Ernest Greene, aka Washed Out, makes the kind of reverb-saturated, lackadaisical dream pop that has come to define the turn of the decade—only better. Seemingly influenced by freak-folk musician Ariel Pink, Washed Out’s 2009 debut record, Life of Leisure, came out of nowhere to be a surprise hit of the oughts, giving us something to sulk to and smile about. We sat down with him to assess his sudden success and see if he’s okay with it…
You have a remarkable sound. Was there a moment that possessed you to start making music?
I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember, but there are definitely a few highlights. Off the top of my head, I’d say hearing DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing for the first time, probably in high school at some point. At the time, I was playing in a band, writing songs with the traditional guitar, bass and drums. That record was one of the first that opened my eyes to sampling and that whole approach to songwriting.
Did recording your debut in your parents’ house contribute to your nostalgic sound?
A little bit, but I’ve been writing for so long that it’s reached a point where there is rarely any thought involved. My conscious mind sort of shuts down and I just “make”—and this sound naturally arises. My taste veers towards the sentimental.
So what did influence your nostalgic, tidal sound?
[Portland band] Grouper was a big one. In essence, I was attempting to make poppier versions of her songs, but it inevitably came out a little skewed.
How did the release of Life of Leisure come about?
I had recorded a handful of songs over the summer when [the record label] Mexican Summer approached me about doing a vinyl-only EP. I never intended to write a record, so it is more of a collection of individual songs.
Have you been surprised by the strong reaction you’ve gotten? The record has ended up on many “Best Of” lists for 2009.
It’s definitely a little strange, but really nice knowing that people like the songs. There are an equal number of reviews that bash the record, in most cases out of principle.
What do you have planned for the new teenaged decade?
I’m currently recording some new Washed Out material, so I hope to have a new record out soon. I’m really looking forward to traveling and taking a lot of pictures.
Got any New Year’s resolutions?
Quit smoking and learn to sing.