Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Whitney's “Light Upon the Lake” is one of 2016's top albums


“We were scrolling through a list of names on our phone and we knew that there wasn’t a band called Whitney yet,” said Julien Ehrlich, drummer and singer for the band. “It worked.”

Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, guitarist for Whitney, were members of the Smith Westerns, an alternative rock band, until the band’s disbanding in 2014. Ehrlich and Kakacek got an apartment in Chicago following break-ups for both musicians. They began writing music in their apartment, a songwriting haven for the duo.

“It was really fun because we were starting completely fresh,” Ehrlich said. “We knew that we wanted to work really hard and make a really good album.”

The apartment became the creative space for the band as they experimented with chord progressions, melodies and lyrics until they found an interesting sound that reflects the band’s dedication to creating significant music.

“We were listening to this pretty crazy jam rock band and liked the way their recording sounds, super detuned and kind of screwed up,” Ehrlich said. “The sound just kind of grew out of that, like my voice sounds kind of weird too, so maybe that kind of adds to it.”

The seven band members bring their own musical strengths to create the sound desired. This includes Ehrlich, Kakacek, bassist Josiah Marshall, Will Miller on trumpet, keyboardist Malcolm Brown, rhythm guitarist Print Chouteau and sound guy Charles Glanders.

“We’re all just really good friends really,” Ehrlich said. “We got lucky in that all of our friends were really talented at the perfect instruments to form the band we wanted. We didn’t have to hire anybody outside of our friend group. I think that’s important to be friends with who you’re working with.”

The band has a unified sound, clearly produced through attention to details. Each track has an interesting texture full of layers, and each listen reveals a new layer; maybe Marshall’s horn section blares in a little stronger or the Marshall’s bass playing stands out more.

During songwriting, Kakacek and Ehrlich searched to find the relationship between the competing aspects of each track to create the seamless fusion found on the album.

“The music and the way that the vocal melody interacts with the bass chord progression is the most important part and then lyrics come after that,” Ehrlich said. “The melody has to be the true, perfect melody that matches with the chord progression. So chord progression comes first and then I’ll find the true melody for it and then lyrics come after that. Arrangement comes along as I’m figuring out the lyrics.”

The band’s writing process is similar to a math equation – searching for a result with different variables. Whitney has the interesting ability of being able to find exceptional balance for each track. Ehrlich and Kakacek added Miller on trumpet to add to the band’s texture.

Whitney’s first album, “Light Upon the Lake,” was released in June 2016 and was met with critical acclaim. The album transports its listener. It is somber, but exultant in the same moment.

Among the band’s new fan base sits one very familiar face, Sir Elton John. “Light Upon the Lake” is one of John’s favorite albums of 2016, and John interviewed Ehrlich in October of last year.

“It was cool,” Ehrlich said. “I was really nervous. I drank a couple shots of whiskey. It was real chill, I didn’t have to do 
much work.”

Since the release of the album, Whitney has been touring the United States and just recently returned from Australia. The band has been touring non-stop since the album’s release.

“It’s been good overall,” Ehrlich said. “We’ve worked so hard. Touring has its ups and downs. It’s some really intense moments, sometimes you lose control of yourself and get lost in different bad things that you have easy access to, but everything is good. We’ve really been diving in and working really hard on the 
next project.”

One of the band’s next projects is Our First 100 Days. Secretly Group, Whitney’s label, has created an anti-Trump music subscription service. The project began on inauguration day with a new track being released every day for Trump’s first 100 days. The proceeds are being donated to organizations that have been threatened by Trump’s proposed policies. Whitney will release a track in support of the subscription service.

Whitney has begun the process of writing new music, more easily done in the comfort of Ehrlich and Kacakek’s Chicago apartment. The band will perform at Shaky Knees music festival in Atlanta in May.

“I love Atlanta,” Ehrlich said. “I think I’ve been to Alabama, but I don’t remember.”

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