Ernest Greene began Washed Out as an only child, recording the project’s first two EPs as singular pursuits. “They were one-off releases. Life Of Leisure was from Mexican Summer, who were great, and then the tapes from Mirror Universe for High Times,” Greene says. But his musical family grew, and Greene now plays with a group, rather than by himself. The addition of band members taught him to extend songs with different arrangements and inspired him to record live drums and bass for his debut album, Within And Without.
“When I worked on the new album, I definitely kept the live show in mind more than with the first two EPs,” says Greene over the phone, sounding exhausted after flying cross-country following the group’s set at Sasquatch! Music Festival. “I made a conscious effort to learn more about live setups.”
Now that his album is done, Greene is focusing on improving and refining his live set. The start of that was Sasquatch!, which he says did not go as well as he hoped. “We were in a covered tent, and it was really hot. The monitors weren’t working, and we couldn’t hear ourselves. We played most of the new stuff to get a feel for it live, but I definitely don’t think that it was the best example of what we’re going to be sounding like live in a month or two.” One way that he hopes to improve it is by incorporating some techniques from contemporary bands, which he studied before going into the studio. “I’ve always been a fan of Caribou, and I think they do their live show in a really interesting way,” Greene says. “I want to do stuff like that.”
Washed Out – Eyes Be Closed by subpop
Washed Out falls under the polarizing “chillwave” genre, a grouping that doesn’t bother Greene. “It’s going to be labeled something, and I think it’s definitely helped my career so far, being grouped in with a small number of artists,” he says. But the labeling has also led to increased hype—and increased pressure to produce. “The kind of shitty part about it is the hype factor and how that will influence things,” he says. “I felt there was some overwhelming pressure working on this record.” The hype monsters weren’t the only sources of Greene’s stress for Within And Without, as he felt the expectations for his music rising even more after he signed to Sub Pop this April. “It’s been different for this album now that I’m on Sub Pop,” Greene says. “Lots more pressure to get it right, but also it’s been a bit more controlled.”
Greene may have felt hype and label weight, but they didn’t overwhelm Within And Without, a swirly, stressless beach record, evolving from the two EPs into something more assured. Perry, GA, Greene’s hometown, seems to invoke peach groves more than beaches, but Greene was always out of synch with his surroundings growing up. “When I was young, I would read blogs and research obscure producers. I was always into weirder stuff than my friends. Kind of a loner.” This “loner” has stepped out of the groves and into the sand with aplomb, creating one of the first great summer records of 2011.
Greene isn’t content to pause his momentum though and is already plotting his next musical moves. He is a big fan of hip-hop, and while there won’t be a Washed Out Goes Rap album coming anytime soon, he does hope to use hip-hop elements on future releases. “That was something I was going for, learning how to use the low end of the super heavy bass stuff. It’s really an art form, and I would love to feature more sub-y bass stuff.”