We have been talking to Ernest Green, the seemingly quiet young bloke standing behind Washed Out. His newest album Within and Without has been published on Domino. Ernest told us about his fear of live performances. Did we use the words fear and quiet? Is there a second Ernest Green, a secret twin brother on stage? Ernest, we think you have been taking us for a ride! Read the interview with pseudo hipster Washed Out talking about fame, love, riding a bike on the streets of Berlin and about growing up as the weirdo kid back than in Atlanta.
Hi Ernest, are you tired? Oh, do I look tired? Well, you’re a touring musician, aren’t you guys supposed to be tired? Haha, Iam actually feeling pretty fresh today. We have been on tour for a month, in Japan lately but we have had a lot of off days recently. But the day before we had a rough flight and the were caught in the London airport for a few hours because there was an alarm. Have you done a bit of sightseeing?
Actually my wife and I rented some bikes and ran over the city. We have had no idea where we have been but it was great to see the sights and it was a beautiful day. It was a bit dangerous though, the map on my phone featured only the major streets and we had to use these in a heavy traffic. Iam used to ride the bike back home in Atlanta you know.. (smiles).
In some interview of 2009 you told the guy that you don’t feel good about touring, about being too long away from home. ..I was reluctant to touring and I have never really played shows before and was getting scared to get in front of people and perform at sold out shows. Honestly, I don’t feel well alone on stage and I’d like to run away. When I first started, I have been playing on myself, that can be quite depressing. Was that because of your wife maybe, bcause you were married only for a short time back than? Yeah, luckily my wife recently has been able to travel with me (she plays the keyboard) and we are having a real band now.
Tell us about how you grew up in Atlanta and how that influenced you to do the music you are doing? I grew up in that small town an hour away from Atlanta. Surrounded by peach trees and far away from the world of electronic music. I was kind of the weird kid listening to this weird music, not the average thing that people are listening to where Iam from.
What are they listening to over there? Well, mostly rock music, Lynnard Skyynard, Almond Brothers, Blues mainly. I was no rebellious kid but the kind of music I was listening to was kind of a reaction to that, not wanting to listen what everybody else was listening to. I gravitated to Soul and Hip Hop music, that sort of thing. I grew up taking piano lessons, my parents made me doing it, but from now it was good to train my ear.
At ten or 11 I discovered rock music and played the guitar until the age of 16, Grunge being my favourite at that time, Nirvana and that sort of thing, like everybody else I guess. But then I got my first computer and it really changed my life. I started just locking myself in my bedroom and making music. You didn’t even need a band fort that, just recording (laughs).
Have you ever been a club kid, since you’re doing electronic music? (Laughs), well, I think I can count on one hand how many times I have been to a club, I actually start going out now. I know it is this kind of young crowd liking the music that Iam doing, but I fear I have never been a hipster kid. The first Washed Out tour I was doing was very naive, looking back on that I was using very cliche like dance music tracks. I actually have a pretty ecclectic taste in music. As a producer now I would do it a bit different (laughing). But no, Iam no clubkid and certainly no hipster. Iam from Atlanta (laughs again).
So what is the actual difference of your new album compared to that first one? With this record I wanted to shift into a new power of sound and a different writing. It is getting further away from the computer and the work with that. A lot of this record is more plan, more organic instruments, Iam moving more and more into that direction. More playing and less editing. How exactly do you write a song, what’s the process? I never start with a feeling or inspiration and kind of build from there. The process is much more mindless, I just sit there and start and then I have a certain feeling depending on the day and time. I then build the song around that feeling. Not very calculated at all.
Do you have to be at home surrounded by your peach trees in order to get the necessay inspiration? I dont think it really matters where I am at when I am writing the lyrics but the emotional state that Iam in would dictate the style of the song. A vocal melody will appear and I try to record it as quickly as I can. Whatever anxieties I have, every record is a picture of where I was or what I was feeling.
I’d say it sounds like someone being in love. That is very true and the record is dedicated to my wife. I was very obsessed about it and I owe her so much, for all her patience. I was married when I was 25 or 26, I have known her since I was ten or eleven, we have quite a long history together. Yeah, it is definetely love that inspired me.
The style of the music you are doing has been labeled “Chillwave“. Are you agreeing on that term? I didn’t want to be pigeonholed with the new record, that is why I tried to balance this electronic album with organic sounds. Iam not only into electronic music. I think there isn’t such music as Chillwave music, but I like the term “Dreampop“, the songs are meant to be popsongs and they have a kind of dreamlike quality. But they can label it Chillwave if they are happy with it (laughing). What about the cover, the two lovers? The album cover I read it as a very kind of intimate moment, not in a sexual way, but very romantic, two people sharing something intimate. As the record is, a collection of very intimate moments. I don’t know if it is clear to the average listener but I was feeling a lot when I made the album.
So, since you have married a quite a young age, have you no intention of leading a rockstar life? Well none of us imagined to lead a life like that, we all never thought such thing would happen and we are still getting used to it, all that touring and traveling. My wife definetely imagined our life being different, but she is a trooper, spending half of the year by traveling with a bunch of guys. As I said, I owe her!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years and what about future anxieties? I hope to make another record, that really is all I wanna do. But I hope to slow down with touring, live more of a normal life, producing would be good.Well, the business in general is quite scary, if I was 21 I guess everything would be different, but maybe if my style of music is gonna change in 5 years and it is not as popular anymore, but I have to do what I have to do. It helps to have other musicians on stage, Iam not fond of all the limelight, being again alone on stage is my anxiety. I don’t really enjoy that, it is all too much for me.
Ernest, what would you do if you didn’t chose music? Believe it or not I was working in an university library, and I would probably still be there if all that didn’t happen, but I actually really enjoyed working there, yeah I really liked it. No limelight (smiles).
Thank you Ernest, we hope you are gonna stay the honest, nice person you are. But don’t fool us again about not being made for fame and the limelight, won’t you!