Cover Story: Whitney

As the group that redefined the breakup album with their 2019 record Forever Turned Around, Whitney is a group of sentimentality. Memories and past relationships are cherished pieces of treasure that Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek hold dear. Never to be looked at with a veil of bitterness, but to marvel in glee with every little element. From original songs to a reimagined cover album, their three-album discography explores these past lives that they hold dear.

Even their band name stems from poetic beginnings. The name Whitney is a fictitious character that serves as the band’s muse. He’s a representation of the quintessential tortured artist - a heavy drinker and a reclusive songwriter.

After their former band Smith Westerns broke up in 2014, the duo broke off on their own to form Whitney. With Kakacek on guitar and Ehrlich on drums, the two musicians wanted to try something different. Their sound ranges from a wide variety of genres - folk, country, and a little bit of Chicago soul. Whitney released their debut album Light Upon the Lake in 2016 to a captivating audience that have even reached out to them personally to share their appreciation for the music. 

“We’ve said this before in interviews, but we always get really psyched when someone sends us Facebook messages saying, ‘Hey, your song has helped me get over a breakup’ or the death of a family member or ‘It just made my day better,’” the group said in an interview with Vice. “That makes us the happiest and that also translates over to playing live shows when you can tell that someone is being massively affected by one of your songs.”

Though their latest album Candid is a cover album, the sentiment behind each song is anything but typical. This collection is a scrapbook of deeply personal songs that have inspired and morphed who they are as musicians today. The tracks covering “Bank Head” by Kelela and “High On A Rocky Ledge” by Moondog nearly sound like originals, but when you listen to the omnipresent song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver, it’ll take you back to the exact moment you heard it first.

You can listen to their 2020 album Candid on Spotify and Apple Music.


- Written by Mallika Pal