Local Music

Published on May 2nd, 2016 | by Brittain Thompson


Whitney Brings Slacker Pop to Proud Larrys’

Whitney formed from the ashes of Smith Westerns, a glam-garage group that received notable success in the indie market. Founders Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, without a band to play in, started recording demos on an old tape deck.

“The first song we recorded super weird on this weird tape machine that I had,” said Kakacek. “We were trying to learn our way around this tape machine as we were writing.”

The early tracks that would later become Whitney were far from their current form. They carried much less pop tendencies than they do now.

“The first demos sound completely different than the current versions, but I think we both knew the songs were good enough to push forward in production,” said Kakacek. “We showed them to people and they were probably like, ‘what the f**k are you trying to make?’ but I think Julien and I both knew what they could become later on.”

What they would quickly become are critically praised songs that have garnered the attention of most major media outlets within a surprisingly short span of time.

“It all began about spring of 2014 actually,” said Kakacek. “We spent about a year writing the album and then started touring.”

For Whitney, the writing process has always been about putting out music that they would want to hear.

“It’s not like we were trying to craft an album that was going to explode,” said Kakacek. “We’re making the songs that are stuck in our head and we needed to put them down on tape…the songs we want to listen to over and over again.”

The band’s current sound combines warm, uplifting instrumental arrangements with despondent, downtrodden lyrics.

“It was definitely a cognitive decision,” said Kakacek. “Like, when we’re sad we’re aren’t just sad. There’s some hope in it.”

With the direction of their sound in place, Ehrlich and Kakacek then began recruiting friends to fill out the lineup. Their most recent addition is Oxford-resident Print Chouteau.

“I made a YouTube cover and sent it to bands,” jokes Chouteau. “Actually, I met Julien when he was on tour with [Unknown Mortal Orchestra] and we did some touring together then I met Max around the same time…I kept in touch and would stay with them when I went up to Chicago.”

While talking about how they knew Chouteau, Kakacek recalled that he actually sent him the, “first ever, actual Whitney demos a long time ago.”

While on their way to SXSW, the band made a stop at Cat’s Purring Dude Ranch here in Oxford to film visuals for their song “Golden Days” that you can now find online.

“We hit up Deg [Ronillo] and he helped us set up a video,” said Chouteau. “We were kind of really pressed for time, but we have a lot of friends there so we set up kind of a last minute house party. We also just ran around Oxford shooting footage.”

Going forward Whitney plans to continue touring with a full schedule.

“This summer we’re doing the festival run,” said Kakacek. “Then we’re doing some date in the UK…really, [we’ll] just keep touring.”

Whitney will be playing Proud Larrys’ on May 14 with local band Swear Tapes. Whitney is also still heavily campaigning for placement at next year’s Stagecoach Festival. The Local Voice Ligature

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About the Author

Brittain was an associate editor of The Local Voice from 2015-2018, ex-journalism student, and bad noise maker from the highway town of Brandon, Mississippi.

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