10 Songs, 32 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Whitney is the folk-rock product of Chicago musicians Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, who played drums and guitar, respectively, in Smith Westerns until the band called it quits in 2014. Whitney’s 2016 debut Light Upon the Lake supplied nostalgia wrapped in warm, soulful arrangements and showcased the band’s seven-member lineup; the follow-up is more closely focused on the dynamic between the two co-founders. “The whole deal with this record is that it has a lot more to do with Max and I, and our relationship,” Ehrlich tells Apple Music. In this track-by-track guide, Ehrlich and Kakacek detail the stories behind each song on Forever Turned Around.

“Giving Up”
Kakacek: “That song was one of the most quickly written songs on the album. We were playing in our old dining room in Chicago on Walton and Western Street, which is, like, the darkest place in the world. There was no natural light. During the day, it felt like nighttime, and we almost lost our minds there. The song is a story about the both of us struggling with being home for six months and trying to continue our relationships that were based on us being gone for the past two years. Me and Julien have been dating the same women for quite a while, and our entire relationship was based on us being on tour. When we got back home, there were instances where it felt like people were giving up on certain parts of the relationship, and that’s where the song came from.”
Ehrlich: “We can’t speak from a woman’s perspective, but it’s what we thought completely summed up the feeling in a relationship. You feel like both parties are potentially giving up. It’s obviously a bit dramatized, because we’re still with the same people, but it’s a song about commitment.”

“Used to Be Lonely”
Ehrlich: “That one started out as a jam at our trumpet player Will [Miller]’s house. We were slightly inebriated, and it happened really spontaneously. We took the basic idea of it to Max’s grandparents’ cabin in Wisconsin and then toiled with it. We drove ourselves crazy with it for a month and then finally came up with the entire song. The main breakthrough point was actually the lyric ‘used to be lonely.’”
Kakacek: “We think it furthers the entire point of the record: You’re looking back in this instance, but almost looking over your shoulder in an anxious or paranoid way. And you feel like ‘Yes, I'm in love right now and I'm happy right now, but I used to be lonely and I know that it can go back to that point.’”

“Before I Know It”
Kakacek: “We were at April Base, Justin Vernon's studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We had a session there for a week with the idea of finishing up the odds and ends of the majority of the album. We brought [guitarist] Ziyad Asrar—he was in the band at first, then he wasn’t in the band, and now he’s back in the band. We recorded it and wrote the lyrics within an hour and a half. We spent the whole drive from Eau Claire to Chicago listening to it. Eau Claire to Chicago is about four and a half to five hours of a drive, and we spent the whole day listening to it. We ended up taking a song off of the album in order to put that song on.”

“Song for Ty”
Ehrlich: “We chose one of our best friends, Tyler, who moved away, as the spirit animal for this song. A lot of times it doesn’t work like that. We’ll think, ‘Are we just going to write this whole song about this person?’ Then we’ll end up veering off course and it’ll end up about something completely different. But it works in this case, and it allowed us to unlock lines like ‘Tell me everything is just beginning/I don’t feel alive, but I’ve been living.’”

“Valleys (My Love)”
Kakacek: “The skeleton of that song was written after we played The Decemberists’ festival in Missoula, Montana. We were driving to Hamilton, Montana, and we drove through this valley called Bitterroot Valley that all of us were freaking out about—we’ve never been to Montana before. For an hour in the van, we were staring out of the windows. Usually, most of the drive can be somewhat dull, but it was exciting and inspiring.”

“Rhododendron”
Ehrlich: “We did the same thing with the last album: Everything that we were writing subject-matter-wise felt really potent to us, almost so potent that both albums needed a break. We wanted to give people a break here.”
Kakacek: “We made it in Cotati, California, but we decided to call it ‘Rhododendron’ because we started writing the entire record in Rhododendron, Oregon.”

“My Life Alone”
Kakacek: “‘My Life Alone’ started as a weird dance song featuring a cowbell. We recorded the original demo of that at April Base again. We had two sessions at April Base: One was a proper recording session, and one was a writing camp for me and Julien. A magical thing that’s been said about April Base is that it’s always buzzing with activity. There’s two rooms there, and there’s always people around recording music, making art, everything. There was this weird time in the middle of the winter where Julien and I were the only people there. We had originally written that song as a weird, bizarre demo that’s more upbeat and a little less forlorn. The song changes key for the chorus, and then goes back to a different key for the verse. We tried to rework that, and it took a while to figure out how to work that idea into what we consider the sound of Whitney.”
Ehrlich: “It’s the right version of the song. It would be so interesting for a fan to actually listen to the demo—to actually get into the headspace that we were in.”

“Day & Night”
Ehrlich: “It’s the one track on the record where we allowed ourselves to talk about disillusionment in a more personal sense—pretty exclusively talking about substance abuse and exhaustion, and trying not to completely allude to tour. I remember Max came up with the original verse idea. It was so poppy in its original form. For our friends and people close to our circle, that’s their favorite song that we’ve ever done because it truly reflects Max and I as people the best. It reflects the deeper conversations that we have in the band and with our greater friend group in Chicago. The language and the lyrics will make so much sense to them.”

“Friend of Mine”
Kakacek: “We had that verse for a year and a half and couldn’t find the right chorus for it. It’s about a friend drifting apart because of addiction, and seeing them in different stages of that. The hard part about it is making the experience and the lyrics universal for someone else to hear and feel relatable to compared to our own specific experiences with this person. It took us a really long time to write that song and figure out how to properly adjust it to not be so obvious. We would come back to it, put it down, and then come back to it again. There’s probably ten versions of that song that exist somewhere on our hard drives.”

“Forever Turned Around”
Ehrlich: “We had an early version of the tracklist, and some of the producers and label people wanted us to think about putting that song first. It would've worked because it's just that kind of song. Lyrically it's the best song, which is probably why we gave it the position of title track and closer. Any way you look at the lyrics, it’s pretty rewarding.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Whitney is the folk-rock product of Chicago musicians Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, who played drums and guitar, respectively, in Smith Westerns until the band called it quits in 2014. Whitney’s 2016 debut Light Upon the Lake supplied nostalgia wrapped in warm, soulful arrangements and showcased the band’s seven-member lineup; the follow-up is more closely focused on the dynamic between the two co-founders. “The whole deal with this record is that it has a lot more to do with Max and I, and our relationship,” Ehrlich tells Apple Music. In this track-by-track guide, Ehrlich and Kakacek detail the stories behind each song on Forever Turned Around.

“Giving Up”
Kakacek: “That song was one of the most quickly written songs on the album. We were playing in our old dining room in Chicago on Walton and Western Street, which is, like, the darkest place in the world. There was no natural light. During the day, it felt like nighttime, and we almost lost our minds there. The song is a story about the both of us struggling with being home for six months and trying to continue our relationships that were based on us being gone for the past two years. Me and Julien have been dating the same women for quite a while, and our entire relationship was based on us being on tour. When we got back home, there were instances where it felt like people were giving up on certain parts of the relationship, and that’s where the song came from.”
Ehrlich: “We can’t speak from a woman’s perspective, but it’s what we thought completely summed up the feeling in a relationship. You feel like both parties are potentially giving up. It’s obviously a bit dramatized, because we’re still with the same people, but it’s a song about commitment.”

“Used to Be Lonely”
Ehrlich: “That one started out as a jam at our trumpet player Will [Miller]’s house. We were slightly inebriated, and it happened really spontaneously. We took the basic idea of it to Max’s grandparents’ cabin in Wisconsin and then toiled with it. We drove ourselves crazy with it for a month and then finally came up with the entire song. The main breakthrough point was actually the lyric ‘used to be lonely.’”
Kakacek: “We think it furthers the entire point of the record: You’re looking back in this instance, but almost looking over your shoulder in an anxious or paranoid way. And you feel like ‘Yes, I'm in love right now and I'm happy right now, but I used to be lonely and I know that it can go back to that point.’”

“Before I Know It”
Kakacek: “We were at April Base, Justin Vernon's studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We had a session there for a week with the idea of finishing up the odds and ends of the majority of the album. We brought [guitarist] Ziyad Asrar—he was in the band at first, then he wasn’t in the band, and now he’s back in the band. We recorded it and wrote the lyrics within an hour and a half. We spent the whole drive from Eau Claire to Chicago listening to it. Eau Claire to Chicago is about four and a half to five hours of a drive, and we spent the whole day listening to it. We ended up taking a song off of the album in order to put that song on.”

“Song for Ty”
Ehrlich: “We chose one of our best friends, Tyler, who moved away, as the spirit animal for this song. A lot of times it doesn’t work like that. We’ll think, ‘Are we just going to write this whole song about this person?’ Then we’ll end up veering off course and it’ll end up about something completely different. But it works in this case, and it allowed us to unlock lines like ‘Tell me everything is just beginning/I don’t feel alive, but I’ve been living.’”

“Valleys (My Love)”
Kakacek: “The skeleton of that song was written after we played The Decemberists’ festival in Missoula, Montana. We were driving to Hamilton, Montana, and we drove through this valley called Bitterroot Valley that all of us were freaking out about—we’ve never been to Montana before. For an hour in the van, we were staring out of the windows. Usually, most of the drive can be somewhat dull, but it was exciting and inspiring.”

“Rhododendron”
Ehrlich: “We did the same thing with the last album: Everything that we were writing subject-matter-wise felt really potent to us, almost so potent that both albums needed a break. We wanted to give people a break here.”
Kakacek: “We made it in Cotati, California, but we decided to call it ‘Rhododendron’ because we started writing the entire record in Rhododendron, Oregon.”

“My Life Alone”
Kakacek: “‘My Life Alone’ started as a weird dance song featuring a cowbell. We recorded the original demo of that at April Base again. We had two sessions at April Base: One was a proper recording session, and one was a writing camp for me and Julien. A magical thing that’s been said about April Base is that it’s always buzzing with activity. There’s two rooms there, and there’s always people around recording music, making art, everything. There was this weird time in the middle of the winter where Julien and I were the only people there. We had originally written that song as a weird, bizarre demo that’s more upbeat and a little less forlorn. The song changes key for the chorus, and then goes back to a different key for the verse. We tried to rework that, and it took a while to figure out how to work that idea into what we consider the sound of Whitney.”
Ehrlich: “It’s the right version of the song. It would be so interesting for a fan to actually listen to the demo—to actually get into the headspace that we were in.”

“Day & Night”
Ehrlich: “It’s the one track on the record where we allowed ourselves to talk about disillusionment in a more personal sense—pretty exclusively talking about substance abuse and exhaustion, and trying not to completely allude to tour. I remember Max came up with the original verse idea. It was so poppy in its original form. For our friends and people close to our circle, that’s their favorite song that we’ve ever done because it truly reflects Max and I as people the best. It reflects the deeper conversations that we have in the band and with our greater friend group in Chicago. The language and the lyrics will make so much sense to them.”

“Friend of Mine”
Kakacek: “We had that verse for a year and a half and couldn’t find the right chorus for it. It’s about a friend drifting apart because of addiction, and seeing them in different stages of that. The hard part about it is making the experience and the lyrics universal for someone else to hear and feel relatable to compared to our own specific experiences with this person. It took us a really long time to write that song and figure out how to properly adjust it to not be so obvious. We would come back to it, put it down, and then come back to it again. There’s probably ten versions of that song that exist somewhere on our hard drives.”

“Forever Turned Around”
Ehrlich: “We had an early version of the tracklist, and some of the producers and label people wanted us to think about putting that song first. It would've worked because it's just that kind of song. Lyrically it's the best song, which is probably why we gave it the position of title track and closer. Any way you look at the lyrics, it’s pretty rewarding.”

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