Whitney has undoubtedly made one of 2016’s best and most talked about albums. Sir Elton John has even professed his love for lead singer Julien Ehrlich. Ehrlich and band mate Max Kakacek pulled the remarkable group of Chicago guys together after the break up of their former band, Smith Westerns.
“We were all just friends,” Ehrlich responded when asked how the guys all met. “Max and I wrote all the songs on the first album and halfway through the writing process we were like dang, we could play live soon.” Lucky for them, their friends all happened to be talented musicians as well. “They (friends) all put their little spin on the songs we wrote and when we went to record it their spin was kept in there and it sounds like a cohesive unit.”
As to how the name Whitney came into play, Ehrlich and Kakacek had very different responses. “We decided that we wanted it to be a singular name. We looked up names on Google, and scrolled through them all and Whitney was the best one,” Kakacek said with a shrug. “It’s the name that we would name our love child!” Ehrlich retorted, smirking.
This is the first year the two have played Pitchfork as Whitney, and it could not have been a better fit for the group. “[Blue stage was] the stage we wanted to play when we got booked…we love all the greenery around that stage.” Among the audience were friends and family of the band, who got a special shout out during the show. For the guys, having all of them there was big deal: “It was awesome, it [felt] really good.”
The unique sound of their debut album, Light Upon the Lake, generated an emotional response in fans. Music outlets like NPR have even written about what Whitney sound like to them. “Those are the only ones I read anymore,” Ehrlich said. However, when asked what Whitney sounds like to him, he could not respond. Kakacek was quick to answer, however, comparing the sound to “a cicada crawling out of its first skin.”
In a lot of ways, that’s representative of what this journey has been for the band. With the massive success of their first album, we can hopefully look forward to many more “skins” come.