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.”
While Greene took piano lessons as a child and gravitated to guitar, he said his greatest influence was DJ Shadow, the San Francisco Bay Area sampling artist whose 1996 album, “Endtroducing ...” is frequently credited with broadening the stylistic palette of collage-based recordings.
“That was a really big turning point for me,” Greene said. “I discovered that (“Endtroducing ...”) around the time I started making music on my own on the computer. My dad had a pretty decent collection of jazz recordings and instrumental music from the '70s, and I was into that kind of stuff, but I had never heard that kind of music recontextualized in a modern way like the Shadow record.
“For the longest time, I was trying to be DJ Shadow, I think. But I slowly developed my own style,” he said. “It was trial and error, for sure.”
Signing to Sub Pop in early 2011, Greene worked on “Within and Without” with producer Ben Allen, who mixed Animal Collective's “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” While “Life of Leisure” was constructed using the DJ Shadow template — almost completely from sampling — Washed Out's higher profile prompted Greene to create more of his own sounds rather than warping and transforming samples.
“So that was different,” he said. “The other thing was, it was the first time I had mixed in a real studio.”
Having recently contributed a cover of the 1982 Fleetwood Mac song “Straight Back” to the tribute album “Just Tell Me That You Want Me,” Greene is now working on new Washed Out material for release next year. He said his touring experience with guitar, bass, drum and synthesizer could impact the sound of the next album.
“I do have the personnel that we use in the back of my head when I'm working, but I also don't want to limit myself,” he said. “I know of some guitar-based rock bands that refuse to record anything that they can't play live. But some of the best stuff I come up with are studio-based performances — bringing out whatever accident I had in the studio and building a song around that.”
When: 9 p.m. Friday.
Where: Opolis, 113 Crawford, Norman.