Editors’ Notes “Sometimes, when you do a cover, you'll obviously think about versions that sound closest to the original,” Whitney guitarist Max Kakacek tells Apple Music. “We were trying to avoid that. We were looking for songs that could stand on their own, chords and melody and lyrics that we could toy with a little bit.” Recorded in early 2020, Candid features the Chicago indie rock duo joining up with their touring band in the studio for the first time, reimagining songs by others that both challenged and inspired—from R&B (Kelela, SWV) to country (John Denver, Blaze Foley) to psychedelic instrumentals (Jack Arel) and avant-folk (Moondog). “The thing was to make sure that there wasn't necessarily a common thread, making sure that we picked a diverse group of songs that all complemented each other,” drummer-vocalist Julien Ehrlich says. “We definitely learned a lot about them. To us, the test of a great song or a great artist or great album is if you can make something simple yet deep.” Here, Kakacek and Ehrlich take us inside every cover on the album.

Bank Head [Kelela]
Julien Ehrlich: “We would listen to it a lot—like, a ton—when it came out in 2013 or 2014, around the time that we were actually beginning to write our debut record [2016’s Light Upon the Lake]. It's a bit of a party song. When we had friends over to our old apartment in Chicago, it was on really heavy rotation. To get to learn it and cover it and try to reinterpret it and do it justice made it a lot more personal.”
Max Kakacek: “In a weird way, that gave us a way to reconnect with the old group of friends that we used to hang out with. We're all spread out a little more now, six years later. And getting to relive those experiences in that apartment while making it and then eventually send it to them, and be like, ‘Look. We were able to do this. Doesn't it make you feel nostalgic for those nights in Chicago?' That was cool.”

A.M. AM [Damien Jurado]
JE: “It was just one of those songs that you hear and you're almost jealous of it, like you wish you had written it. That one always kind of seemed like a no-brainer—it’s such a good song, such a simple, catchy song. And we knew that, way back when, when we first heard it, I would probably sound good singing it. We were kind of picking and choosing when to throw in a bit spicier chords, because the Damien version is really just C to F. I think one of the people at Secretly Canadian sent him the track, and he sent us back an email that gave us the chills. He said that our version of it really touched him and it was just sincere flattery all around. So thanks to him for writing the song and being just an awesome guy and the best.”

Take Me Home, Country Roads (feat. Waxahatchee) [John Denver]
JE: “The lines on John Denver are pretty hit or miss, but that was a song that we just knew we would be able to hit—and make it feel good and make it feel right. We're good homies with Kevin Morby and Katie [Crutchfield]. They’d come and hung out with us when we did five straight nights at Thalia Hall. We wanted this to be a duet, and when we recorded it in Chicago, we left the second verse open. We didn't get Katie's parts until like a month later when COVID lockdown was pretty serious. We knew she was with Kevin in Kansas City and he had a recording setup, so they recorded her vocals there and sent us the files—Kevin Morby’s first engineering credit. It just kind of clicked and made sense. It wasn't like there was like a long deliberation process. It was just like, ‘Oh my god, this might work perfectly.’ And it really did.”

High on a Rocky Ledge [Moondog]
JE: “We first heard this song when we were sitting at Rainbo Club in Chicago. It came on over the speakers and we both, I think, Shazam’d it at the same time. And then I remember playing it backstage and Will [Miller], our trumpet player, he was like, ‘Dude, I love this song. We should definitely try to cover the song.’ We always kind of thought that our cover of it would be a sort of tape-ier-sounding version of the original. But when we started jamming it, there were so many ideas in the studio. It just made sense to do kind of a full soul or country-soul version of it. It's maybe the funniest recording we've ever made. We kind of leaned into it being a little bit—not ridiculous, but just extreme. Unfiltered.”

Something Happen [Jack Arel]
JE: “It was one of those things that I found on YouTube, letting the algorithm take me on an adventure. Trying to find the best song with the least amount of plays. Clicking on cool album covers until you find something that sounds good. That kind of thing. It’s been kind of one of my favorite instrumentals since.”
MK: “It's kind of hard to find information about Jack Arel. He did a lot of score compositions in, I think, the late '60s, early '70s. I just thought the original recording sounded really haunted and creepy and weird. It reminded me, weirdly, if Pink Floyd made a Western soundtrack song. Our take on it is a little more like peppy.”

Strange Overtones [David Byrne & Brian Eno]
JE: “I was just super obsessed with that record [2008’s] Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. In high school, something clicked when I heard that song, and I made it my alarm clock every morning when I was 17. I fully over-listened to it and then just kind of stopped listening to that record for a long time. The thought just popped into my head to pay homage to that record because it was a really special one for me. We don't generally write many fast songs, but it made a lot of sense to have an uptempo number on this record. We changed David Byrne's lyrics from 'like a snowball in my kitchen' to 'the snowfall's reminiscin'.' I just knew that it had to be changed and I don't know why. Talking about changing the lyrics is maybe the touchiest part for me, because there's just certain things that just don't necessarily feel right to sing under the Whitney moniker. I hope if they ever hear it that they like it. They know that obviously we're only doing this because we appreciate the song.”

Hammond Song [The Roches]
JE: “It's so good and so crazy. Like everything that Robert Fripp did, and just the writing too. [Producer] Chris Coady sent that song to Max a long time ago, back when we were working on the third Smith Westerns record [2013’s Soft Will], and I think we just both seriously clicked with it. It was the only time I've ever been in a studio where everyone had a music stand and a bunch of notes written, and they were just fully reading as they went along. I think that this is maybe one of my favorite recordings that we've ever done. Every time I've come back to it, I'm just like, ‘I can't wait for people to hear this.’ Because it's a lot different than the original, and the original is such a bold production. This is us just doing it a little bit more The Band or maybe The Beatles or Pink Floyd. The only thing I would maybe go back and change is there's a passage in the song that I would want Katie from Waxahatchee to sing, actually. But whatever, didn't happen.”
MK: “That was one of the hardest ones to record, because it's relatively long and it kind of lulls you into a place. And when there are certain times to stop, you forget. One person in the band always forgets. It just took forever to get the live take that we thought was tight enough.”

Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying [Labi Siffre]
JE: “We started listening to Labi Siffre really heavy while we were making [2019’s] Forever Turned Around. It’s a song that we've played acoustic live and a song that we do actually know really well, so we knew that we could bust it out and do it justice. I feel like this is the song where if you heard it and you didn't know who Labi Siffre was, I would hope that you would check out his version too. Because his version is just impossible to beat.”

Rain [SWV]
MK: “I think with ‘Rain,’ and possibly ‘Bank Head,’ our heads were moving forward. We were trying to explore, and it was an exercise just to really learn a song that sounded more in that vein. And I think, as we're starting to write LP three right now, those two songs specifically were moments where we kind of learned where and how far we could stretch the Whitney sound in a different direction. Our manager got an email from their manager that said that they had heard it and they liked it. We texted the guys in the band about that email and everyone was just freaking out.”
JE: “I had been a big fan of SWV dating back to the Unknown Mortal Orchestra days. But Will just brought it up and we started jamming out the chords. But it wasn't really until Max switched from piano to guitar in the studio that our version actually started to take shape. And then we switched the main line to bass and had [keyboardist] Malcolm [Brown] play bass, and I remember after finishing it, we were all stoned, and listening to it on repeat, and he leaned over and whispered to me: ‘That's the best bass take I've ever had in my entire life. I will never have a better bass take.’ Because he also doesn't really play bass.”

Rainbows & Ridges [Blaze Foley]
MK: “It’s an underappreciated song—I think it gets brushed under the rug a little bit in his discography. It’s so simple and heartbreaking. Our voices are like polar opposites.”
JE: “That was maybe one of the more daunting things to try to pull off, and the fact that it worked, it's just a testament to how great of a song that is. It was the first recording that we made on this TASCAM that I'd just bought, and honestly it's my favorite-sounding song. The two we recorded last—'Rainbows & Ridges' and 'Bank Head'—ended up being what I think are perfect bookends to the album, and we hadn’t really planned it that way. They’re just a little more peaceful or something.”

SONG
Bank Head
1
3:25
 
A.M. AM
2
3:56
 
Take Me Home, Country Roads (feat. Waxahatchee)
3
2:45
 
High on a Rocky Ledge
4
3:37
 
Something Happen
5
1:59
 
Strange Overtones
6
3:26
 
Hammond Song
7
5:00
 
Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying
8
2:59
 
Rain
9
3:48
 
Rainbows & Ridges
10
2:19
 

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