When Georgia-born Ernest Greene released his breakout EP, Life of Leisure, as Washed Out in 2009, he quickly became one of the forefathers of the blissed-out, sample-heavy genre known as chillwave. And while his new visual album, Mister Mellow, certainly shares some of the hazy hallmarks of his earlier work, it’s clear that Greene is starting to feel the weight of growing older. He describes how, during the writing process, he felt a bit suffocated by “adult responsibilities” for the first time in his life, in particular the pressures of becoming a new dad. In the end, he found that “working through the album, for me, [was] a way to figure out my own way of dealing with it.”
Much of the album’s lyrical content, though sometimes hard to make out, details the mundanity of the routines that make up one’s day-to-day. Greene tempers these everyday blues with moments of escapism: He goes for walks, tries to clear his head, and daydreams. So, while “Down and Out” begins with Greene bemoaning the monotony of it all, he concludes that music is somewhat of an antidote to this boredom, and “Music plays a big part in keeping me happy or/Keeping me just/From not flipping out/And keeping me sane.”
Mister Mellow appropriately sounds like music that’s meant to induce a state of calm, which is increasingly hard to come by these days. And the visual album that Greene has put together similarly allows us to at least temporarily forget our worries and become fully ensconced in a handcrafted world of seamlessly flowing psychedelia, ranging from collages of ’80s magazine cut-outs roller-skating along a beach boardwalk to a stop-motion animation of a woman swaying through a field of stars.
It was only when Greene started working on the songs of Mister Yellow a few years back that he became interested in experimental animation, and he started to amass “these weird, avant-garde [videos] . . . some dating back to the ’20s and ’30s, some . . . [from] the ’60s and ’70s, like psychedelia.” Most of the animation that he was enamored with had “this real handmade quality about it,” almost like a collage, and he eventually started to see similarities between this labor intensive, patchwork process and his sampling technique, in which he layers and stacks disparate source material on top of one another.
About halfway through the songwriting process, it dawned on him that if he was so inspired by this type of animation, it would only make sense for the album to have a visual component as well. Each song is accompanied by a distinct, animated clip directed by a different visual artist whom?Greene has chosen himself. Below, Greene details some of the standout clips from the new project (including his directorial debut!).