Virtual Session: Washed Out

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Washed Out join The Current's Jade for a virtual session featuring tracks from "Purple Noon." (MPR)

Songs performed

10:36 Time to Walk Away
14:56 Hide
18:24 Face Up

Interview transcript

JADE: Hi! it's Jade welcoming you to another one of The Current's Virtual Sessions, and this time we're checking in with Washed Out. Ernest, thanks so much for joining us!

ERNEST GREENE: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.

JADE: And you have this new album. It's called Purple Noon, it just came out, and one of my favorite things, one of the things I think you do best is kind of creating a world that people can live in with your music for the whole album. And I'm curious what kind of world Purple Noon is to you.

GREENE: Sure. I think one of the biggest inspirations early on was a trip I took to Greece with my wife, kind of exploring a number of islands there and just...the entire experience felt really exotic and glamorous. You know, like...you know, growing up in the States, you know, I'd never seen anything quite like that when it came to, like, the ocean and coastal culture there. So it was really inspiring, and came back home and kind of used those mental pictures from the trip as a lot of the inspiration for the album. Yeah, I think, as you can tell from the record cover...the photo was taken, my wife took it of me, we were in Santorini, which is...you know, pretty epic view from the top of this cliff. So yeah, just trying to, you know, build the sonic universe and hope that the listener is, can sort of transport themselves there.

JADE: Yeah, that's not a bad place to transport yourself. I was actually debating with our producer Jesse if it was in Santorini, so I'm glad that I won that one. Jesse, you owe me five dollars. Uh, but is there a place, when you were growing up — speaking of these kind of like dreamlike vacation scenarios — as so many of us right now are, you know, stuck at home or maybe, not stuck in a way that you want to be gone, but if there is a place when you could be anywhere else as a child, put yourself back there, what was the place that felt the most exotic or the place you most wanted to travel to?

GREENE: Sure. I mean, the first thing that comes to mind is...I grew up in Georgia, a small town couple hours south of Atlanta, and there's a small island in south Georgia that my family and I would go to every summer...I mean, for as long as I can remember, and it's certainly not that exotic, I will say, but I do have so many fond memories and I still to this day go there every year. I have family that actually lives there now, and...so it still very much is like a getaway, and it is an island so, you know, when you drive over it feels like you're sort of leaving behind, you know, whatever it is, you know, the average day, you know, the problems or whatever there. So it's a very real feeling, that it's like a true vacation.

JADE: Your music is kind of a mental vacation. When you're putting together those songs, do you start with a mood? Do you start with a place? Or is it different depending on the album?

GREENE: Sure. Yeah, I think it's become more of a thing for me...like, I'm scoring a film or something, and sometimes it can be just rough mental images or memories. But yeah, it really helps, kind of having a sort of clear picture in my mind and from that point forward it's just kind of like scoring that moment sonically, and I generally start writing music first and then melodies and lyrics will follow after. So with this one, I touched on the trip to Greece, like that...some of those memories were very much at the forefront of my mind. Yeah, and it gets more and more detailed as the album sort of progresses. It's like putting a new, building this world brick by brick. You know, I start to see the world more clear and that just helps inform the stories that I'm telling or the moods or whatever.

JADE: And this world that we live in now is very different, and I think it's making artists have to be a little bit more creative. And especially what we're doing right now! This is a virtual conversation. We're going to be watching some of your songs that you recorded, and it reminds me a little bit of, like, early days MTV, where there's a lot of creativity going on with the visual aspect. And, you know, for some artists maybe not so much their thing, but I feel like you specifically have really leaned in to this visual aspect of it. I've watched some of the videos that you put together and they're really dynamic. And so, is that something that's been fun for you, a fun challenge to have?

GREENE: It has. I mean, it comes with its own frustrations, for sure. Pretty much all the stuff we've done has just been the band and I kind of doing ourselves, so it's been a learning process for sure, but I'd already...I'm, like, an amateur photographer and somewhat familiar with streaming technology, and that sort of thing, and I actually...I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Normally when we come in and do radio sessions, we just sort of show up and play the songs and then that's it. You know, we have very little say to how it looks and sounds. So it is nice, the perfectionist in me likes having control of every little thing. But, um, yeah, it's certainly been new for an album roll-out. You know, putting on the filmmaker hat and the editor hat and all of that.

JADE: Yeah. It's a lot, it's a lot more to do. You know, you're not out touring, you're not doing the typical things that you would do with an album release, an album push. But there are, I feel like, so many different things that musicians have to sort of take on sort of DIY these days. Is there anything beyond the visual aspect that you are learning about yourself since quarantine hit, or since the pandemic started?

GREENE: Sure. I think, just being more open and communicating more with fans directly. That's something...you know, I'm pretty old. I remember a life pre-social-media, and so social media hasn't really come that naturally to me. I mean, I love sharing things, but the actual back-and-forth with fans has been only a fairly recent thing for me. But, you know, because we can't tour...you know, that's become, you know...I've been doing some DJ livestreams that have been really fun. You know, kind of interacting and seeing people's real time comments. And we also, early on with that album release, the first song, we had pretty ambitious plans for a music video that was going to be shot in Italy and because of the pandemic, obviously that wasn't possible. So I just did a quick, kind of, message out via social media asking fans to help me out, put this video together, and you know, there was tons and tons of fan-submitted material that we kind of turned into a proper video for the song. And it ended up being, I think, much better than, you know, the thing that we originally were going to shoot. It certainly had more of like, a connection, I think, than just a pretty image, you know, of me on some beach setting somewhere. You know? So that's been new and super interesting and fun to kind of explore a little bit.

JADE: Yeah. And we're going to be watching three of these songs that you performed. We'll be watching "Face Up," "Hide," and "Time to Walk Away," and there is again, a mood going on with these songs, and...you know, the album is titled Purple Noon. Is there something about the color purple that means something to you?

GREENE: Yeah. That's funny...I can easily, kind of, go into like a new-agey sort of like, hippie thing, but the songs really worked...they have a purple aura to it. You know, in that weird new-agey way. They certainly fit. The title comes from an old French film from the '60s, is where I originally heard the name. But that title was taken from this poem by this Romantic poet who's named Shelley. And the poem itself was what really inspired me. It's basically about this very dejected sort of Romantic stereotype guy who's in Italy and...just, so many of my ideas visually fell in line with the story that's told in the poem, so it sort of serendipitously felt like the right move to make.

JADE: Yeah. Romantic dejection...I'm feeling that in some of the songs as well. Yeah, there is a lot of angst and romance going on in the songs, for sure. Well, I am feeling the purple vibe and I think we should let everybody else watch these videos.

Credits

Hosted by Jade
Engineered by Peter Ecklund
Produced by Jesse Wiza
Web feature by Jay Gabler

External link

Washed Out - official site


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