Ernest Greene of Washed Out on how drums bring a different energy to the live show
What is your connection with EMA, and how did you become involved with that project?
We played a couple of shows with those guys, probably in the fall of last year. We recently did a tour in Australia called Laneway, and it was a big traveling festival. I forget how many bands but it was quite a number of American and British bands. We ended up traveling with EMA, and we were sharing a lot of the same gear, sharing vans here and there and staying at the same hotels.
We got to become pretty good friends with them. There were a lot of days off, so we would go to the beach and grill out. They're just really fun. It's always nice when you're in a foreign country for the first time and you're experiencing it with another group of people. We didn't get to play with them or anything, but we're definitely good friends.
Are you still based out of Perry, Georgia, and if so, what is it about that environment that you feel is more conducive to your creativity than other places you've been, if at all?
I live in Atlanta now, so it's about an hour and a half away. I think the good thing about when I was living in Perry and working is that it's kind of isolating. It's a very small town. There is really not much else to do except for coming up with something on your own. I guess I respond to that. I really feel like I could probably do what I do anywhere if I had the space and the time to do it.
But that said, I've lived in the South for most of my life, and it's just kind of normal for me. Just the pacing and everything. It feels comfortable, and we don't have any plans to move around too much. We travel so much when we're touring that we want to get back to normal when we're here.
A lot of people probably think that if you get any press outside your home town that you're financially successful. What have you had to do to sustain yourself before you signed to Sub Pop and since? That's assuming you're not a millionaire from your music at this point.
No, not at all. I'd done music for a long time and it was a hobby. But I went to school and worked part time at the university library. After I graduated I worked there full time up until the point where the Washed Out thing started to take off. That was my first serious full-time job, although it wasn't that serious.
Nowadays we've been quite busy touring, so we've made a decent amount of money. We're not rich, but we're comfortable. I can sit here all day and kind of work on new stuff or work on the live show, and that's really great. We've toured with bands that are much greater live bands, and they're also working nine-to-five jobs when they're home. I don't know how they can fit it all in. It's pretty comfortable, and I'd be happy if we could sustain this for as long as we can. I wouldn't care about making any more money; it's just being able to do what we do and not worry too much about working part time or anything like that.
How did you end up on that tour with Cut Copy? Did Battles tell you why they asked you to play the All Tomorrow's Parties event in December?
We spoke with the guys in Battles, and they were really nice. I thought they did a great job of curating that festival; that was an honor to be asked. The layout of the festival was really interesting. I'd heard they were fans, but I guess that was the official confirmation -- being asked to play.
Kind of the same with Cut Copy. I have been a fan of theirs for a long time and never would have imagined that they even knew what Washed Out was or anything. But they had been fans for a while, I think. The scheduling worked out.
We learned a lot from those guys that have been doing it for a long time. It's quite complicated doing live electronic music. There's just so many things that can go wrong. We learned a lot technically about how they lay out things. There are steps you can take that kind of prepare for the worst, and also you can lay out things so it's more efficient. When I first started out, I had a bunch of these electronics, and when you play on a three-band bill, if you're headlining, you have maybe ten minutes to go up on stage and set up your stuff.
I would have all these pedals and all these samplers all over the place, frantically trying to plug them all in. You can lay the stuff out and have a rack, or you can bring it on stage ready to go. It sounds really simple, but it can get quite convoluted. But it's simple things like that that make us much more professional now, having learned from them.
We have a computer on change that kind of routes patch changes to synthesizers and some of the effects happen in the computer. If everything isn't plugged into the right place, nothing works. So I've become much more OCD after a couple of years touring with this stuff.
What are some of the most interesting and/or most amusing comparisons you've seen or heard about your music of late?
That's tough. I think the stuff that's really stuck with me is meeting some musicians that I look up to and them telling me they've been listening to the album and that they're a fan. That's pretty huge. I'd definitely say Cut Copy and Battles are an example of that.
Three or four years ago, when I was just making music in my bedroom for fun, these were the bands I was listening to and considered them to be a world away.
I'm guessing there are thousands of musicians across the country who are making really interesting stuff that just hasn't gotten heard yet or they haven't gotten lucky and gotten a break. I think it's pretty interesting those people could be on Pitchfork or whatever and traveling the country playing shows. I mean, it's not an impossible thing to get.
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