Summer Stars: Washed Out
For many TV viewers, Washed Out became the soundtrack for Portland, Ore.â€™s trending independent music scene after Portlandia used a clip of their glitchy anthem â€śFeel It All Aroundâ€ť in its opening credits. But according to Ernest Greene, the groupâ€™s mastermind, Washed Outâ€™s trademark chillwave sound is actually a direct result of a life spent diagonally across the country in the Southeast. â€śI fall somewhere in the middle,â€ť Greene says of the indie and jamband communities that peacefully coexist in his current hometown of Athens, Ga. â€śBoth of those sides have influenced me in different ways. Everyone at my high school in [Perry, Ga.] was into jambands and, through that music, I discovered some of the big influences that really shaped Washed Out. Athens has this great indie music community and, especially in Atlanta, thereâ€™s a lot more bands that play around with electronics. So I pulled from a lot of different genres.â€ť
Though he played in bands growing up, Greene started making sounds on his computer in college and continued to tinker with ideas while he pursued a masterâ€™s degree in library and information science. Eventually, he honed in on the mixture of shoegazing, electronic, ambient, psychedelic and trip-hop sounds that have come to define chillwave. While still essentially a bedroom project, he posted some music on MySpace, and Washed Out reached the outside world.
â€śSoftware was the main background that I came out of as far as writing and recording,â€ť Greene admits. â€śItâ€™s really great because itâ€™s a very controlled environment, but itâ€™s quite different from getting up in front of people and having to flesh it out. It was a struggle at first.â€ť
Several years removed from collegeâ€”and with his librarian hopes looking dimâ€”Greene released a series of EPs in 2009 and 2010. Those independent
recordings helped him ink a deal with Sub Pop, who put out his full-length debut Within And Without in 2011 and secured his connection to the Pacific Northwest music community.
Washed Outâ€™s early shows essentially featured a DJ setup that was souped-up with keyboards and a few other instruments, but as Greeneâ€™s music spread, he started putting together a more expansive, richly colored live band. The groupâ€™s current five-person configuration includes his wife Blair, which he says
makes being on the road more manageable. In an odd turn of events, the live band not only gave Greeneâ€™s songs new life, but also inspired him to write with this group in mind for 2013â€™s Paracosm.
â€śThereâ€™s definitely enough of an indie-rock influence there to flesh the songs out a little bit more in that world,â€ť he admits. â€śIt started from all very humble
beginnings. But Iâ€™m sitting in my workstation right now, and itâ€™s not that different from when I first started. The computerâ€™s sort of the heart of what I do. I use a lot of samples and, recently, Iâ€™ve kind of grown to use a lot more live instrumentation because the live version of Washed Out has turned into more [of a] rockband thing.â€ť
Though Washed Out is still sweeping through the festival circuit after a profile-raising headlining tour behind Paracosm, Greene has already set his eyes on his next studio album.
â€śI fit in a little bit of writing here and thereâ€”itâ€™s actually the best time creatively when thereâ€™s no real obligation or no real pressure to sort of make another record,â€ť he admits. â€śIâ€™m doing what Iâ€™m compelled to work on and have come up with a ton of material. It doesnâ€™t really all fit together very much yet but itâ€™s a fun time.â€ť