Country soul finally made it to Australia. The laid-back and enigmatic Whitney experienced a blow-out year in 2016, with the release of their first singles and full-length LP Light Upon The Lake, and a long run of tour dates around the world. Hailed on high by rightfully everyone, their debut album and the band themselves are characteristically something else. Songwriters Max Kakacek and Julian Ehrlich semi-famously holed up in their apartment during one of Chicago’s harshest winters and emerged on the other side with a tape recorder full of no-nonsense, organic, emotionally charged songs, sans any reverb, delay or other effects – honest, open and human, Julien maintains they “wanted to be vulnerable and be honest.”
Whitney’s sound and personality are simply delightful. Their music has been self-described as “country soul” and by others as “russet Americana pop”, but really it’s like some kind of memory, like riding your bike around your grandparent’s farm with the golden light of dusk glowing through the sugar cane. It’s a road trip with your most favourite people, salty ocean air soaking your skin, a fond passing moment. It’s a comforting warmth. Truthfully, the buoyant confluence of dallying guitar, keys, drums, bass and soulful horns accompany lyrics weighted with conflict, heartbreak and happier times, a reference to Ehrlich and Kakacek’s preceding romantic breakups. At its core, their music expresses an honesty mirrored individually by everyone listening.
Finally seeing Whitney live was just as intimate. Their first Australian shows saw them touring the country with Laneway Festival and playing some additional sideshows in Melbourne and Sydney, which is where we caught them. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever were on support duties, and these guys never fail to impress. Whitney shortly followed, opening with Julien bent down on the edge of the stage serenading the silent crowd with his winsome falsetto. “This show sold out, what the fuck. That’s really cool. It feels really good,” he flashes a mischievous grin. During their LP’s title track, the crowd was completely speechless, utterly mesmerised, and after Julien joyfully revealed the encore’s proceedings (four more songs with a repeat of their intro), every single person was singing along to the finale No Woman. What a profoundly charming experience. Life is simply better with Whitney in it.
Rolling Blackouts CF
Photos: Dani Hansen/Howl & Echoes