Breaking Out: Washed Out

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Ernest Greene, shot for SPIN by Will Govus.
Chris Martins WRITTEN BY
Chris Martins

I like an even-keeled, slow-paced job," says Ernest Greene in his quiet Georgia drawl, a voice well suited to his original vocational goal. The Washed Out mastermind holds a master's in library science from the University of South Carolina. "I was gonna work in a university, but no one was hiring." Good thing. In the summer of 2009, he moved back in with his parents and returned to an old hobby -- music. Within a couple of months, he had himself a career.

Washed Out's beautifully melodic dreamscapes emerged as touchstones of the chillwave genre after blogs found Greene via the MySpace page of his ?college buddy Chaz Bundick, a.k.a. ?acclaimed synth-popper Toro Y Moi, and began spreading his music. For a guy raised on 30 acres of peach orchards, the attention -- any attention -- was start- ling. "I was getting e-mails from all over the world," the 28-year-old singer-keyboardist says, still sounding amazed.

"I had no idea what I was doing."

Greene's sneakily lush 2009 EP, Life of Leisure (Mexican Summer), earned him tour spots supporting Beach House and Yeasayer, and endorsements from figures as disparate as ex-Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould, who's worked Washed Out into his DJ sets, and ?actress Jessica Alba, who's tweeted about his "groovy tunes." The hazy ?anthem "Feel It All Around" was picked as the theme for IFC's Portlandia series. And from a handful of suitors, Greene chose Sub Pop as the home for his ?debut album, Within and Without.

"I definitely felt some expectations," says Greene of the album. "I obsessed over it, threw out months ?of work before starting over with the simplest thing: me and a synthesizer." While still fiddling, he got an unsolicited e-mail from his eventual producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley), a fellow Georgian who helped Greene find the dynamism he'd been looking for, bringing in cello, bass, and drums. (Live, Washed Out transforms into a quintet.)

The album's closer, "A Dedication," is a tribute to Greene's childhood sweetheart Blair, whom he married a few days after Washed Out's second show. She also plays keyboards in the band and handles merch sales from their home in Atlanta. The country couple have even embraced city ?living, to a point. "We feel like we're running a little family business," says Greene proudly. For him, it even beats the Dewey decimal system.

LISTEN: Washed Out, "Eyes Be Closed"
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