Washed Out, aka Ernest Greene, has become somewhat of a poster boy for the chill wave movement in the last few years. His music reached a zenith point in 2011 when the world discovered him through the huge success of TV show Portlandia and his tune Feel It All Around. But his body of work offers more than just a one hit wonder, and Washed Out is more than just a genre. His music is intelligent, open-minded, smooth and fun. He manages to open up a series of worlds and unite them by blending disco, house and electronic pop, all the way through to Tropicalia.
In celebration of his new record, Mister Mellow, Washed Out has crafted an exclusive mix for us, taking the best references of his influences and melting them into a 30-minute bliss out. It’s a cracking mix that fuses some old classic gems as well as some new tracks thrown in for good measure. There are some new European tour dates below as well.
The visual album is a really cool touch. Where did the idea come from? How much input did you have with the 11 visual artists you worked with as the creative director?
I got really into visual art and animation while working on this album to the point where a lot of visual cues started to influence the music I was making. It seemed like a natural choice then to bring the two worlds together. I had been following the various directors who worked on the project really closely online and on various social media so it was as easy as sending a DM or email to ask if they wanted to collaborate. The visual side of the project took about 6-8 months and during that time I was emailing back and forth with each director fine-tuning the direction of the videos. In most cases, there was a lot of initial planning (because so many of the videos were hand made – and thus hard to adjust after the fact) – but once the idea of the video had been settled – the individual artist could have their way with it.
The inspiration and meaning behind this body of work is this kind of ‘quarter-life crisis’ as you put it, that so many people seem to go through right now, where we are constantly unhappy but really life isn’t too bad. Explain.
It’s quite complicated and multi-faceted – but my biggest struggle was keeping my head above water while managing this really complex project – both personally and professionally. All the while trying to stay on top of what’s happening in politics, pop-culture, etc. One quickly has this dual sensation of the potential that the online world brings – but also the absurdity of ever being able to keep up with it. All of this combines to create a feeling that you’re never quite in control of the things happening in your life – which can be a strange sensation.
I think there are sections of the album that mirror this idea. Mainly, the ones that have tons and tons of layers of sound. The idea was to create a sort of “sensory overload” where each layer is vying for the listener’s attention and it becomes a bit overwhelming.
This album is a fully immersive experience. You’ve worked with Microsoft to bring the experience into a live format for the tour. Can you tell us about that?
The album is only around 30 minutes long – but our live show is around 70 or 80 minutes. I wanted the live show to mirror the aesthetic of the visual album – but it was almost impossible to create another 30+minutes of animated content because of both time and money. So we came up with the idea of animating our real-time movements on stage using some of the new motion sensor tracking devices. It still had the potential of looking really crazy and psychedelic like the videos – but it would generated live each night of the door (and so never the same show twice).
Microsoft makes a product called Kinect which is a really simple motion sensor tracking device created for the X-box gaming console. We took those and hired a developer to build out software that would house a lot of unique effects – each with parameters that could be tweaked and played live each night by our VJ.
Washed Out has just released new Europe tour dates. Take a peek:
1 Dec. Brussels @ VK
3 Dec. Berlin @ Festival Kruz
4 Dec. Amsterdam @ Melkweg
5 Dec. Salzhaus @ Winterthur nr Zurich
7 Dec. London @ Heaven