The mellow, folk- and country-informed indie pop/rock of Whitney is built around the core songwriting duo of Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek, both formerly of Smith Westerns. Led by Ehrlich's soft falsetto, the group's debut album, 2016's Light Upon the Lake, landed on several Billboard side charts, including rock, alternative, and vinyl. Their third long-player, 2020's Candid, concentrated on covers spanning John Denver, SWV, and Damien Jurado.
In late 2014, after three albums, Chicago indie rock outfit Smith Westerns announced that they were disbanding. Frontman Cullen Omori launched a solo career, and, with Ehrlich singing lead from the drum kit and Kakacek playing guitar, bandmates Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek formed Whitney. Their first single, "No Woman," appeared in January 2016, and two months later they made waves with an appearance at the South by Southwest Music Festival. With a fluctuating lineup of supporting players, Whitney quickly followed that with opening spots on tours for NE-HI, Wild Nothing, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Ehrlich was a one-time drummer for UMO). They had secured festival spots at the Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, and Pitchfork Music Festival, among others, before their debut album, Light Upon the Lake, arrived on Secretly Canadian that June. With the official lineup of Ehrlich, Kakacek, Malcolm Brown, Tracy Print Chouteau, Charles Glanders, Josiah Marshall, and Will Miller, the LP appeared on Billboard's rock, alternative, and independent albums charts, reaching the Top Ten of the Vinyl Albums sales chart. It also appeared on numerous year-end lists, among them NME, Paste, and The Guardian.
Two cover songs arrived in 2017: Lion's "You've Got a Woman" and Dolly Parton's "Gonna Hurry (As Slow as I Can)." Secretly Canadian issued them as a 12" 45-rpm single. In 2019, Whitney returned with their sophomore album, Forever Turned Around. Produced by Brad Cook (Megafaun) and Light Upon the Lake co-producer Jonathan Rado (Foxygen), it included contributions from their original rhythm guitarist, Ziyad Asrar, who then re-joined the band's touring lineup. The following year saw the release of the covers album Candid. It included a cover of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" featuring Waxahatchee. ~ Marcy Donelson