Interview - Washed Out aka Ernest Greene
American synth-pop creator expands band line-up for UK dates
This article is from 2011.
The List catches up with Ernest Greene the night after a gig in Berlin. It was someone in the band’s birthday apparently, so a bit of partying had to be done afterwards. Now he’s in the awkward post-coffee, but pre-breakfast part of his hangover, and in half an hour he’ll be back on the road, going to tonight’s show in Nuremberg. But the Georgia boy’s far too Southern and polite to be grumpy though. ‘I’m moving a little slower than usual, I guess,’ he says with a sleepy laugh. Since his debut album Within and Without came out this July (Weird World), his airmiles and fans have been steadily building up, as he tours his dream-wave pop around Japan, America and Europe.
Originally a bedroom producer, Greene’s now accompanied by a full band; a ‘live rock band set-up’ that includes his wife on keyboards, plus some friends from back home in Atlanta on drums and bass. ‘We up the tempo for the club shows, to make them more fun and more dancey, and move away from that subdued headphone feel of the album,’ he explains.
Not that subdued is by any means a bad thing though; his first full album was a shimmery, slinky blur of synth-pop beats, and it firmly cemented his place in the chillwave Walk of Fame (if such a thing existed, for a genre that he effectively created with the two EPs he put out in 2009). It was produced by Ben Allen, who’s also worked with Animal Collective and Deerhunter. ‘I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to hold my own,’ says Greene, ‘but actually it gave me a bit more confidence in my own instincts. I definitely learned a lot from him. Actually, I look forward to possibly producing for other people in the future, maybe a couple albums down the line.’
While he loved developing the Washed Out sound for the album, and building it into something that he describes as a ‘bigger, more dynamic’ version of the earlier tracks he put out, he hopes people will still be able to recognise his sound, pretty much straight away.
‘I sent in a copy of the brand new record to my A&R guy at Sub Pop, and he was streaming it at his computer at his desk. He said people kept walking past, and saying, “Aw man, that’s the new Washed Out isn’t it?”. They just recognised it. That’s a cool feeling.’
Not that he’s a one-trick pony though, as a new remix for Rough Trade proves. The bonus disc for Within and Without features his reworkings of Black Sabbath, Kate Bush and Fleetwood Mac, amongst others. He’s also considering releasing other material under a different name, if the opportunity – and the time – comes up.
‘Obviously you want to honour the sound of your music, but I’m definitely open to trying new things, and making myself use a different palette of sounds. Right now it’s nice to try the whole rock thing out, instead of the dance music thing.’
He’s looking forward to the Edinburgh date – especially because he’s heard Sneaky Pete’s is a small venue, which he personally thinks is way more fun to play. After that, he’s looking forward to getting back home and making more music.
‘Travelling is really great for giving you tons of ideas, but it’s really hard to actually record anything on the road. I look forward to getting home and working more on that stuff, and also getting back to our bed, and eating some familiar food.
‘It’s funny – Mexican food? I didn’t realise how much I ate Mexican food, like tacos and burritos three times a week, until I came to Europe, and couldn’t find any.’
Sneaky Pete’s, 225 1757, 14 Aug, 7pm, £8, part of The Edge.