“I’ve always thought it makes for a more interesting show having a full band,” Ernest Greene says. One of the founding fathers of chill wave, Greene is the man behind the stage name Washed Out and that slo-fi groove, “Feel It All Around,” that opens every hipster mocking episode of “Portlandia.”
His first full-length, “Within and Without” fleshed out the dreamy loops and fuzzed bass lines heard on his self-produced EP, “Life of Leisure,” and snagged more than a few favorable reviews The fate of the bedroom DJ turned blog-sensation is a curious one with recognition demanding that you eventually take the show on the road. The Georgia native has fully embraced the challenge and breathed new life into his repertoire with a full band for his shows prompting audiences to bust a move … and sometimes make out.
Style Weekly: How does your one-man sound come alive on stage? Are you bringing a full band out this time?
Ernest Greene: I’m bringing out a four-piece band this tour. My wife and I play mostly synths. I also have a drummer and bass player along with us.
Describe your creative process. Has it changed since you now know you’ll likely be playing songs for live audiences now?
Totally. With my first material (“Life of Leisure”), the thought of playing it live for anyone never crossed my mind, and it was a challenge when I had to recreate the songs. I definitely wrote “Within and Without” with the live band in mind, so I’ve enjoyed working on the live show a little more this time around.
Was is challenging to work with a producer, albeit Ben Allen of Animal Collective, having had total creative control over all of your material until this album?
I thought it would be more of a challenge than it was. Ben and I have a lot of common ground, both hailing from Georgia. I knew and respected the work he had done. The working relationship ended up being great, which made it much easier to have the outside help.
What did you learn from the experience that you might apply to your next album?
I’m definitely more open-minded about collaborating. In the best circumstances, it could bring more to the table and make for a better album.
Your music is undoubtedly sensual. Did you set out to be the soundtrack to hipster baby making?
Haha. I did not. …Although it is pretty funny to see people making out at the shows.
On the same topic, what’s the story behind the foxy album cover for “Within and Without?”
No good story, really. I was in Melbourne, Australia, for a short run of shows, and on our off time picked up an art book that had the image in it. It stuck with me, and seemed to be the perfect fit.
You are now synonymous with the opening sequence of “Portlandia”? How’d the use of “Feel It All Around” come about?
Fred Armison personally emailed me and I’m a big fan of his. Many people have discovered my music through the show, so I feel lucky to be a part of its success.
You sample Gary Low’s “I Want You” on that track. How did you stumble across that?
I found it on Ebay. … I’m known for spending hours and hours on the net searching for obscure songs from the ’70s and ’80s from rare vinyl sellers.
Have you ever considered a cover of “Dream of the 90s”? That would be pretty amazing.
No way could we do it justice.
Like a lot of newer electronic bands, you’ve put out your stuff on tapes. Are you genuinely a fan of cassette sound quality or is it more about nostalgia and transporting the listener to a different time and place?
The aesthetic of the sound translates well to cassettes. It’s sometimes not about great quality, it’s about a mood. From a DIY perspective, you can manufacture a whole run of cassettes from your house, as opposed to vinyl or CDs.
Speaking of a different time and place, you are a child of the ’80s. What impact do you think this has on your music and creative vision?
As I grew older, a lot of the music I grew up with in the ’80s was always viewed as a guilty pleasure or somewhat of an ironic thing. It wasn’t until recently -- in the past few years -- that the music started to sound fresh again. It really wasn’t much more than that -- just wanting to sound different.
Music bloggers contributed heavily to your early success, yet some people argue that a professional critic’s opinion does actually matter when it comes to an artist’s growth. What are your thoughts on that?
The line between professional and amateur critics has somewhat blurred. It’s getting harder to differentiate the two. However, there are a handful of sites that can really make or break a band’s career. Ultimately, it takes equal talent and luck.
Do you have any music blogs that you must read on a regular basis?
ISO50, Gorilla vs. Bear
You graduated with a master degree in library and information science and couldn’t find a job as a librarian. If something opened up somewhere now, could you leave the Washed Out gig behind for the Dewey Decimal System?
Of course not. I put more time, energy, and effort into this job than I would doing anything else!
Washed Out and Memoryhouse play the National at 708 E. Broad St. on April 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets $12.50. For information go to thenationalva.com.