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Washed Out's smooth soundscapes are in a constant state of evolution

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Shae DeTar
  • Shae DeTar

It’s easy to get lost in your dreams. Ernest Greene certainly has spent a fair amount of his life wandering around in his, a willing prisoner to a wild imagination. As an artist, he’s not alone in this, but few have so tangibly translated that personal sense of escape into a similarly powerful and transportive experience for the listener.

As Washed Out, Greene is as much a tour guide as songwriter, and while most fantasies stay personal, he has spent the last half-decade making a career out of inviting everyone into his.

“For me, the beautiful thing about music is how you can close your eyes and it can take you places,” Greene said. “I’ve been asked a lot about if where I’m living or where I’m at while making an album is important, but in some ways, it really doesn’t matter. It’s very much an imaginative thing.”

Music always has represented a chance for Greene to travel the world from the comfort of his Athens, Georgia, bedroom. His 2009 breakthrough EP, Life of Leisure, and single “Feel It All Around” (as heard over the opening credits of TV’s Portlandia) was owed to creating the soundtrack to lands unexplored by him or anyone else before.

But the success Greene enjoyed with Life of Leisure and Within and Without, his 2011 full-length debut, has quite literally taken him to all the places he had only been able to dream of prior, touring and playing festivals across the planet.

Washed Out’s latest album, Paracosm — which hit shelves last year — finds Greene taking the sights he has seen, sounds he has heard and terrains he has felt and layering those real memories with the false ones together all at once, a shift that manifested itself in a very physical fashion.

“It’s funny that the Life of Leisure material was made entirely of samples from old records and then Paracosm was made playing a lot of different instruments and doing those things live,” Green said. “They are similar, but it’s quite a bit more complex, putting together these sounds instead of just grabbing something that’s already out there.”

In a lot of ways, Paracosm is a nod back to his beginnings (lead single “It All Feels Right” is a cousin to “Feel It All Around” in both name and spirit), both ethereal trips sandwiched around the more sleek, ’80s-inspired electro pop of Within and Without. But it’s different in vital manners, too, written with his live band in mind and in keeping with Greene’s philosophy of not doing the same thing twice.

“I never really plan on making the same record over again,” he said. “I don’t really need to. The melodies I tend to come up with are just that Washed Out sound, so even as I’ve experimented with different instruments and approaches to genre, the heart of it is always going to be intact.”

That will be tested with what Greene has up his sleeve next. Leading into this fall tour that carries Washed Out through Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa on Sunday, the Georgia native has been working on rough drafts of new material. And his earliest inclinations are to dive into a weirder, more far-out place — one this lifelong dreamer hasn’t attempted to ever reach before.

“For me, Paracosm is probably the most traditional-sounding album I’ve done, and my reflexes are to do something quite different from that, maybe having it be a little stranger and out of control,” Greene said. “That’s kind of the big catch words I’ve been using to guide my work — a little chaos.”

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