Washed Out

According to Wikipedia, Columbia, South Carolina is one of the best destinations in the United States for kayak and canoe enthusiasts. It’s also the home to Washed Out, a wonderful new artist who has just released the very chilled out electronic EP Life of Leisure. These songs are an absolute must if you are heading down to the beach for one more splash before summer’s end or at home with a nice thought and a cold one in hand. I was lucky enough to get in contact with Ernest Greene, the man behind Washed Out, to get a few questions answered.

Washed Out – New Theory
Washed Out – Hold Out
Washed Out – Feel It All Around

Louis: You hail from landlocked Columbia, South Carolina, but your music has a retro 80’s Miami Beach feel to it.  How did you arrive to this style of music which some have referred to as “Chill Wave”?

Ernest Greene: 80’s pop music was really great because it was the first time synthesizers and drum machines were used with pop structures, or at least the first time on a massive scale. There is a bit of nostalgia for the sound, but more than anything it’s fresh and fun.

Louis: Is your music a reflection of your life?

Ernest: I definitely have a poetic side to my personality that I think often comes out through the songs.

Louis: It has been written that you make bedroom pop. Are you a firm believer in the DIY aesthetic or are you flexible?

Ernest: I’m just very shy and stubborn. I don’t work very well with other people as far as writing and recording. I enjoy controlling all of the different aspects of the process, which kinds of falls in line with the DIY philosophy. I guess I would be flexible with working with other people down the line, if it was the best thing for the songs, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. I’m pretty happy with everything lately.

Louis: Is there a back-story to why Washed Out became a solo effort?

Ernest: I played with friends a lot in college, but I found it was much easier to work by myself. The music I wanted to make really didn’t translate to a live band, so it has sort of grown from there.

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— , August 31, 2009    2 Comments

Alt-Ctrl-Sleep

I first heard Alt-Ctrl-Sleep in the film adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story The Midnight Meat Train. Their dream pop song ‘A Song for April’ was playing during a vicious scene where the film’s killer murders his first victim with a meat hammer. It goes without saying that pretty love songs together with horrific scenes of violence make a memorable cinematic experience, but this song was particularly effective. This soundtrack inclusion won them a contract with Lakeshore Records leading to appearances in other movies. Their sound can be described as dreamy, relaxing, ambient and also tender. I recently interviewed the Huntersville, North Carolina natives to find out more about their sound, their future plans, and the experience of being both a band and a married couple.

Alt-Ctrl-Sleep – Take Care
Alt-Ctrl-Sleep – Good Times
Alt-Ctrl-Sleep – Divine Beloved (Ho Hum Song)

Louis: I heard the song ‘A Song for April’ in the film The Midnight Meat Train. I found it very romantic and beatle-esque. Could you tell me the history behind this composition?

Joe Diaco: This is a song about encouragement more than anything else. I’ve been performing music since I was 4 and April’s been playing guitar and drums for just a couple of years, so it was frustrating on both ends of the spectrum in terms of writing/playing/practice experience with each other musically and mentally. In my case, I had to learn a lot of patience. On April’s part was the inexperience with playing in a band. In the end, we both had to learn to work and encourage each other if we were going to get anything done with our music. It was a great challenge for both of us, and I think we accomplished and learned a lot from each other. ‘Song for April’ was the first song I uploaded onto MySpace and it was the song that got us recognized by Brian McNelis of Lakeshore Records. That is another crazy coincidental story all by itself.

Louis: People got to hear the band in three different feature films before your debut album even hit record store shelves. I understand your record company Lakeshore Records has a good relationship with the film industry. How do you feel about music reaching an audience using this medium?

Joe: Actually, we had 2 songs in Midnight Meat Train, ‘Song for April’ and ‘Catching Up to You’. The other 2 songs, ‘Silhouette’ from Henry Poole is Here and ‘You Alone’ from Feast of Love, were exclusive to the soundtracks and never appeared in the movies. We tried really hard to get ‘Silhouette’ in Henry Poole, but being pushed for time because the Sundance Film Festival was coming up, the director Mark Pellington decided to stick with his a-list musician, in this case we were up against Bob Dylan. There’s always going to be politics and other hoopla involved as well.

When we started, getting music in movies was our main goal. Some of our favorite movies have some of our favorite music. Take for instance The Truman Show. In a scene where Truman is sleeping, Philip Glass scored the perfect song. That’s what we want. We think there’s a cosmic connection that people feel between artist and audience when hearing a piece of music in a particular scene of a film. We’re still waiting on a movie that spotlights more of our music. We think it’s the best way to reach out to people, especially for our style of music.

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— , May 8, 2009    2 Comments

Dead Mellotron

Dead Mellotron hails from Monroe, Louisiana and is made up of one member, simply known as Frazier on the band’s MySpace page. He has made his debut EP, Ghost Light Constellation, available for free download in its entirety on the band’s website.

The sound of the album certainly lives up to the title. The sweeping distortion and spaced out drumbeats take the listener deep into infinity to watch a star being born or die. It’s very beautiful and very hopeful. There are a lot of bass explosions and distorted guitars throughout the album, so it definitely feels like a rock ‘n’ roll show, but the keyboards, enormous reverb, and unrushed tempo are a reminder that everything is happening outside the earth’s atmosphere. The EP achieves cohesiveness, which becomes clearer with each listen. Each song is different in its arrangements but what holds them together is their theme: that one must keep exploring at all costs.

Dead Mellotron has released a very impressive debut. Although the tracks are arranged otherwise, I suggest listening to the album in the following order to reap greater rewards when the climax ‘Dress Rehearsal’ is reached: Untitled, Saltwater (Beach House Cover), Nothing I Ever Imagined, I Woke Up, I Hate the Way Things Are, Heart Flutter, Ghost Light Constellation, Dress Rehearsal.

Dead Mellotron – Dress Rehearsal
Dead Mellotron – I Woke Up
Dead Mellotron – I Hate the Way Things Are

Excerpt from Dead Mellotron Interview

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— , April 3, 2009    2 Comments

The Radio Dept. have been active since 1995 and in that time have released two albums, countless EPs, gone through numerous lineup changes and experienced a roller coaster of hype due to their inclusion on the soundtrack of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Their new found fame was not met with outrageous antics or even touring, but with a prolific amount of recordings and one of the most buzzed about albums of 2009, the upcoming Clinging to a Scheme. I got a rare interview with the band and we spoke about their influences, production practices, and their political views which are coming into the lyrical forefront.

The Radio Dept. – Freddie and the Trojan Horse
The Radio Dept. – Bus
The Radio Dept. – The Worst Taste in Music

Louis: The band has been getting international attention ever since three of your songs were included on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack. The relationship between your songs and film seemed quite fitting. A nod to the past, in your case 80’s pop electro, and bright-eyed melancholy, in the form of lyrics, that is apart of every adolescent’s life. Tell me who are your major influences and describe to me how they manifest in your songwriting.

Johan Duncanson: There’s an unofficial webpage on the band, theradiodept.com, where whoever runs it has published a list of bands under the headline “influences”. This list is from a Radio Dept. interview or something, it’s four or five years old and consists of a number of bands and artists we were into then. Some of them we still love but I have a hard time accepting the way of approaching influences as something static. Something that’s there from the start and something that doesn’t change. Influences should come and go, leave room for new influences and new ways of looking at stuff you thought you knew or loved or hated. And not in a go-with-the-flow kind of way, but ideally in the opposite direction. Of course there are bands we keep returning to like Stereolab, Pet Shop Boys, Sonic Youth, the KLF, the Velvet Underground and so on because they’re conceptual, pretentious and arty. The best high quality inspiration however comes from unexpected sources, music you stumble upon, a record someone plays you at a party or from films or art. When you least expect it that’s when it’ll come to you. I can’t just put on an album like Daydream Nation, a record I almost know by heart, and expect to be inspired to write and record something. I don’t even wish it was that easy

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— , March 22, 2009    13 Comments