Washed Out: In the Studio Report | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Washed Out: In the Studio Report

Ernest Greene Discuses Washed Out’s Forthcoming Full-Length

Nov 03, 2010 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

One man band Ernest Greene—aka Washed Out—found unexpected success last year when the blog-endorsed rise of chillwave coincided with the release of his debut Life of Leisure EP. Now, having completed tours with Beach House, Yeasayer, and Small Black, Greene is diving back into the recording process for his next big trick—Washed Out’s first full-length. Greene spoke to Under the Radar from his bedroom studio about the creative process and expectations for what’s in store next.

Laura Studarus: Has being labeled as chillwave in the past come with a certain set of expectations?

Ernest Greene: Oh for sure. The first impulse was to do something completely different. But I’m in a weird place where I only have an EP out, which is six songs. I have another of older material that was released on a tape that was six or eight songs. So I don’t really have that much material. This full length I’m working on, to make a huge jump just seemed like too much. The material I’m working on right now is a little different. Hopefully a little more mature sounding. Hopefully the same aesthetic. It was something I struggled with. It’s hard to predict where tastes will be when it comes out, six months from now. It’s definitely a challenge.

Is it difficult to talk about your full-length at this point?

Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely not finished. I’d say at this point it’s more like I’m writing lyrics. I’d say I have most of the songs kinda demoed with a basic structure and a basic melody. Once I finish the lyrics I’ll go back and rerecord the vocals and then just start finishing everything song by song.

How would you say the sound is compared to the EP?

It’s generally the same aesthetic. I produced and mixed everything on the EP, which meant I was mixing on really shitty speakers in my bedroom. So there’s just parts of the mix that are completely off, and just a lot of “I don’t know what the fuck I was doing.” It definitely kind of shows in the final product. I think at this point I’m going to have someone else mix it. Professionally. So everything will be more balanced and it will be able to translate better to playing in a bigger club on a sound system. I think was the worst part about the EP: it sounds okay in a car or on headphones, anything bigger than that sound absolutely terrible. The low end sounds really bad. It’s funny because a lot of my stuff has a dance music influence so it makes sense to be played on a big sound system in a club or something. That just didn’t happen. Or it didn’t sound right. So with the new stuff it should be able to work on that level.

You mentioned you were writing lyrics. What is that process like for you?

It’s kind of a challenge, honestly. I really enjoy the music making end of it. It’s definitely a completely different process writing lyrics. I just have to make myself do it. I have to be in a different place. A lot of times when I record the initial melody, the melody pops in my head as I’m writing the music, I’ll just record it as a scratch vocal. I’ll just mumble. Normally there’s a natural cadence that happens that I really, really like and become attached to. So I have to fit the words to that cadence that happens in the moment. It’s really tough. I guess with writing meter with poetry or whatever, it has to fit perfectly to make sense and rhyme or whatever. It gets to the point where it’s like a little game. Word games. I really don’t stress over it that much because the lyrics really aren’t in your face. The vocals are generally farther back in the mix. A lot of reverb and stuff.

Do lyrics have meaning for you, or is it more about the sounds of the words?

They definitely have meaning. Most of the time they’re reflecting on a moment from my past. A lot of times—I was talking about with the initial recording of the melody—I’ll kind of just make up random words. Sometimes whatever the word choice is will remind me of something else, and I’ll try to build the song around that. It’s rarely the case where I’m going to write a song about being in love with this girl a year ago. It’s generally pretty abstract. I kinda like that in the case where you can’t hear or understand the lyrics you can create your own meaning behind it.

Have you gotten a chance to test out any of these new songs while on tour?

I played a couple of them but they still weren’t really finished. I have a crew of friends that play with me. I had a tour with Yeasayer a couple of weeks ago. We played a couple of them and worked through it as a band. I changed things around a bit. I guess that’s one of the pros of playing a song live before recording it. I realized this worked and this didn’t. Then I shifted things around because of that. Yeah, I’m doing a show this weekend in Austin and I plan on doing three or four of the new ones. So I’m pretty psyched about that.

Do any of the songs have new titles yet?

No titles! I don’t have any titles yet, really. I have tentative titles that normally get replaced with something. Normally the tentative titles are whatever the song initially reminds me of. It’s normally kind of cheesy and dumb. I’ve been asked a lot about the album title. I haven’t really settled on that either. It’s really tough. It’s kinda a good thing, thinking about it over a long period of time. Sometimes something will pop into my head, and I’ll be like, ‘That’s really great,’ then a month later it sounds super cheesy or it just doesn’t work. So I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I have a couple of tentative things, but it’s super important.

It sounds like you’re not rushing into anything.

Yeah. There’s a couple of songs on this record I did in January that I’ve heard them so much now they aren’t appealing or they just don’t sound as fresh. I still think they’re good songs. Pretty much I feel like any song I’m working on is the best song I’ve ever done. Over time everything levels out a little bit. But that’s part of the fun of it I guess.

Do you have any idea when you’re going to put out the new album?

The original idea was to finish it before the tour with Yeasayer, and that would mean it could be out as early as January. But that’s come and gone. It’s just taken a lot longer to do than I’d imagine. When I first got off tour, since touring was fresh in my mind, I spent a lot of time considering different options doing the live show. Different equipment and software to use, just because I’ve never really toured before. It’s a great learning experience, playing with other bands. But once you’re in the moment of doing it there’s little time to figure things out. So I spent a solid month probably—all of June and all of July—recentralizing what I wanted to do. And that’s when I got the band together. So it’s little things like that which have lead to a much longer process. I’m pretty positive that I have a couple of songs that are pretty much finished. I’ll probably put a single out that will be out in January, and then the actual album will probably be out in March. That’s the plan.

Do you consider yourself to be a nostalgic person?

Yeah. I guess I never really think about it in those terms. I definitely see people sticking that label on my music. I take photos a lot. It’s always the sort of thing where you take 24 pictures on a role of film and normally there are only two, three, four, photos on a roll, and I’ll throw away everything except for those four photos. It’s kind of a nostalgic thing looking back. In the past year I’ve taken a lot of photos. The ones that I have are the good ones. So it’s kind of like creating this alternate reality. I think that’s kind of what music is, partly real, partly looking back at the beautiful moments. I guess I kind of live my life that way.



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