Washed Out


Written by Miguel Cullen
07 Monday 07th June 2010

Washed Out has the perfect name. Throughout our chat, Ernest Greene uses the word only as an adjective, employing it with surgical precision, so when he describes his sound like that, again and again, I know exactly what he means.
Washed out, beach-blanched, OMD in Vaseline – the major music press have been stretching their lexicon to accommodate this brand of slowed down nu-synth, which has charmed critics, bloggers, scenesters and Ricky Martin.



Whether it’s the glazed halcyon day vibes to Feel It All Around, Belong and Olivia which just feel like early Madonna played through a walkman left out in the sun all day; Greene’s best output has a finesse that is immediately palpable.
Compared to other bands in the chillwave bracket like Neon Indian and Memory Tapes, Greene has created a buzz that has outpaced these competitors and ramped up anticipation of his Life of Leisure EP, out on June 14. So why does his music sound like a Holga photo of the Blitz club circa 1983, and what does he think of Ricky’s fandom? Ernest caught up with Don’t Panic for his take.
So, Ricky...
Yeah. I have quite a big gay following but I don’t know what it was he liked. Maybe it’s the 4/4 time signature. He’s a handsome man.
Your sound is quite spare and empty – is that calculated economy or just the way you naturally are?
I think a little of both. When I first started I was inspired by someone like Caribou with very complex production, with a lot of things happening, but I’m naturally better at working with limitations. I use Reason which has a virtual mixer with only a few channels. The way I work is that I make sure never to go beyond those twelve channels – so there’s not too much happening and it’s very much under control.
Some people see it as stoner music. I’ve been asked a lot whether I’m a pothead, and I don’t even smoke. I get offered weed the whole time. I had a cassette tape called High Times, which I meant as ‘good times’ etc but it’s little things like that people interpret and think I’m some pothead!
Do you ever feel that doing throwback synth is unoriginal?
With Washed Out I definitely have a strong tie to 80s pop music. But I think there’s enough going on to make it good. When I think of Human League I find it’s so poppy – whereas with Washed Out it’s taking that influence from Human League and New Order and adding a shoegazy feel.
...But what really separates you?
I don’t think about that too much. It’s more of a means to an end with the synth stuff – especially with the way I worked with it on the EP. A lot of the synths I was using were just a practical approach ‘cause I couldn’t afford to buy expensive recording gear. If you think about a synthesizer is the easiest instrument to record, it’s very practical



Speaking of 80s pop, on Belong and Olivia I can hear a touch of Madonna.
Yeah! I guess that’s little indirect – I have been blasting a few Madonna records recently. I tour with a guy named Pictureplane. He is really into Madonna, and is always playing her records. I’m totally into her.
Your music is very fragile – are you like that or is that just your music?
[Laughs] That’s tough! It depends on what day. I think the live shows are all very fun – there’s no holding back. On the recordings there’s more of a sensitive side. I wrote the music to be headphone music, stuff that you listen to on your own. There’s a singer from Portland Oregon called Grouper she makes her own records – super sensitive, guitar – that’s been a huge influence on my sound. Some of my fans might think her music is way too sentimental. It’s been funny writing songs with that in mind and performing them in this joyous sloppy happy vibe on stage – it’s completely different.
Does your wife help you with composition?
We live in a loft – it’s a big open room. I was mentioning how I write with loops so I have this music constantly looping with the same four measures while I’m adding and subtracting elements. So it’s a pretty good indication if it’s good if she’s actually into it after hearing it for 45 minutes. She’ll tell me straight out if she thinks its trash. I’ll play shows and my friends will always tell me, “That was great!” And she’ll tell me, “That was the worst performance you’ve ever done”. It’s a little bit heart breaking, but at the same time I kinda like that.
Washed Out’s debut EP Life Of Leisure is released in the UK/EU for the first time on 14 June 2010 on Mexican Summer.

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  • Guest: nick
    Wed 09 - Jun - 2010, 10:23
    Great band and great interview. Keep up the good work