fantasy.”
Over the years, you have read many tales – some interesting, others humorous, many just a nice coming together of friends – of how your favorite bands first formed. You will not have read anything as simultaneously unique, frightening and empowering as the story of Malia Rideout, former world-renowned glass sculptor and watercolor painter who, after a four-year battle for her life, was reborn as the lead vocalist of Hawaii’s “heavy molten lava rock” quintet ElipTic and, in some ways, a whole new person. Which is why, in order to fully understand ElipTic’s music and what they represent, it is important to first recognize Malia’s journey, which has been so unlike most others from the very beginning.
Where many Americans learn their lessons from teachers and parents and make friends in the classroom, Malia – growing up on a sailboat and traveling the seas – was taught by Mother Nature and developed an immediate fondness for animals, an affection that would later make its way into her artwork. She says of those early experiences, “Being raised on a sailboat was a very unique way of upbringing. Nothing came easy. Everything was earned, even warmth. Many nights when we were at anchor, we would have to take our ten-foot zodiac across the breaking waves of the Santa Cruz harbor, battle wind and whitecaps through two miles of an unpredictable coastal night. When we reached our boat – anchored off the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – the boat was freezing, and it took an hour of boiling water and hoping our little battery heater would work. This taught me, at an early age, an appreciation for something as simple as warmth.”
Of course, growing up in Hawaii and traveling along the California coast, it wasn’t all trials and tribulations. Every day was a new adventure as she recalls, “On other days we would be in the tropics and I’d awaken in a beautiful bay, with dolphins greeting me every morning for my morning swim. I was so young, and would just jump into the ocean with my mask and fins and swim and play with over fifty spinner dolphins daily.”
For someone who already understood both the beauty and the eccentricities of nature at an early age, it seems only natural then that this translated into a love of art and its distinctive form of expression. Having “been an artist since I could pick up a crayon or pencil,” Malia became a child prodigy. After moving to Kona, a chance meeting with acclaimed Disney glass sculptor Howard Richie – who was thoroughly impressed with her paintings and sketches – led to an apprenticeship and live glass sculpting performances starting at just 12 years old.
Six years later, Malia finished her apprenticeship and started her own glass sculpting business, garnering acclaim all over the world as her works even found their way into the hands of celebrities like Jack Black and David Bowie. Unsurprisingly, animals (including many sea-based creatures) featured prominently in all forms of Malia’s art, and when asked why she’s always had such a love for them she responds, “Animals I love, because they are truthful. They don’t deceive and they are loyal. If they don’t like you, you usually know right away,” before adding, “However, people are tricky; some are good, some are not. The not-so-good ones can be very deceptive.” After years of what was, in many ways, a fairytale rise to stardom, she would learn just how true the latter statement really is.
In 2009, Malia went into the hospital for what was supposed to be a routine medical procedure, but was struck with an illness that suddenly resulted in what would become a four-year battle for her life. Legally she cannot discuss the specifics of what happened as the court case is still in litigation, but she does elaborate that “The lasting effects are way too many to mention. I’ll just say, almost every system of my body was affected. I will have to take heart medicine and nerve medicine every day for the rest of my life. I have more surgeries to go, and have already had four.” The outcome also included permanent eye and ear damage that no longer allows her to perform her beloved glass sculpting.
One particularly frightening week – in the days leading up to a much-needed surgery – saw the stakes raised even higher, to the point where she had an out-of-body experience and had to decide for herself, “Do I want to live in this world or move on to the next one?” In her own words she kindly discusses what happened, how she felt, and everything she saw:
“I laid in bed, as I had been for almost a year. Suddenly, out of the blue my heart [rate] just went from 60-200+. I thought I was having a heart attack or a stroke. There was not a lot of time to think. No one was near me to help. My body froze as my heart beat out of control, then, a very quiet calm took over. I didn’t feel my heart beating anymore; I didn’t feel any pain anymore. I opened my eyes to a feeling of lightness, like I was floating – I was! I was hovering above my own body and drifting like a bubble towards the beautiful clouds. There was no roof as I floated upwards, it just disappeared.
“Then, I heard very harmonious voices that sounded almost musical. They said, “Come with us Malia, we love you, and you will be in no pain now.” This was so soothing and enticing to just let go, and drift into the clouds. How you feel when you are sleep-deprived or hypothermic; you just want to close your eyes and fall asleep. I suddenly realized in that split second of conscious thought, I was dying. This angered me! I was not about to leave this world and my loved ones. I had battled too hard to survive! I just about yelled, “NO! This is not my fate! I decline, I want to live!”
“At that instant I felt my body falling back towards the earth. The decision was made! As this fraction of a moment went by, with all this happening, before I could comprehend anything, I felt electrical pain and the sudden heaviness of my body. I immediately took a huge breath and felt my heart start beating again. It was so painful to be back inside the very ill body I [had] just fought so hard to return to.”
Showing an almost-unbelievable level of fight, strength and courage to win the battle for her life, Malia came out of the whole experience with a stronger resolve and a new outlook and appreciation of life. She also, understandably, re-emerged with a blazing sense of anger and injustice, and without her art – her chief means of expression since she could pick up a crayon – she needed another form of release, a new type of art. And thus we come to the birth of ElipTic.
Amazingly, Malia had never sung professionally before – only “in the shower or alone driving.” It was her husband, Joe Rideout (who is also the band’s lead guitarist and songwriter), who persuaded her to sing on a new tune he had written. He saw that his wife desperately needed a platform to express all the rage that had built up inside her over the years. What better way to do that than to stand up and lead a heavy rock band with painfully honest lyrics and the goal of inspiring others to never be kept down?
On the subject of the two of them working together, Malia unsurprisingly says it is a natural fit. “When I hear his music and tones, words and harmonies just fly out. When we perform live together the chemistry is amazing. We completed recording ElipTic’s first seven songs very quickly, about a song per month. Then we were getting radio play and a lot of great feedback. Everything began to snowball. We realized we had something special – if we were willing to put a lot more time into it – so we made the decision to find phenomenal musicians locally to form the band.”
The search resulted in ElipTic gaining quite a unique feature for any genre of music – they have two drummers. They first found Kristin Johnson, “A sweet, earthy girl with wild, crazy drum skills. She wasn’t sitting and playing, she was running in circles around her set, smashing cymbals in perfect unison,” via YouTube and soon after that Malia and Joe met her boyfriend, thrash drummer Jeremy Smith. How did they decide between the kit-man and the kit-woman? They didn’t! When asked what having two drummers brings to the table, Malia says the decision was an easy one and a natural one: “Kristin had mad artistic drum skills, but Jeremy Smith was all about full-force thrash with massive power! They play Tatum drum style, and the sound is a perfect harmony between artistic percussion and full-armored aggression, which is now the foundation of ElipTic’s sound.”
And last but certainly not least, they found “a hidden treasure in Hawaii” in bassist Erik Avery, who had been playing in Johnson’s softer rock band but was looking to get back to his heavier roots. Malia amusingly and fondly describes Avery as, “like Jimi Hendrix but on bass, playing with his mouth, and cosmic petals. Fucking psychedelic as hell.”
2013 saw the self-styled heavy molten lava rockers release their debut album, titled From the Dirt to the Sky. Named by Joe Rideout as he believes it sums up life, in a way it also describes Malia’s journey: lying down in hospital beds for so long but rising up and grasping a newfound opportunity to inspire the masses to be themselves and fight for what they believe in. Despite these brooding heavy metal tunes featuring unique drum patterns and chances for each instrument to stand out, the first aspect you notice is Malia’s almost mystical vocals. When asked about this quality of her voice she responds, “This is not effects. I get a lot of people thinking I use a lot of effects. I only use accents of echo on choruses or detailed parts. I have a hint of delay on some tracks. But, I layer my voice one to three times. Just like the greats like Layne [Staley] did, from Alice in Chains. The evil voice in “Dirty Tool”, “Kumara” and “Chaos” and others are all me baby, no effects.” Give the closer “Chariots of Fire” one listen and you’ll be convinced that 1) Malia was always meant to sing at some point in her life and 2) these five musicians were meant to come together.
Was it all fate? Coincidence? An act of god? You be the judge. What is not in question is ElipTic’s desire to be a voice, an outlet for those who can’t (or fear to) stand up for themselves. They say what needs to be said, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be or who they might piss off. When asked what message they want to send to the world through their music, Malia forcefully replies, “take a chance, tell the truth….say it load and clear! Don’t fear being yourself! Fight for your own authority, and never let ‘em bring you down!” In addition to a rapidly growing fan base, Malia exclusively revealed that ElipTic has just agreed to a brand new management deal with Fredrik Ahlwin of Concept Sweden Management. Clearly, the band’s message is spreading and stimulating others.
As for Malia herself, it seems Joe was exactly right: music was exactly what she needed to be reborn into the world. It has provided her with a form of therapy, a form of art, a new vision, new goals, and most importantly, a new chance at life. In her own words, “I live life to the fullest every day! Every scream is for me, and all those who face their fears and fight for their own authority.”
The renowned glass sculptor may be gone, but the artist is awake and more alive than ever before. And she and her bandmates will never again be tamed.
*To keep up with all of ElipTic’s future movements, follow them on Twitter and Facebook. You can also stream/purchase From the Dirt to the Sky right here and check out their music video for “Chariots of Fire” below.