• About A Band: Whitney

    When Julien Ehrlich was 10 years old, he was in a band called Corruption. He was living in Portland, Oregon, where his father owned a recording studio. In Portland, it’s not weird for a 10-year-old to take his band called Corruption into his dad’s studio to turn demos into fully fledged recordings, so that’s what he did. His friend Jake Portrait, who worked for Julien’s dad as a producer and engineer, helped work on these songs. 

    Decades later, these songs are long gone. In fact, Julien can’t even fully confirm or deny whether or not that was the band’s name back then, but he thinks he remembers it being for a period of time. Now, he’s in a band called Whitney with his longtime collaborator, Max Kakacek. Julien sings and plays drums—an instrument he’s been honing in on since he was 2 years-old when his dad taught him to play. His soft falsetto voice is exciting to hear because up until now, he's been behind the drums and behind the drums only, first in Jake’s band, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and then in Smith Westerns.

    Max and Julien were part of Smith Westerns makeup for the better part of their adult lives. All of the band members, including frontman Cullen Omori, were teenagers when the band started. The Whitney seed was laid after Smith Westerns parted ways in 2014, and this summer, the band is set to release their first record, filled with sleek horn exclamations, noodly guitar riffs and warm vocals.

    “We are always in search of the most simple, beautiful and heartfelt melodies,” Max says of the songwriting behind the album. “We try to create a landscape where you can get lost in the music, think about darker times in your life while remaining hopeful for the future.” And, he adds, “we just want to pass on good vibes and play shows.” 

    Read our interview with Whitney below and, if you’ll be in Texas this week, check out their set at UO Live in Austin on Thursday, March 17th. 
    Photos by Dominique Goncalves
    Max, you were a primary songwriter in Smith Westerns. Do you and Julien now share that responsibility?
    Max Kakacek: Julien and I definitely share the writing responsibilities for Whitney. We both have been playing and listening to music from a composition standpoint for a pretty long time, so we work really well when refining and arranging a song. One thing I love about this project is that there isn’t really a formula to the writing, necessarily.

    What do you think is the most interesting thing about recording straight to tape? 
    M: Apart from the well-known aspects of tape—the warmth, hiss, and general good vibes—I think that we both wanted to use it because it pushed us as arrangers. The limitation is one of the reasons the record sounds the way it does. Also, I love to play around with the vari speed function on tape machines and slow down or speed up songs after they have been recorded.

    Julien, isn’t it difficult to drum and sing at the same time?
    Julien Ehrlich: My dad taught me drums when I was 2-years-old, so by now it's completely second nature to me. Adding lead singing to the equation wasn't all that hard either. Becoming an entertaining frontman was the hard part. After like 40 plus Whitney shows I'd say I'm doing a pretty good job at it, though!

    You based your band name on a fictional lonely songwriter who drinks a lot named Whitney. How did he help you write these songs?
    M: The fictional character [of Whitney] was more of a tool for Julien and me to escape our own heads and listen to the song from a different perspective. I think it forced us to check our indulgence and attempt to create beautiful landscapes while not overcrowding the music.
    Do you think the Internet is stifling for a songwriter—or creative person in general?
    J: It's as stifling as you allow it to be. We don't take it very seriously.

    Speaking of drinking, what was your first celebratory drink after finishing this record? 
    J: I don't really remember. Either a Whiskey Cynar or Whiskey Sour. Something Whiskey-based for me. 
    M: Not really sure. Drinking is for forgetting, right?

    UO Live in Austin