Washed Out is a watercolour technique...
Washed Out, AKA Ernest Greene, AKA the new darling of chilled out hipsters, produced one of the releases of the summer in Life of Leisure earlier this year, but as the calendar turns toward a more autumnal phase, his music is still the ideal accompaniment to lazy, contented nostalgia towards a glorious summer just gone. Here, the bedroom producer boy wonder graciously took some time away from making music by a lake in Georgia to talk about what informs his delightfully muddled soundscape, how he plans to enhance his compositions in front of a live audience and what he makes of fellow ‘chill-wavers’.
SS: Take us through your song writing/arranging process. Do your songs tend to come fairly fully formed or do they undergo longer, more experimental and developmental stages?
Ernest Greene: Over the past month or so, I've spent a lot of time experimenting with different sounds and simply demoing ideas without any overarching concept in mind. Naturally, I've started to see certain connections and a newer "sound" that I'm excited about, so I've started concentrating on it, either re-working the demos or starting over with this new palette in mind.
SS: I understand you are friends with Toro Y Moi. Do you ever create songs together and if not is it something you would like to do?
Ernest: We have in the past. We've both been so busy over the last year that it’s virtually impossible to link up. However, I think he might come to Georgia over the next few weeks (after tour) to help out with some production on the new songs.
SS: Could you describe three main things which inform and influence your music?
Ernest: Time/Experience: The last year I've been on the road a lot and met a lot of good musicians which has opened up a world of new concerns as I approach writing songs again. Everything from technical production-type things to writing songs that will translate to a live show. I think this experience will make for much stronger songs/ideas.
Discovering new music: I spent a lot of time listening to music before actually starting to write demos. For me, this time it’s been a lot of older music from the 70's which have been a huge influence.
New Technology/Gear - I also spent a lot time playing around with new approaches to recording. I bought a vintage 1/4" tape machine earlier in the summer and I've also been trying new software.
SS: Which do you prefer creating a track from scratch or playing live in front of an audience and why?
Ernest: I enjoy both. But they are so different. I probably most enjoy writing songs - at least the initial demo/creation stage. It is really exciting when things start to click however, the later stages of development can be really tough - actual work :) which isn't as fun.
SS: Leading on from this, how do you manage to keep things interesting live? Considering it’s just you onstage mostly playing samples, it could potentially be difficult to engage an audience.
Ernest: It's hard for sure. One thing I've tried to do for the shows I've done by myself is to change things about the songs, either new arrangements or even new interpretations of the songs. The new songs are being written for a band, so I'll have 3 or 4 other musicians on the road helping out every night.
SS: Bedroom producers/DJs have increased a hell of a lot recently. Do you think the possibility for anyone to make their own music is a good or bad thing?
Ernest: I think it’s great; it’s so much easier for songwriters to move from idea to an actual recording. Not only is it easier to learn production on software (as opposed to manually patching things using hardware gear), there are so many free resources like YouTube where producers can seek help...
SS: Do you feel an affinity with bands who a lot of people are calling chillwave- such as Memory Tapes, Toro Y Moi, Neon Indian, Small Black etc?
Ernest: By now, we've all played shows together, so I'm definitely a fan of the music...But I think I can go a little deeper and say that we all have pretty similar influences and are inspired by similar things...
SS: Your EP Life of Leisure received a lot of positive feedback in America when it was released, and a similar reaction here in the UK recently. Where do you see yourself going from here? Do you have new songs you are working on and what stages are they at?
Ernest: I've started work on some new recordings that will hopefully be done in the next month or so. It has been a mix of excitement/frustration, trying to move forward without completely losing touch with my past work.
SS: What do you do when not being Washed Out?
Ernest: I currently live on a lake in Georgia, so most weekends are spent outside, (mainly, because I'm locked away inside during most of the week :) )
SS: What’s your plan from here? More touring or releases?
Ernest: I plan on spending the next couple of months finishing recording and rehearsing with a new band...towards the end of the year there will be another string of live shows...I'm really excited!
Words: Gavin Williams
Illustration: Kelly Jackson