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Light Upon The Lake

by Whitney

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about

Whitney make casually melancholic music that combines the wounded drawl of Townes Van Zandt, the rambunctious energy of Jim Ford, the stoned affability of Bobby Charles, the American otherworldliness of The Band, and the slack groove of early Pavement. Their debut, ‘Light Upon the Lake’, is due in June on Secretly Canadian, and it marks the culmination of a short, but incredibly intense, creative period for the band. To say that Whitney is more than the sum of its parts would be a criminal understatement. Formed from the core of guitarist Max Kakacek and singing drummer Julien Ehrlich, the band itself is something bigger, something visionary, something neither of them could have accomplished alone.

Ehrlich had been a member of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but left to play drums for the Smith Westerns, where he met guitarist Kakacek. That group burned brightly but briefly, disbanding in 2014 and leaving its members adrift. Brief solo careers and side-projects abounded, but nothing clicked. Making everything seem all the more fraught: both of them were going through especially painful breakups almost simultaneously, the kind that inspire a million songs, and they emerged emotionally bruised and lonelier than ever.

Whitney was born from a series of laidback early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the harshest winters in Chicago history, after Ehrlich and Kakacek reconnected - first as roommates splitting rent in a small Chicago apartment and later as musical collaborators passing the guitar and the lyrics sheet back and forth. “We approached it as just a fun thing to do. We never wanted to force ourselves to write a song. It just happened very organically. And we were smiling the whole time, even though some of the songs are pretty sad.” The duo wrote frankly about the break-ups they were enduring and the breakdowns they were trying to avoid. Each served as the other’s most brutal critic and most sympathetic confessor, a sounding board for the hard truths that were finding their way into new songs like “No Woman” and “Follow,” a eulogy for Ehrlich’s grandfather.

In exorcising their demons they conjured something else, something much more benign—a third presence, another personality in the music, which they gave the name Whitney. They left it singular to emphasize its isolation and loneliness. Says Kakacek, “We were both writing as this one character, and whenever we were stuck, we’d ask, ‘What would Whitney do in this situation?’ We personified the band name into this person, and that helped a lot. We wrote the record as though one person were playing everything. We purposefully didn’t add a lot of parts and didn’t bother making everything perfect, because the character we had in mind wouldn’t do that.”

In those imperfections lies the music’s humanity. Whilst they demoed and toured the new songs, they became more aware of the perfect imperfections of the songs, and needing to strike the right balance, they eventually made the trek out to California, where they recorded with Foxygen frontman and longtime friend, Jonathan Rado. They slept in tents in Rado’s backyard, ate the same breakfast every morning at the same diner in the remote, desolate and completely un-rock n roll San Fernando Valley, whilst they dreamt of Laurel Canyon, or maybe The Band’s hideout in Malibu, or Neil Young’s ranch in Topanga Canyon.

The analog recording methods, the same as used by their forebearers, allowed them to concentrate on the songs themselves and create moments that would be powerful and unrepeatable. “Tape forces you to get a take down,” says Kakacek. “We didn’t have enough tracks to record ten takes of a guitar part and choose the best one later. Whatever we put down is all we had. That really makes you as a musician focus on the performance.” The sessions were loose, with room for improvisation and new ideas, as the band expanded from that central duo into a dynamic sextet (septet if you count their trusty soundman). And that’s what you hear – Whitney is the sound of that songwriting duo expanding their group and delivering the sound of a band at their freest, their loosest, their giddiest.

Classic and modern at the same time, they revel in concrete details, evocative turns of phrase, and thorny emotions that don’t have exact names. These ten songs on 'Light Upon the Lake' sound like they could have been written at any time in the last fifty years. Ehrlich and Kakacek emerge as imaginative and insightful songwriting partners, impressive in their scope and restraint as they mold classic rock lyricism into new and personal shapes without sound revivalist or retro. “I’m searching for those golden days.” sings Ehrlich, with a subtle ripple of something that sounds like hope, on the track “Golden Days”. It’s a song that defines Whitney as a band. “There’s a lot of true feeling behind these songs,” says Ehrlich. “We wanted them to have a part of our personalities in them. We wanted the songs to have soul.”

credits

released June 3, 2016

Whitney is:

Julien Ehrlich - vocals, percussion
Mcmillen Kakacek - guitar
Josiah Marshall - bass
Malcolm Brown - keys, backup vocals
William Miller - horns

"No Woman"
Macie Stewart - strings

"The Falls"
Macie Stewart - strings

"Golden Days"
Macie Stewart - strings
Jesse Ward - choir vocals
Emily Sher - choir vocals
Ruby Oram - choir vocals
Nora Chin - choir vocals
Elyse Kakacek - choir vocals
John Kakacek - choir vocals
Jasmine Mendoza - choir vocals
Timmothy ‘2 sox’ Parker - choir vocals
Nicole Mizgalski - choir vocals

"Light Upon the Lake"
Macie Stewart - strings

"No Matter Where We Go"
Jon Rado - keys

"On My Own"
Macie Stewart - strings

"Red Moon"
Jon Rado - piano

"Polly"
Macie Stewart - strings
Jesse Ward - choir vocals
Emily Sher - choir vocals
Ruby Oram - choir vocals
Nora Chin - choir vocals
Elyse Kakacek - choir vocals
John Kakacek - choir vocals
Jasmine Mendoza - choir vocals
Timmothy ‘2 sox’ Parker - choir vocals
Nicole Mizgalski - choir vocals

"Follow"
Myra Hinrichs - strings
Jesse Ward - choir vocals
Emily Sher - choir vocals
Ruby Oram - choir vocals
Nora Chin - choir vocals
Elyse Kakacek - choir vocals
John Kakacek - choir vocals
Jasmine Mendoza - choir vocals
Timmothy ‘2 sox’ Parker - choir vocals
Nicole Mizgalski - choir vocals

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about

Whitney Chicago, Illinois

Whitney was born from a series of laidback early-morning songwriting sessions during one of the harshest winters in Chicago history, after Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek (former members of Smith Westerns) reconnected - first as roommates splitting rent in a small Chicago apartment and later as musical collaborators passing the guitar and the lyrics sheet back and forth. ... more

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Track Name: No Woman
I left drinking on the city train
To spend some time on the road
Then one morning I woke up in LA
Caught my breath on the coast
I’ve been going through a change
I might never be sure
I’m just walking in a haze
I’m not ready to turn

No woman

Midnight driving through the bay
Going back on the road
Coming up and I wish I could stay
I’ve been sleeping alone
I’ve been going through a change
I might never be sure
I’m just walking in a haze
I’m not ready to turn

No woman

I left drinking on the city train 
To spend some time on the road
Track Name: The Falls
Till the falls ran dry I was lost inside morning light
I took too much to slow down 
These days and nights I can’t be found
These days and nights I can’t be found

Cause now I’m not too sure I know
Which way the rising river flows
On the night I lose control
Oh dear, don’t you let me go

Til the falls ran dry I was up all night chasing time
In the morning it turns around 
I hope I’m climbing when I’m down
I hope I’m climbing when I’m down

Cause now I’m not too sure I know
Which way the rising river flows
On the night I lose control
Oh dear, don’t you let me go
Track Name: Golden Days
Oh don’t you save me from hangin’ on
I tell myself what we had is gone
And after all that I put ya through
I get knocked out like I never knew

It kept me real til’ I’m moving on
But you can’t leave feeling like you did no wrong
It’s a shame I can’t get it together now
It’s a shame we can’t get it together now

Cause I’m aching but
I fell right in when you gave me up
Those golden days snuck away from us
Lately I’ve been close but I’m up to trouble
Those golden days keep you hanging on

It kept me real til I’m movin on
But ya can’t leave feeling like you did no wrong
It’s a shame I can’t get it together now
It’s a shame we can’t get it together now
Cause I’m searching for those golden days

Na na na na na na
Track Name: Dave’s Song
I know you can’t help me now
And sometimes people change
I’ve been sick since you left town
We’ve gotta find a way to feel the same

I know it’s hard to give up when I don’t want to be saved
Take me in your heart again
And I know how to keep you hung up but I won’t do it again
Oh I know I wish you were my friend

I want you to know I think you’re right
Though there’s so much I’ve been going through
I’m still the boy you left for nights
And I don’t wanna know what I should do

I know it’s hard to give up when I don’t want to be saved
Take me in your heart again
And I know how to keep you hung up but I won’t do it again
Don’t you go and leave me here my friend

Whoo

I know it’s hard to give up when I don’t want to be saved
Take me in your heart again
And I know how to keep you hung up but I won’t do it again
Oh I know I wish you were my friend
Track Name: Light Upon the Lake
Fire across the planes
Light upon the lake
Lonely haze of dawn
When old days are gone

Will life get ahead of me?

All these times will change
I can’t turn away
Planes are heading home
When old friends are gone

Will life get ahead of me?
Track Name: No Matter Where We Go
We’ll make a living darlin’, down the road
Cause I’ve got you holding on to see where it goes
So don’t you feel lonely I want you to know

I can take you out
I wanna drive around
With you with the windows down
And we can run all night

When I was walking around I couldn’t see you alone
I bought a trash heap two-seat what did we know
So don’t you feel lonely no matter where we go

I wanna take you out
I wanna drive around
With you with the windows down
And we can run all night

Hey mama, don’t slow down

I wanna take you out
I wanna drive around
With you with the windows down
And we can run all night
Track Name: On My Own
We won’t be surprised again
Darlin’ we have no end I know
I think we should try again
Oh but I want you in my arms

I can’t sleep alone when you’re on my mind
I’m movin’ slowly when I’m on my own
Hurts to see ya go when I know that you’re high again

Pushin’ my final pin
I can’t seem to kick it all
Just forcing the day to end
And I know it, we know it

Baby I can’t sleep alone when you’re on my mind
I’m movin’ slowly when I’m on my own
Hurts to see ya go but I won’t say goodbye again
Track Name: Red Moon
Instrumental
Track Name: Polly
And I know in the past we wanted separate roles
Then I chose ya
Yeah
And I’ve seen the kind of dirt that took my baby from me
I never told ya
Anytime I feel my week is nearly over
I lay awake in all kinds of darkness Polly

Oh no no no

If only we were young
You’d make me feel hung up

And I know in the past you left me with no heart
How cheap were the nights you used to keep me warm?

Girl no no no

If only we were young
You’d make me feel warm
Track Name: Follow
I know I’ll hear the call
Anytime
On a night when the moon is low
On the pines

I pray your troubled mind remembers
When it’s coming to an end
At least the rain won’t come again

Still as I ride along
Through the night
You’re holding on as the ones you know
Stand by

But if your troubled mind remembers
When it’s coming to an end
It’s like you’re runnin’ home again

And I’ll follow you