Because it resulted in excellent sophomore album 'Forever Turned Around'
After Whitney released debut album Light Upon the Lake in 2016, the Chicago band toured relentlessly, amassing new fans across the country and riding a wave of critical praise for Whitney’s fresh take on warm, hooky folk-rock with vintage flourishes of strings and brass.
But by the time drummer-vocalist Julien Ehrlich and guitarist Max Kakacek returned from tour, the longtime friends felt aimless, so they embraced stability and leaned into relationships with their significant others.
“We both had these same partners throughout that touring cycle, but we were never with them. So when we fully finished that tour, we both moved in with them, and we tried to develop a home as much as we possibly could. And I think that's what we were trying to do on the [new] record, as well — make something that you can live in,” Ehrlich said recently by phone. “We were domesticated. I was learning how to cook. … We would wake up, go to the studio and then try to be home by 10 — or earlier if we had a dinner planned, like, ‘Oh, I'm cooking tonight.’”
“We were trying to grow up as much as we possibly could,” Ehrlich continued, “which is very cute and nice, but it didn't necessarily work. … I don't live there anymore.”
At first, the record wasn’t working, either. “It took us so long to realize the songs. I still feel like we're getting to know them, honestly,” he said. “I think it had a lot to do with where Max and I were at in our heads. And probably just the nature of the sophomore record. We knew that we wanted to use the same sounds as Light Upon the Lake, but it took us a while to put something out using those same sounds that we were fully proud of.”
Over time, the songs began to take shape for Whitney’s second record, Forever Turned Around, which came out last summer. The band, which is currently touring as a seven-piece with Ehrlich, Kakaceck, keyboardist Malcolm Brown, guitarist Print Choteau, bassist Josiah Marshall, trumpeter Will Miller and guitarist Ziyad Asrar, will play Newport Music Hall on Monday, Feb. 10.Andy and Joel are also trying to grow up and cook their own meals, but now Andy is bald and Joel is going gray. Please sign up for our daily newsletter
The melody for the album’s title track had been sitting around for a year without lyrics, but when inspiration struck, the phrase “forever turned around” seemed to fit the melancholy underpinning of the songs. “We liked [the title] because it meant multiple things,” Ehrlich said. “But it was particularly about losing your youth and the idea that when you're a kid, you don't necessarily think about dying. The timeline of your life doesn't really end. And then you reach a point where you're like, ‘Oh, my idea of forever isn't real. Forever turned around.’”
The album (which flew under the radar a bit more than Light Upon the Lake, but is just as beautiful) grapples with feelings of loneliness — sometimes in the rear-view (“Used to Be Lonely”), sometimes in the present (“My Life Alone”). And throughout, Ehrlich and Kakacek return again and again to the theme of change.
“We use ‘change’ almost too much. I think we had to cut a couple of times when we said ‘change.’ I think the record probably had 10 different ‘changes’ on it,” Ehrlich said. “But yeah, of course we're obsessed with changes. And that Black Sabbath song. Even that new Bieber record is called Changes. But I don’t know how I feel about that.”
In that spirit, rather than using similar sounds again on another Whitney album, Ehrlich said the band is approaching the next record with a clean slate. “The new stuff that we've been writing, we want to tear all of it down and try to change as much as we can and follow a completely new path,” he said. “We're always going to write as poignantly as we can, and we're always going to aim for the heart, but I think we're going to try to take a different route.”