Interview Washed Out: ‘I Was Drowned In Possibilities’

Ernest Greene consciously avoids trends and goes fantasia in the process.

From late 2009, early 2010, a newly-engaged musician approaching his 30s had his strange, hobbyist creations thrust into the public eye. From that moment on they never really disappeared. Accused of being both at the forefront of an exciting movement and, on the flipside, a musical amateur, Ernest Greene experienced the double-edged sword process that tends to meet an artist doing something new. Three years on and he’s undoubtedly less constrained by genre-tags or a contextual bubble, but the man still has plenty to prove.

Second album ‘Paracosm’ is the product of Ernest saying no to as many things as possible. He describes debut ‘Within And Without’ as a process of ‘trial and error’ while sipping his morning coffee just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Following EP releases and a steady, extraordinary build of anticipation, a Washed Out record was due, and, very much aware of it now, Ernest reacted by throwing every loose idea into a melting pot. ‘I was drowned in possibilities’, he admits. With the follow-up he reflects on having ‘a palette of sounds’ to work with. ‘Having some conceptual boundaries really helped the process.’

Instead of seeking time away, a period of reflection, Greene went straight into a process of building the studio necessary to make his second record. ‘Every other place I’ve written and recorded in has been a converted bedroom. I’d have gear stacked to the ceilings.’ Asked if he felt a desire at all to escape from Washed Out, a process he’s barely had control over since it began, he states: ‘I consider touring a creative break in some ways… I did a lot of thinking about music.’ When he returned from tour, he ‘dove straight in… I had a real freedom to slave away at it.’

‘Paracosm’ doesn’t desire to defy expectation, but many might have expected - might have wanted - Greene to detach himself from the dreamy escapist sound of his early works. Instead he uses this newly-fledged expertise to his advantage. He plays all the instruments himself, in live takes. Synth patterns and cut-and-paste methods are a thing of the past. Most crucially, he doesn’t throw aside ‘Within and Without”s aesthetic like it’s a grubby habit - he builds on it.

‘I thought ‘the least trendy thing I could do right now is put a 12-string acoustic guitar on the album’,’ Ernest says. And indeed, these songs are covered in breathy acoustics, tying otherwise evocative works to something that mimics ‘a rock album’, as Greene professes. He grapples with the customary, pre-release nerves: ‘I don’t know if everyone’s gonna love that or not…’

At its core, ‘Paracosm’ is a natural follow-on from ‘Within and Without’. An album about the outdoors, Ernest says it represents ‘slipping into a dream, an alternate thinking space,’ which all very much sounds like the kind of mindframe you could attach to the debut. Forget supposed genres that the guy might’ve coined, he’s always been an escapist at heart. In a way, following a supposedly of-its-moment, fad-like release with something sonically similar, is about the most punk reaction Washed Out could possibly provide. ‘I can see some musicians who are slowly following the trends. That was something I was consciously trying to avoid.’

Greene has essentially discovered the musician behind the sensation, these past few years. He’s taken Washed Out from being a personal project to a full force, and he’s lost none of his initial enthusiasm. Frustrated at sitting on ‘Paracosm’ for the past four months, he talks about having a third record in the works - ‘it was one of the most prolific stages of writing I’ve experienced’ - and being restless to begin work on album number three. ‘I’m finding out new ways to approach making Washed Out songs,’ he says. ‘It’s just about keeping a mental checklist of these ideas that randomly come along.’

The project’s initial success had every means of being a flash-in-the-pan fad, something that faded out as quickly as it flared off. In staying ahead of the pack however, and in keeping loyal to the very foundations of Washed Out, Greene seems to finally be free of the shackles that attempted to belittle his first album. And he’s very much aware of it.

‘Paracosm’ is out now via Weird World.

Read the full interview in the new edition of DIY Weekly, available from iTunes now.

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