It’s a rainy day in New York City, and I’m sitting at the Ace Hotel with Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich of Chicago-based band Whitney. In the background of our interview, you can hear the distinct snap, crackle, and pop of two PBR cans opening, and despite it being in the middle of a workday, I’m tempted to ask them to grab one out of the fridge for me, too.
The two remind me so much of my own friends that I have to remember that I’m here to interview and not crack open a cold one with them. They’re laid-back, unpretentious, honest, and every other word for “chill” that exists in the English lexicon, and it’s a good thing, too. After nearly a decade spent together in bands, on tour, and making music, the two friends could have easily driven each other crazy years ago. Instead, they’ve found that few things can come between them—leaving plenty of room for songwriting and shenanigans.
Ahead of the release of their sophomore album Forever Turned Around, set to drop on August 30, I caught up with the pair to find out what they take with them on the road—and left with stories from their life on tour, including band members’ odd quirks, their favorite bars around the world, and their methods for making friends wherever they go.
NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT
Julien Ehrlich: I like CBD. I’ve taken it every day on this trip. It makes me a little sleepy, though. I think a sleep mask is really important, [too]. The last transatlantic flight that we did, I was pissed off because they were trying to black the plane out, like, “You should sleep now!” and some random dude had his window open next to us the whole time.
Max Kakacek: I usually take a film camera with me. It’s kind of a dorky hobby, and I often forget what photos I’ve taken because I usually take most of them when I’m, uh, fairly drunk. But I get them developed and it’s like, holy shit, all these lost nights that are captured somehow, and that’s pretty fun—sometimes. Sometimes it just pisses off everyone I’m hanging out with.
JE: We definitely like Lisbon a lot. Copenhagen has always been really good to us, too. Pretty much the whole of Scandinavia has been really good to us. We have a friend that always takes us on this mountain hike outside of Bergen, and at the top of the mountain there’s a bar—it’s sick.
MK: I wish we had more close friends in Asia. We went there and realized that the culture [makes it harder] for meeting fans since the language barrier is a little more intense than in Europe. But lots of friends in England—really cool people in England. London especially.
JE: There’s the Michelberger Hotel. The bar downstairs there. It’s in Berlin. That place is sick.
MK: We also went to this amazing bar in Japan called the Tokyo Record Bar. It has this weirdly English name, we walked downstairs, they only played music from the 70s, you could smoke inside. There were just people smoking cigars everywhere downstairs.
MK: Print [Chouteau]’s fear of gas stations. If it’s not like a chain gas station—if we’re in the middle of the countryside and we stop off to get gas in the middle of nowhere, he gets paranoid. Like, “We’ve been here too long, guys.” It’s kind of bizarre.
JE: I think we’re at the point where we’re excited to go on tour.
MK: It is like a “grass is always greener” thing, I think. When you’ve been on tour for like a year and a half, at the end of it you’re just like, “I don’t feel like a human.” The same as if you’re at home for a year and a half. You’re just sitting at home one night and you’re like…this is miserable.
JE: This last time we went to Europe, we’d been at home for so long that I was packed for two days before we left. Normally though, it’s a mad dash.
JE: When we got to wear Saint Laurent suits [during a shoot] for PAPER Magazine, we were both like, “Okay, this is the last tour cycle that we’re gonna be wearing blah clothes.” Because I think we actually look surprisingly good in suits together! The photographer was like, “You two look like a couple of spies,” and I was like, spies are not the look. We definitely just look like slightly greasy dudes that just happen to be in these suits. But I still think we might start doing suits later on.
FUEL FOR THE ROAD
MK: There are a couple of camera stores that I go to—there’s a really good one in Berlin, a really good one in Bergen. But we usually do a lot more online binge shopping when we’re on tour because I want everything to be there when I get back. Or we’ll find some insane food.
JE: Oh yeah. We tried Dot’s Pretzels, they’re from North Dakota. After eating the first one, I immediately ordered two bags to my house. Sophia, my girlfriend, was like, “Oh my God, these are so good!”
MK: Have’a Chips from California, too.
MK: When people come to our shows, all of us act like normal human beings towards them. We’ll just go hang out at the bar afterward, play some pool, and people who don’t mind hanging out with us, you know—we end up doing stuff together and become texting friends and stay in touch.