Ernest Greene didn’t initially mean for anyone to hear his music. After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 2009 with a master’s degree in library science, Greene found the job market to be less than promising, so he moved back in with his parents. To pass the time, he started fiddling around with samples, synthesizers, and his computer, and the resulting songs got posted online under the pseudonym Washed Out. To Greene’s amazement, blogs latched onto his music, creating an indie superstar out of a guy recording in his bedroom.
Like many home-recorded artists, Greene opted to go big for his debut album. He recruited a band to take his songs around the world, and the touring resulted in the arena-sized Within And Without. The record put Washed Out on everyone’s lips–Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould and actress Jessica Alba count themselves amongst the band’s eclectic fan base.
But Greene still maintains a quiet lifestyle. He and his wife Blair (who also performs in Washed Out) live outside Athens, Georgia, and the laidback, rural setting plays into their music. Greene has constructed Washed Out to be the perfect aural escape: downtempo rhythms, swirling synths, and vocals that sound like they’ve been sitting out in the sun too long on a hot summer day. Despite the electronic trappings, the group keeps gravitating towards live instrumentation, and it shows on Paracosm. Washed Out’s second album (out August 13) features a melding of the organic with the synthetic, mixing the worn-out sounds of a Mellotron (made famous on “Strawberry Fields Forever”) with guitars and drums. “I knew from the beginning I wanted this record to be optimistic, very much a daytime-sounding album,” says Greene. “This one I just imagined being outside, surrounded by a beautiful, natural environment.” And “Don’t Give Up” is the perfect soundtrack. While drums and percussion propel the song forward, the dreamy vocal samples float in and out, sounding like overheard conversations at a pool party. It’s a phenomenally effective formula, and Greene is a master explorer of this particular sonic world.