Time on the road as been a learning experience for Greene, and while making his way back to Atlanta with a mostly new band lineup in-tow, he's still planning his next move with Washed Out, all the while ruminating on the Internet's unruly ways, and how he's grown as a performer.
Washed Out. With Airbird, Dog Bite. $15. 9 p.m. Sat., May 19. Terminal West, 887 W. Marietta St., Studio C. www.terminalwestatl.com.
Chad Radford: So are you living in the city now, or are you still somewhere in the outlying communities?
Ernest Greene: Yeah, my wife and I have a house in East Atlanta — just a couple blocks from the Earl. We've been here for about a year now, I guess. I did most of the recording for the last record in Eatonton, Georgia on Lake Sinclair, but that’s been over a year now. We still feel pretty new to Atlanta. Everything is very spread-out, and I'm still wrapping my head around the different neighborhoods and stuff. We’re excited for the show coming up on the West Side at Terminal West. I haven't spent much time over in that part of town at all.
You're at a point now where the excitement surrounding Within and Without has tapered off. Are you playing new stuff these days?
We’re wrapping up our summer tour in Atlanta, and surprisingly enough, it's the first headlining tour we've done for this record. When it was released, we headlined a handful of shows here in Atlanta, New York, and a couple on the West Coast, but then went straight to Europe, did a bunch of shows there, then came back in the Fall for a tour with Cut Copy. I wrote a lot of this record with the live show in mind, but didn't have the experience to know how to pull it off. At this point, we've played the songs enough now, and I've changed things around enough to where, after a month of rehearsing, we're pretty comfortable with the songs.
Since it’s a headlining tour, we have more money to invest in the visual side of the things, which is important. It's hard to put on a really entertaining show when you're stuck behind a synthesizer — in a rock band with guitars and everything, you're free to move around, and for the audience it makes a more entertaining show. But when you're playing soundscape synth music, any kind of visual effects really help. So that’s something new, and I'm hoping that by the time we get to Atlanta, we'll have our shit together, and it'll be a better performance than anything we’ve done here previously.
I saw your show at Earl when the album came out, but you have a different live band now?
Yeah, Phil Jones is doing Dog Bite now, and they're finishing up their record. My wife Blair is singing and covering the keyboard parts that that Phil used to play. Ray Jackson, the former bass player, has a new record that he's finished as well, so we have someone new playing bass for this tour — Christopher Gardner. He’s from Columbia — I lived in Columbia for a couple of years, which is where I kind of got started with this. Cameron Gardner is the drummer who’s been playing with us for a while now. Christopher is his older brother.
Washed Out’s first show was at WonderRoot, at a time when you were starting to blow up on the Internet, and the Internet has a way of creating a false sense of reality — the show you played that night was incredibly different from the world’s view of Washed Out, and when some people saw how unseasoned you were, it was kind of a turn off for them because in their minds Washed Out was already a more cohesive thing.
Yes, there is a strange sense of hype that comes along with the Internet, and from the performer's perspective, that's a little unfair.
Part of the problem, in my case, is the nature of the music itself. I had been recording with software and multi-tracking stuff for years, and was very comfortable in a controlled environment, and in a studio. But it's incredibly different presenting that music live. I didn’t grow up playing in bands, I was always making computer-based music, where everything is nice and neat. But it’s quite the opposite once you have a bunch of hardware and gear on stage, and any number of things can and will go wrong. Also, the music moves with a really slow BPM, and being up there by myself, there was this urge to entertain people. The thought was, “I’ll push it a little faster and try to make it more entertaining and danceable.” In hindsight, that was the wrong decision, but it takes getting out there and playing shows to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
All eyes were on you when you put out Within and Without, and there was a lot of pressure on you over the whole “chillwave” tag. You literally couldn't fuck up if you were going to transcend the hype that was all around you.
For me, it was a problem because Life of Leisure was made from a number of different things I'd recorded, and they were all quite different from one another. There’s a tendency to fall into a style that people identify you with, and you're faced with a dilemma: You can't just make the same record again, because people will criticize you for that. If you do something drastically different you’ll be criticized for that as well. I'm sure every band that has a defined aesthetic struggles with that — you want to move forward, but still have a connection with what you've done in the past, but if you think about it too much, it can be the biggest mind fuck ever… The other big thing was that it was my first time working in a studio, and dealing with professionals, and really good gear.
What’s next for Washed Out?
I’ve done a couple of remixes, and I kind of feel like I’m taking the first steps in that direction. I'm also using a slightly different palette of sounds, and, more than anything, there's not so much pressure this go round. Before, I'd never written a full-length record, and it was kind of a huge, intimidating thing to write a 40-minute piece of music that all made sense together. I'm going to keep it a little simpler, and concentrate on writing individual songs instead of having this big picture aesthetic. In the past, I’d always felt like there was a rush to get a record out, but I ended up taking my time which only added pressure, this go round is gonna be different.
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