Smile Politely

Washed Out: Continuing to evolve

Washed Out comes to Canopy Club Friday night in the midst of an “exhausting” worldwide tour that’s spanned about the past two months. Perhaps more importantly though, Ernest Greene comes to town in a constantly evolving state, thinking about what he can do to make things sound better and how he can change things up the next time around. He’s really just starting and we get to see some of the early stages of his growth.

Greene, 28, has taken his music from the demos he first posted on MySpace to the acclaim that he has received for his first EP, 2009’s Life of Leisure, and Within and Without (2011), his first full-length album.

In many ways Greene has had to catch up with his success: “I got a lot of attention really fast and kinda skipped a couple of steps playing smaller venues. I started playing 500 capacity venues and it takes a certain type of balanced mix to really sound good with those sound systems. I came from a background of lo-fidelity recordings and that was the aesthetic, but it doesn’t really shine through very well with a big sound system.”

Greene originally didn’t consider a career in music to be a realistic goal. He created it because he enjoyed doing so and he was essentially trying to find a way to connect with people after he finished school in Georgia and moved to Columbia, South Carolina for a job.

“I was really surprised being discovered. The music spread really quickly online. That’s the cool thing about Columbia — it’s a small community of artists and musicians. Toro y Moi is from there. It’s a nice little family over there.”

Along the way, Greene added a band, transitioning from solo performances with programmed drum beats and sequenced bass lines on his laptop to his new “family on the road.” His wife, Blaire, is even with the band now, playing keyboard to fill out some of the more complex new material.

“There were a couple of things about the solo project that I wasn’t very happy with. I wasn’t very comfortable doing it at first because I’d never really performed before. The biggest thing … I really didn’t have the production of the songs,” Greene said. “I felt like a lot of the time stuff was just blending together in bad ways. Everything was a bit sloppy.”

Greene has continued to re-shape himself from Life of Leisure to Within and Without. In our Pygmalion Festival Guide I described the EP as more appropriate for a low-key club, while the full-length album is what you’d put on when you get home and slip into the bedroom. The album cover seems to support that as well.

“I didn’t want to make the same record again and my head was in a completely different place. A year after making Within and Without I’m in a different place again.”

The band has also covered Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” for a XMU session on Sirius Satellite Radio. “We were scrambling to get something together. I had it in the back of my mind. The melody works in the same way that some of my songs do. The chorus is dreamy and sustained.”

Greene will literally be in a new place when he makes his way to “the unchartered territory” of the Midwest and Canopy Club tonight to open for Cut Copy, which he is pretty pleased about.

“I really enjoy festivals. Seventy percent of our shows in Europe were festival shows. I learn a lot by watching other bands. I still feel like I’m kinda new to the process. Cut Copy’s fan base could add people that might not have heard our music before,” Greene said.

The same can be said about the TV mini-series Portlandia, which also brought exposure to Washed Out’s music. Fred Armisen personally emailed Greene to ask permission to use “Feel It All Around” in the opening sequence of the show.

“It’s a hilarious show. I actually gave him the go ahead without seeing footage. I had motivation and trust that it was gonna be good. It was a no-brainer.”

You can catch Washed Out and Cut Copy tonight at the Canopy Club. It’s a no-brainer.

Here’s the lineup:

Midnight Magic – 6:30

Washed Out – 7:30

Cut Copy – 8:45

Washed Out performing “Eyes Be Closed,” the first track from Within and Without.


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