Laneway Festival Singapore 2017

American indie band Whitney to make Singapore debut

Whitney's Julien Ehrlich (far left) and Max Kakacek (left) eschew the trendy electronic sound and stay true to their guitar-led music.
Whitney's Julien Ehrlich (far left) and Max Kakacek (left) eschew the trendy electronic sound and stay true to their guitar-led music.PHOTO: LANEWAY FESTIVAL SINGAPORE

Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich formed their band Whitney after they made a song on a whim

American band Whitney's debut album, Light Upon The Lake, became one of last year's most feted indie-rock releases, a significant feat for a band that started out as a joke.

In an interview ahead of the band's performance at Laneway Festival at Gardens by the Bay on Saturday, guitarist Max Kakacek says he formed the band with fellow core member Julien Ehrlich in 2015 for laughs.

"I bought a tape recorder one day," the 26-year-old says over the telephone from Amsterdam, where the band were on tour.

"We were just joking around and made a song and decided that that could be a real thing. It started out as a joke and we were kind of just being carefree and having fun and stuff like that, but we realised, 'Oh sh**, we could actually do that for real.'"

Light Upon The Lake ended up on the year-end best albums lists of music publications such as Consequence Of Sound and NME, as well as in newspapers such as Britain's The Guardian and USA Today.

Readers of music website Pitchfork also voted them Best New Artist of last year.

Julien did that Elton John interview and it was kind of mind- blowing for us - he's such a legend, that he showed interest in us and talked to us. Yeah, we're honoured.

WHITNEY'S MAX KAKACEK on the interview his fellow band member, Julien Ehrlich, did with British veteran pop star Elton John for an article in The New York Times

Before forming Whitney, Kakacek and singer-drummer Ehrlich played in another Chicago-based indie- rock band, Smith Westerns, who released three albums before splitting up in 2014.

Kakacek admits that Whitney is "bland" for their new band's name, but they eventually went with the moniker because "it seemed like a pretty androgynous name".

And while many of their indie- rock peers have made significant shifts towards an electronic sound, the band, who describe their music as "country soul", prefer to stay true to their guitar-led music.

"We aren't interested in the electronic music scene really, It's more like our interests are in 1970s rock 'n' roll and musicians that didn't hide behind effects or anything. So I think that's just a product of what we're into."

It also seems fitting that the band count among their fans veteran pop star Elton John.

The British singer proclaimed Whitney's debut album as one of his favourite releases last year and ended up interviewing Ehrlich for an article in The New York Times.

  • BOOK IT / LANEWAY FESTIVAL SINGAPORE 2017

  • WHERE: The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive

    WHEN: Saturday, from 10am

    ADMISSION: $185 for standard tickets, $166.50 a ticket for purchases of five or more tickets, from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg); $200 at the door

    INFO: Ticket buyers can collect their wristbands today and tomorrow at H&M (Orchard Building) from 10am to 10pm.

    Each wristband comes with a 20 per cent discount for one item at H&M. Take along a Sistic ticket or a clear print-out of the e-mail confirmation; a valid NRIC, passport or FIN card; and the credit card used for the purchase. For more details, go to singapore.lanewayfestival.com

"Julien did that Elton John interview and it was kind of mind- blowing for us - he's such a legend, that he showed interest in us and talked to us. Yeah, we're honoured."

Kakacek is looking forward to playing his first gig in Singapore, saying that fans who have only heard their recorded works will experience the true essence of the band in their live sets.

"A Whitney show is like, we have a bunch of people, six people in a circle and we get lively. That's where Whitney live, in a live set."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'Whitney formed after a joke'. Print Edition | Subscribe