Washed Out Refuses to Play Favorites, Says Playing Live and in the Studio Are Two Totally Different Things

Washed-Out_Ernest-Greene.jpg
Will Govus/Sub Pop
Washed Out's Ernest Greene performs Friday at Outside Lands and later Friday at the Independent.
There's a surprise awaiting anyone checking out the Friday night lineup at Outside Lands. Yes, Beck performs before normal people eat dinner, but arguably that stage's Beck-Foo Fighters-Neil Young progression is logical. And yes, Justice will close the night elsewhere, but everyone knows they'll make you question whether you really need to hear "Cinnamon Girl."

Among these heavy hitters -- in fact after both Beck and Dave Grohl have already packed up -- you can choose one other option: At the Panhandle stage, 7:50 p.m., it'll be possible to lose yourself in the soundscapes of synth-meets-soft rock with Washed Out. Here's Washed Out's Ernest Greene reacting to the news that he'll perform so late in the day, after Beck and the Foo Fighters: "Oh wow."

That's not feigned shock. Greene and company are only one year removed from their debut full-length, Within and Without. The album represents the culmination of a story you already know: Bedroom electronic maestro gets blog attention out of nowhere, matures into a live full band leader as his music threatens to make everyone question the limits of chillwave. The year since has been a whirlwind of touring (including Lollapalooza last weekend) and side projects ("Wanna cover Fleetwood Mac's 'Straight Back?'"). The band and its music keep surprising plenty on the way, ourselves included.

If you end up seizing your chance to keep rocking in the free world that first night, Washed Out also plays even later on Friday at an Outside Lands official night show (10 p.m. at The Independent). We caught up with Greene to hear more about his double duty, the past year, and the differences between Washed Out's live and studio sounds.

So it's your first Outside Lands and you're playing both the festival and a night show on the same day. Will you prepare differently when it comes to the club versus the outdoors or for two sets in the same day?
Unfortunately, I don't think we have enough songs to vary the set that much. We put out the full record and have a couple of EPs, so there probably won't be much variation. But I can say we do approach festival shows, especially big outdoor festivals, a little differently than we do a normal club show. The bigger the festival, certain things work better. It's a bigger crowd, you get a different sound because of wide open space, so we tend to cater the set to be a little bit more up-tempo. You don't want to lose people because there are so many other opportunities, usually four or five other bands playing at the same time as we are. So we try to bring our best material, though the sets are usually a little shorter, so we also try to squeeze in as much as we can.

Speaking of your material, it's been about a year since Within and Without, and you're watching the band slide later and later into evening festival sets. What's that like?
It's really exciting. In most situations the audience interaction and the vibe in general gets better the later it gets. People can get a little loose. The fear is that they've heard so much music leading up to a late-night set that people can get tired, but in most situations I think people are just more prepared to give a lot and that's really fun.

So are you hanging around at the actual festival longer?
Without getting there too early, I definitely like seeing as many bands as I can, especially bands I've never seen before. That said, it is tiring. I'm not even sure what time we play Outside Lands, but let's say it's 11 p.m. If you get there at 6 or 7, you'll probably be tired by the time your set comes around from just walking around the festival. It's a balance we try to walk, but I love checking out all the bands and learning from them, especially older more experienced bands. I'd love to check the Beck set and stuff like that.

Your taste is known to be all over the place. You used to produce hip-hop beats, your live performances have been compared to soft rock, you're covering Fleetwood Mac. What gives?
It's a natural growth -- we travel quite a bit and get exposed to new things. I never want to make the same record over again, so we've had a nice break, and I've been working on some new Washed Out songs over the last couple months. It's certainly a step forward and different from anything I've done before. That's the exciting thing, trying new things. So moving forward, the live set will always be changing, too, as various influences take shape.

With that live set, now you have a couple years of playing under your belt. It's much different sound than a Washed Out album, so do you have a preference? Washed Out live or Washed Out album?
I think of them as almost two different things. There are things I can accomplish in the studio via manipulation on the computer or some kind of effect that are nearly impossible to do live. On the flip side, there are some things that happen live that can't be pulled off in the studio. I definitely enjoy the kind of magic that happens being on stage with a group when everything's working. The vibe when that's happening gets even better if the audience is involved and you can feel that interaction. That's something you don't get with your headphones on in a studio, it's much different. For the most part, the real work is done in the songwriting stage and recording; the next step is presenting to people. So there's good things and bad things about both.


Next: Would Greene consider doing a live album?

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