Thu Oct 14 2021 at 07:00 pm


859 O'Farrell St. San Francisco CA 94109 | San Francisco, CA

Restlessness is at the heart of Whitney’s resonant and stunning sophomore album
Forever Turned Around. As Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek realized over the past
three years, life can change drastically. Priorities shift, relationships
evolve, home can become far away, and even when luck momentarily works out,
there’s still that underlying search for something better.
While the success of their 2016 debut Light Upon The Lake uprooted them away
from Chicago to seemingly endless tours across the world, Ehrlich’s and
Kakacek’s partnership only strengthened. “Our friendship has kept us going even
though so much has happened in the years since we started the band,” says
Ehrlich. Their bond has been the one constant as they’ve weathered the
transitional period of their mid-twenties, supporting each other through bouts
of heartache, loss, and uncertainty. But lately, as they’ve found home through
themselves, their romantic relationships, and their friends, there’s an
uneasiness that comes from stability. When Ehrlich sings on “Valleys (My Love),”
“There’s fire burning in the trees / Maybe life is the way it seems” it’s a
mission statement of the existential questions raised throughout.
This is what Forever Turned Around grapples with: the anxiety and acceptance
that time is limited. Across 10 songs, Ehrlich and Kakacek skeptically yet
masterfully navigate questions of mortality, doubt, love, and friendship in a
grander scope than they’ve attempted before. It’s an album about partnership —
romantic, familial and communal, but most importantly a love in friendship: the
bonds between two best friends and creative partners and the joy and stress that
comes with it. As Ehrlich sings on “Used To Be Lonely:” ‘Well it made no sense
at all / Until you came along.” It tackles the blissful confusion that comes
from seeing the way things unexpectedly change over time.
Forever Turned Around came together over several sessions across the country
with its earliest material written during tour dates in Lisbon, Portugal. Though
Ehrlich is Whitney’s lead singing drummer while Kakacek is the lead guitarist,
when writing, both transcend their roles to piece together each offering
lyrically and compositionally. “The way it ends up working is one of us comes up
with a basic idea for a song and the other person serves as the foil to
complicate that idea. We ask, ‘What can we change to make it more interesting?’”
says Kakacek. Challenging each other is the core of their songwriting
partnership. “A big thing for us is our ability to take criticism. We’re always
open to new ideas. We approach it where we try to stretch a new idea as far as
it can go,” adds Kakacek.
After a session with producers Bradley Cook (Bon Iver, Hand Habits) and Jonathan
Rado (Weyes Blood, Father John Misty) helped color in the arrangements, the
album truly revealed itself when they reunited with original rhythm guitarist
Ziyad Asrar in his basement Chicago studio—the same place where they hashed out
much of Light Upon The Lake. “Getting down there was so important because we’ve
always used that basement for music. The comfort and familiarity mattered but
having Ziyad be a buffer between us was so helpful,” says Ehrlich. With Asrar’s
help, songs like “Song For Ty” and “Forever Turned Around” effortlessly came
together. There, the band enlisted Chicago musicians Lia Kohl and OHMME’s Macie
Stewart to provide strings throughout the record and their lush swells
colorfully accent the arrangements.
Risks and experiments make Forever Turned Around a triumph like opener “Giving
Up.” The track started from a stream-of-conscious revelation when Ehrlich
improvised the chorus while Kakacek played Wurlitzer. What began as a nod to
Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall 1971 in an afternoon turned into a
heart-rending and relatable song about the ups and downs of long-term
relationships. Over twinkling piano, Ehrlich sings, “Though we started losing
touch / I’ve been hanging on because / You’re the only one I love.” He explains,
“In a relationship, you don’t stay at the same level at all times. You go
through periods where you’re closed off.”
Whitney has long been a full-fledged band with keyboardist Malcolm Brown,
guitarist Print Choteau, bassist Josiah Marshall, and trumpeter Will Miller
backing them live, along with Asrar who’s returning to the fold on their
upcoming tour. On the album, the wider and more maximalist songs match the
tight-knit chemistry of their electric performances thanks to Tucker Martine’s
immaculate mixes. “We’ve become such a well toured band and developed this
groove that you can hear it all over the LP,” says Ehrlich. Though the stoner
instrumental freakout “Rhododendron” is the most obvious example of this vibe,
with its slinking guitar leads and Miller’s flailing trumpet lines, other songs
like “Before I Know It” evoke the breezy melancholy of Labi Siffre.
Forever Turned Around is an album about relationships. It deals with how they
evolve or flounder and how loneliness can creep in unexpectedly. Penultimate
track “Friend of Mine” captures this sentiment beautifully. The emotional
centerpiece of the album, it builds to a crescendo during the chorus with
Ehrlich singing of an old acquaintance, ”While you’re drifting away / Like a
cloud hanging over the pines.” Happiness can be fleeting but this album proves
that even when it feels like time is turning on its head and there’s either a
moment of clarity or crippling doubt, there’s still beauty in figuring it all
Where is it happening?
859 O'Farrell St. San Francisco CA 94109, San Francisco, United States
Host or PublisherGreat American Music Hall
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