Technology, style shifts and the demands of live performance set off a quick evolution process for Washed Out, the laptop-based music project started just three years ago by Ernest Greene in his Perry, Ga., bedroom. What was once created on a MacBook is now fleshed out by a full band, and Greene, flush from the success of 2011's atmospheric alt-pop album “Within and Without,” now hears and plays his songs with a fresh energy.
“I use a lot of layers on the record, especially with the vocals,” Greene said in a recent phone interview. “There's a song on the new record called ‘Far Away,' and on the record it has cello parts and a really stripped-down sound, but we were having a hard time with the instrumentation we tour with. So we wound up just transforming it almost into a completely different song — there's a lot more synth parts.
“So we hope people have open minds about that,” said Greene, who is joined by his wife, Blair, on keyboards. “I know some fans like to come out to shows and hear what they love about the record. There's certainly some songs that do sound exactly like the record, but on others we've rearranged things a bit.”
For Washed Out, which will perform a free show at Opolis on Friday, the music was never limited by stylistic parameters, and it first gained notice because of its core melodies and do-it-yourself ethos. While earning a Master of Library and Information Sciences degree at the University of South Carolina, Greene became friends with Chaz Bundick, an undergrad who shared an enthusiasm for ambient pop created through multilayered laptop recording.
Separately but on parallel courses, Bundick's Toro Y Moi and Greene's Washed Out became key exponents of a style commonly known as “chillwave.” Both performers released their first recordings as limited-edition cassettes in 2009 and found recording deals soon afterward, and Greene's “Life of Leisure” and Bundick's “Causers of This” received positive reviews from influential online publications such as Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound.
Then, in completely independent moves, both Washed Out and Toro Y Moi made sonic leaps with their respective 2011 breakout albums, “Within and Without” and “Underneath the Pine.”
“When we first met, we listened to a lot of the same music and had both played in rock bands,” Greene said. “We'd both started recording by ourselves and used a lot of the same equipment. But it was a strange kind of coincidence. There was hardly ever any kind of technical conversations happening. We just had similar tastes.”