GEN F: Washed Out

Photographer Michael Schmelling
August 20, 2011

Ernest Greene is 26 years old and a little lost. Since graduating from college in Columbia, South Carolina, he’s moved back to his hometown, gotten engaged to his longtime girlfriend and, despite his best intentions, proceeded to not do much else at all. “I only planned on being here for a couple weeks,” he says, his calm Southern drawl betraying obvious anxiety. “I planned on having a job, having some kind of stability. Then from week to week this nervous feeling got worse and worse.” To unwind from his days of vaguely terrifying relaxation, Greene started recording blissfully sad songs as Washed Out, made in the quiet after his parents went to sleep. He put the songs on his MySpace and, surprisingly, a lot of people noticed. So now, in addition to getting married and searching for a new house, Greene might have stumbled upon an actual career and an answer to his problems.

“Since the music has taken off, it’s made me feel a little bit more certain and stable,” Greene says, an odd revelation considering his parents’ house is in the middle of an idyllic peach grove, and his days, which he photoblogs with plodding regularity, are filled with trips to swimming holes and sun-streaked evenings with friends. “Growing up I never really thought twice about [living here],” Greene says. “But moving back and having all this free time kind of opened my eyes and I just appreciated everything.” Washed Out songs are as contradictory as the awesome purgatory Greene lives in—they’re strained but placid, like what he’s singing about is so heavy he’d rather just brush up against it than leave a firm impression.

Greene isn’t alone in his cautious engagement, either. Years ago he met Chaz Bundick, better known as Toro y Moi, in Columbia, South Carolina. The two often collaborated on music as the presciently named Life Partners, but never released much of it. If not for the fact that they both documented their dreamlike lives on the internet and both made warmly melancholic songs, you’d think it was just some weird coincidence, two dudes from the same area trying to find their places in the modern world. Instead it seems perfect—a readymade scene aching for discovery. Toro y Moi is currently signed to Carpark records and has plans to release two albums at once, while Greene is still weighing his options carefully, balancing what he wants against what is right for his new life. He could be hugely popular tomorrow, or just another husband content to play songs while his family watches the peach trees blossom.

Stream: Washed Out, Life Of Leisure

GEN F: Washed Out