Washed Out frontman Ernest Greene has a success story most one-man bands dream about late at night in their lonely studios. He was unemployed, looking for work, living with his parents, and making music in his bedroom before he was suddenly discovered by all the right music blogs. Soon, his name was splashed across the New York Times and Pitchfork, where he was heralded as the poster boy for a new music movement called chillwave.
In the year or so since the initial hype, Greene has pulled his act together — staging tours, recruiting three members for a band, and perfecting his heavily processed, glo-fi beats into something worthy of a live show. He's even found time to get married.
And true to form, the chillwaver is as laid-back as you'd assume, still running things on his own — no manager, no team — from a cabin overlooking a lake in middle-of-nowhere Georgia. Waking up just five minutes before the interview, Greene chatted with New Times about the transition from bedroom to live audience, his new lifestyle, and what he has planned for Eve this Friday.
New Times: Live shows are a big change from how you used to do things. Before getting married, you didn't really want to do much touring or anything.
Ernest Greene: Yeah, exactly. I've never really played in a band or anything like that. It's always been sort of a hobby. I was just by myself in my bedroom. So the first thought was, How am I going to do this? How am I going to play these songs live? And then a lot of other things kind of followed that, like, Do I have the personality to perform in front of people and really entertain? Initially, I was kind of nervous about that. Definitely, the first handful of shows were pretty bad. [Laughs] But I've picked up, and I'm definitely more comfortable. I think it shows.
Is music your main gig right now?
Yeah. Surprisingly enough, it keeps us busy pretty much all the time. I don't have a manager or anything like that, so we handle everything that goes into it. Even when I'm not writing or recording, I'm planning things that go into the next tour, recruiting a band. I guess it's been a whole month together. But I got a band together for the Yeasayer tour and that's where it got really great. But it's a lot more moving pieces to coordinate. It's definitely a full-time thing.
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Your music has a decidedly intimate, bedroom feel. Have you been able to recreate that sort of alone-in-my-room element for live shows? Or are audiences in for something entirely different when you perform live?
Yeah. It's really challenging, actually. There's definitely some limitations sitting in bed by yourself. I have done shows by myself, and I prefer playing with a band. Just on a personal level, I think it probably makes for a better experience for the listener. Just the natural kind of interaction between the band members and then having more people on stage — it's just more energy for the audience, I think. I've kind of learned to expand the songs a little bit more with the band there. We kind of jam a little bit, and it didn't happen very much when I was by myself. That's probably the most fun about playing with a band.
Will you be playing with a band for your show in Miami?
Yeah. We're kind of doing it as a dress rehearsal. It's a really short tour, only like five or six shows. So it's going to be a few new songs. I was hoping to have a little more time to rehearse, but this recording schedule has gotten delayed so much. I believe we're going to be recording till the day we leave. But this show will be super fun. We did an Australian tour in early December, but this will let us experiment more. We might even add an extra member. There's a lot of percussion on the record. It's a lot different than my other records.