Washed Out Emerge From the Shadows
Published Jul 24, 2011Ernest Greene never expected any of it. The blogs fawning over his bedroom-produced music, chic boutique label Mexican Summer offering to release his debut EP, signing to Sub Pop a year later, and of course, being a poster boy for a subgenre coined by the piss-taking Hipster Runoff website. But as the sole member of Washed Out, Greene managed to not only survive the ridiculousness of being associated with something called "chillwave," but also thrive off of it.
"Things got so big so fast," he explains. "The first few shows I did were sold out and it was a bit nerve-wracking having never performed live before and then doing it in front of 500 to 600 people with camera phones, putting shit up on YouTube."
Greene got the hang of it in no time, but soon realized that "a guy on stage using a MIDI controller" wouldn't gain him any new fans. After forming a live band he's found it to be "a lot more fun for me, but definitely more entertaining for the audience. It's hard to figure things out that quickly," he adds, "but I finally feel that I know what I'm doing and have a plan about how I want things to sound. I come from a background of hiding everything behind a computer."
When it came time to following up the Life of Leisure EP (a second EP, the High Times cassette, and an untitled CD-R were both subsequently released in limited quantities), Greene chose to buck the digital age's trend of rushing his next release and take his time. "I didn't want to have things change too drastically with this first full-length," he says. "When I began recording, I actually used the same set up initially. But then in the later stages I worked in a proper studio, and had everything mixed and mastered, all of that. So it made for quite a different sound sonically."
Within and Without may have benefited from a more privileged creative process than the humbled one that produced Life of Leisure, but it is recognizably a Washed Out record. Greene has elaborated his music, stripping it of the cheap, retro sheen and opening it up to a blooming tapestry of sounds and textures. He admits he couldn't have done it without the aid of producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter).
"I was a little scared at first because I didn't want someone to come in and take the soul out of what I was doing," Greene says. "But Ben understood where I was coming from. I'm a self-taught producer, so I do things in a non-traditional way sometimes. I was lucky that he was very open-minded and good at interpreting these very vague, abstract descriptions of the sounds I wanted."
Describing it as a collaboration in the truest sense, what they ended up with is a sweeping, polished album that one could argue no longer qualifies as chillwave. "I've realized what that association has done for my music, so it's hard to rail against it too much,' he says. "But after playing so many live shows and knowing I'd have to play these songs live, I didn't want the record to be too electronic or a dance record. I wanted there to be a balance of all the different genres that I pull from."