WRUV Sits Down with Whitney
WRUV had the chance to speak with Max Kakacek , the guitarist, and Julien Ehrlich, the drummer and singer, of Whitney before their recent show at ArtsRiot. We discussed the Canadian Border Patrol, the band’s favorite Vermont exports, and what they’re listening to now.
By: Eli Coretti
Photos by: Chris Stone
E: Have you ever been to Burlington before?
Max: No, I’ve driven through or something. The only place I’ve really been to in Vermont is when I played show with Smith Westerns at Bennington College. But Vermont is beautiful. We took the ferry across Lake Champlain today.
E: From New York?
M: It was awesome.
E: You’re going to Montreal after this?
J: Yeah, how far away is that?
E: Like an hour and a half.
J: That’s it?
M: Do you cross the border a lot?
E: Yeah, I have a few times.
M: How is [the border patrol]? Sometimes there are good or bad ones.
E: It’s hit or miss honestly.
M: There is one at Port Huron that’s the worst one every time I’ve done it.
E: Too much time?
M: Yeah, it’s more if you’re in a band, they just search through the van.
J: Do you think we should stash, like, a vape pen that we have?
E: You’re probably fine. I don’t really know. Take the cartridge out, maybe keep it in your shoe.
J: Mm the shoe.
M: Yeah, I think we should get rid of it.
E: Probably a good idea. I’ve never been searched, but…
M: Yeah, I’ve had dogs brought out toward the van.
E: I guess you’ve just got that reputation as musicians, so they’ve got to search you.
J: Yeah, “party boys”.
E: Back to Vermont, what’s your favorite export of our state? You’ve never been here before but we’ve got a few things here – maple syrup, Ben and Jerry’s, cheddar cheese, and Bernie Sanders merchandise.
M&J: Cheddar cheese.
J: I haven’t really had pancakes or waffles in like 8 or 9 years, like a legitimate big-ass waffle for breakfast.
M: Speaking of which, is there a good diner in Burlington for us to go to tomorrow morning?
E: For tomorrow, there’s Henry’s Diner.
J: Someone told me to go to ESox.
E: It’s a nice little bar.
M: Can we watch the game there? We’ve got a little fantasy football thing going on.
E: Yeah. So, you two have been together as Whitney for about two years or so now. What’s it been like as you’ve grown as a band?
J: You mean like add members or gotten more acclaim?
E: Well, you’ve done both, so what has that evolution been like?
M: Pretty organic. The way things have been going, we’ve touring for so long and we’ve gotten to see us build up. Last year, we were playing CMJ. Playing six shows, one of them we played to like two people. Then we’d drive back to, like Cleveland, and play to one or two people. To see it build from that small to something like tonight that seems like it will do pretty well..
J: I’ve gotten this question a bunch in interviews, like “You’re famous now! How is it?” and I’m just like, “Shut up.” Not that you’re saying that at all, but some people word that question that way, but we’re just honestly very, very low key as human beings. We’re more so just grateful to be doing like the only thing we really know how to do. Play music, make music, write music, yeah.
E: To dive into the writing, you wrote this in the dead of winter and now this album is being acclaimed as the “Album of the Summer”, and we feel at the station that it’s transitioning pretty well into the fall, too. What do you feel is happening in the spring? Do you like the spring, or do you just ignore it?
J: I like writing in the spring. A lot of the writing was done in the spring, we knocked out like 3 or 4 straight songs in the spring. I fuck with the spring, of course.
E: I think it depends on what part of the spring.
M: Yeah, beginning of spring is the worst.
J: I’m an allergy guy, so I got to start taking Claritin and stuff in the weeks before spring because then it builds up in your system.
E: Just putting it out there, but Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature today. Are you excited for him? Do you like Bob Dylan?
M: Our bassist doesn’t like him.
J: Yeah, not a fan.
J: Gotta ask him yourself.
M: You should seriously ask him.
E: Do you think he deserves this honor?
J: Yeah, I just read something debating whether or not his lyrics should be taken as literature, but like who gives a shit. That guy literally has changed music forever and he’s changed lyrics forever. He totally deserves it, he can do whatever he wants. He can be the Pope.
E: When you went into this album, Light Upon The Lake, was there a story behind it?
J: For me, I think I can probably speak on behalf of both of us. It’s more so a time capsule of that crazy year of our lives where Smith Westerns broke up, we both kinda got dumped, and yeah it’s just basically something that we can look back on and show our kids, like I was going through some really rough stuff but out of it we kind of grew a flower. But yeah, some of the lyrics are more story-based or cinematic.
E: Any hidden influences in the album that we might not be able to hear? What have you been listening to while you’ve been driving around? You just had a 5-hour drive up here, what were you playing?
M: A lot of us didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, so a lot of us were passed out.
J: I listened to “Pillow Talk” by Zayn. I watched that video with Gigi, have you seen that?
J: Really?! It was like number one on Billboard’s single charts. It’s a really hot video. I just totally forgot that it was like a massive hit last year, and I saw Zayn’s face so I listened to the song twice. Weyes Blood, she just put out a song called “Generation Why” which is one of my favorite songs recently, so I listened to that a couple of times.
M: Have you listened to Sam Evian?
E: I just watched one of his videos before coming over here.
M: He’s really good. He has a song called “Cherry Tree”, you should check it out.
E: Well, that’s all I’ve got. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.
J: Are you sticking around for the show later?
E: Going to go eat dinner, maybe make some squash with maple syrup or anything.
M: That sounds nice. Can we come?
J: With maple syrup, I’ve never had that.
E: I’ve actually got some in the car, if you want to try it.
M: Yeah, we’ll come try some.
November 2nd, 2016