Next Wave: Meet Whitney, the Next Rockstar Group

We chatted with rising rock group Whitney on everything from their upcoming tour to the production of their latest album.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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If you haven’t heard about Whitney before, it's time to start paying attention. The six-man band—seven when you include their sound guy—was started by Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, who were previously members of the Smith Westerns. What can you expect from a band that starts after the conclusion of another band? More amazing music, of course, which they have demonstrated this with their lead single “No Matter Where You Go.” 

We caught up with the band and discussed their forthcoming album, heading out on tour, and found out their dream performance destination.

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When did you guys start making music?
Max Kakacek:
We all played music our whole lives but started making music in high school.

Will Miller: My cousin was really into composing in seventh grade, and he turned me onto it. I tried my hand, but I was really bad at it at first.

MK: Yeah same, I started making weird banjo music. I used to play the banjo. Then I found better music to listen to.

Julien Ehrlich: My first band ever—you know Unknown Mortal Orchestra? I joined that band later, but the bassist is a producer, and he recorded my first band ever when I was 10, and he was 22. He did it as a favor. We were terrible. It was a band of 10 year olds, but he recorded us because it was my birthday.

What’s everyone’s role in the live band?
JE: I sing lead vocals and play drums, and then Max plays guitar, Will plays trumpet, Josiah plays bass, Malcolm plays keys, and Print, he’s our new member ’cause the last dude just quit, he plays rhythm guitar.

You guys are living in Chicago now?
JE: Yeah, but we’re all about to lose our apartments because we’re gonna go on tour for four months straight, or maybe longer.

When you go out on the road is it the three of you in the van, bus, or what?
JE: Oh no, we have a seven man crew. Six people in the van, and then our sound guy is kind of our seventh member. 

What kind of music do you listen to in the van? Does everyone takes their turn and puts on some stuff?
 We actually have a strike system.

JE: If an album gets three strikes it’s shut off, it doesn’t matter when. It’s pretty hard to make it through an album with all hits. But it’s happened a couple times, actually Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift made it all the way through?
MK: She didn’t to me, but I got outvoted.

WM: The Jeremih album, we were bumping that a lot. 

How long did you guys work on this new record?
MK: About a year. Me and Jules were making songs for like six months or so before we got a band together. Then once the band came together, it was another six months before we recorded.

JE: All in all when it comes out it’ll be like two years. By the time it’s actually dropped.

So, the two of you put together the core ideas and then brought them to everyone else to flesh them out from there?
MK: It really depended on the songs. Sometimes there were songs where we already had ideas. And there were songs where more people contributed. It was on a song-by-song basis. I wouldn’t say there was a set formula. The closest thing to a set formula I guess is Jules does the vocal melodies and I do the chords of the song. That’s kind of it.

Was it tough to get a mix to translate to what you were hearing in your mind? 
MK: It’s always hard to get something that you’re hearing in your head absolutely perfect. So there’s always some give and take there with the person that you’re working with it on. But, luckily we got to work with some pretty cool people. We ended up working with the bassist of UMO for most of it.

JE: Yeah, we ended up working with the guy that recorded me when I was 10. And he’s amazing to work with. I would say that mixing this album was way chiller than…

MK: —other albums I’ve worked on, for sure. 

Do you record digital or analog?
JE: Analog, it was all to tape.

MK: We recorded with Jonathan Rado from Foxygen at his studio.

And how long have you guys spent prepping for tour?
We were really bored last winter so we practiced our butts off. We’ve already been on three short tours for this record.

MK: Nothing major, just like a week at a time.

Any shout outs?
JE: We make it an obligation in every interview to mention that we want to play at Stage Coach Festival. It’s like the country music version of Coachella. Our agent was like, “There’s no way they’re going to want to see you, they want to see Garth Brooks.” Shout out Stage Coach.

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