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90’s Ears and Digital Synths // The 405 meets Washed Out

July 4, 2011

Originally posted on The 405

Washed Out Interview

“I think back to that time as a strange mixture of triumph and anxiety. I definitely felt a little bit of pressure writing the album—which was initially hard to deal with.”

Over the years every successful artist goes through that period of quite dramatic transformation, from humble beginnings, applying ones craft to a personal level, oft creating purely for oneself; only to eventually come out the other side and discover that a legion of people actually enjoy your music. Imagine that? The speed that this transformation occurred to Washed Out however is quite something even in this rapidly-paced existence, denting a million ‘publish’ buttons on the internet in a very short space of time once word had got out.

Quite simply the attention received of the lush 80’s-come-90’s-hiphop-dream-scape was warranted. You did hear ‘Life of Leisure’ right?

Two EP’s and a record deal with Sub Pop later, and Ernest Greene is on the cusp of releasing his debut full-length album, Within and Without. The charming chap from Georgia and purveyor of bedroom synth talks us through the new album, new sounds, working with Ben Allan (he of ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ producing and so much more fame) and his own photography.

Hello Ernest. When you first started releasing material, it was in forms of tracks here and there, EP’s and so on. How did you find writing the album as a whole, was a different approach needed?

It was a much different approach than anything else I’ve ever made. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time experimenting with sounds and production ideas before actually writing, in earnest. Overall, I put a lot more time into thinking about and analyzing this new material…

There’s a definite change present in Within and Without compared to previous work whilst still retaining a ‘Washed Out’ sound – less lo-fi perhaps, though certainly nostalgic still and fuller songs. Can you describe this in further detail, why the subtle evolution?

I never thought the lo-fi texture defined my music per-se. This record is an attempt to better describe was does actually define the music. Also, I have learned a lot more about traditional recording techniques over the last couple of years. Therefore, I worked longer on the balance of the mix than ever before…

Had you discovered new musical influences in the period between Life of Leisure and the recording of this album that has an effect on your work?

I didn’t have much of an idea of where I wanted the record to go upon starting the project. But I did have a few things that I knew I didn’t want the record to sound like. Those things shaped the initial stages – like I knew I didn’t want any overt 80’s references…

As a result, the album started to sound more 90’s to my ears – where everything was a bit sharper – with a lot of digital synths…so I started listening to a bit more music from that era…

It must have been an enlightening experience working with Ben Allan in the studio. What did he bring to the table?

Working in a proper studio with Ben was a highlight for sure. Luckily, Ben was a fan of my music. We talked a lot about the type of sounds I was into, and he had a pretty good understanding of what I was going for from the beginning. It ended up being the perfect fit.

Do you feel any pressure now that you’re aware there’s an audience who out there who will listen and critique your stuff? Or have you found it easy to write for yourself and block all that out?

I think back to that time as a strange mixture of triumph and anxiety. I definitely felt a little bit of pressure writing the album—which was initially hard to deal with. But in the end, I think it helped me do my best work.

Do you have the live show in mind whilst writing the album? Or do you cross that bridge when you start touring?

Although I recorded everything myself, I definitely had the live show in mind. I preferred the sound of more live playing on the record, and I made a conscious effort not to make the album too “electronic.” Also, I knew I would have a band together to perform the new material, so I wanted to make the transition to the live performances as easy as possible.

On your last tour, I understand you had a live band as opposed to just yourself. What were the reasons for this change, and what’s the live set-up currently?

I feel it’s much more entertaining it is for an audience to watch a live band play the songs. For touring this record, I have 4 other musicians on stage helping me perform the new material.

For people unawares, the cover for Life of Leisure you took yourself. You still taking anyphotos on film, and what kind of things inspire? What camera do you own? How did it start?

Yeah, I still take photos quite a bit – mainly when we’re on tour. Most of the LOL era was either a yashica t3 or an Olympus stylus epic…More recently I’ve been shooting medium format stuff with a Fuji GA645. For me, its mostly about documenting moments – I’m drawn to nice light and weird situations you find on tour…

Sorry for all the questions, as Photo Editor here I could waffle about these things all day…

After signing to Sub Pop (congrats by the way!), I assume Washed Out is your day job these days?

Definitely! It’s a full-time, sometimes over-time, job. No complaints though, I love what I do…

Any plans to release any more cassettes?

No plans at the moment…

My wife Blair actually dubbed all of the High Times cassettes, so I doubt she’d be thrilled to do that over again.

What other music are you enjoying at the moment?

Porcelain Raft, Blondes, Ford and Lopatin

Any remixes on the horizon (by you or of you)?

Nothing planned at the moment…there were a few official remixes for Eyes Be Closed that will be released as a 12’ over in the UK…

And finally… why the name Washed Out?

I get this question often. It’s tough, because there’s no real answer. I started using it in early 2009 and really just like the sound of it more than anything else.

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