Greene to the Scene

Washed Out Weathers Their First Lolla 

By Jamie Degraaf

Ernest Greene is a pretty average dude: he rips movies via torrent sites; he found his college degree to be useless; he loves ABBA music and he fell into fame by posting unassuming bedroom-recorded tracks on his Myspace. Three years of being a darling of the music blogosphere, an album and multiple EPs later, the 28-year-old Georgia native graced Chicago with his musical brainchild, Washed Out, for their first ever Lollapalooza performance on August 4.

Greene is perched on a chaise longue in a dim corner of Crimson Lounge after his DJ set at the Samsung Galaxy SIII Lollapalooza after-party. “I don’t really consider myself any sort of DJ,” he laughs self-deprecatingly, “But this is a great way to wind down—I’ve got a drink and I get to play music I like.” After his day of dealing with flooded stages, rescheduled set-times and throngs of muddy fans, his looks like he’s on his last leg; his hair is ruffled and he sports a rumpled asparagus-colored polo and a double-strapped backpack, beer in hand.

As all of Saturday’s performing artists would probably agree, Greene feels conditions on day two of Chicago’s largest summer music fest made for a “weird day.” At 3:30, the entire festival grounds at Grant Park were evacuated and artists and fans alike hung in limbo waiting for the skies to clear. “There was a lot of stress and craziness,” Greene remarks, adjusting the strap of his backpack. “The stage got completely soaked and effed-up some of the equipment.”

Despite the torrential downpour, a few hours later Greene was happy to tweet “Our set is NOT washed out @lollapalooza!” and took the stage at 7:30 p.m. “We had to set everything up in half the time,” he says, shrugging, “but once we got out there, we just put the stress behind us and did our thing—it went well.” Washed Out has played at their share of poorly managed festivals and Greene was wowed by how efficiently the chaos of the day was handled.

Greene is modest about his success, embracing the designation of his music as a “bedroom recording project.” After graduating in 2009 with a degree in library science that failed to pay the bills, he moved back in with the ‘rents and took to his childhood room to begin recording music he’d been tinkering with for years. As he posted tracks online, they were hungrily embraced by bloggers and later that year turned into Washed Out’s EP, Life of Leisure.

Greene coined Washed Out’s synthesized chill-wave sound “dreamy pop” and his musical tastes and influences are constantly evolving. He notes his current inspiration as 70’s poppy disco, like ABBA and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production technique. “ABBA took things to the next level in the disco world,” Greene says. “There are weird similarities to what they do and what I do with Washed Out—I’m trying to connect the dots to make it presentable and cool-sounding.”

Touring season is winding down for the band with Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco next weekend, followed by a handful of other mid-west shows. After October, they have no more shows until the next record, but Greene gives no clues on how soon fans can expect it. “I’ll just keep working after we stop touring,” Greene says. “I’m a bit of a workaholic. But the inspiration is there, the passion is there, so I just keep rolling.”