Whitney DJs Your Next Retro Rooftop Party

Listen as Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek blend folk and a touch zamrock for a party playlist perfect for the golden hour.

(Photo Credit: Sandy Kim)

Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek are the masterminds behind the band Whitney. The band blends ’60s folk and psych rock with a warm, orchestral sound on their debut album, “Light Upon the Lake.” They are currently on tour, but Julien and Max stopped by our studio to mix up a soundtrack that’ll take your festivities to new heights.


Julien Ehrlich: We are going to soundtrack our own Chicago rooftop party.

Max Kakacek: And we’re going to kind of draw from real experiences that we’ve had, having a few of them.

Julien Ehrlich: Yeah, one that I remember was on the Fourth of July. We climbed up on the roof, and actually I wound up falling asleep on the roof, and I woke up with a bunch of crazy sunburns on my thighs and [in] every single nook and cranny of my body. And this is the music that we listened to that night.

Amanaz – “Khala My Friend”

Julien Ehrlich: The first song, I guess just to kick the party off, would probably be “Khala My Friend” by Amanaz.

Max Kakacek: Amanaz are a zamrock band. It’s a genre, I think around the late ’60s, early ’70s psychedelic music that came out of Zambia.

Julien Ehrlich: You can tell that they had, like, a crappy tape machine. The bass is like super out of tune…

Max Kakacek: Definitely didn’t have a tuner.

Julien Ehrlich: …Yeah, they did not have a tuner. They were tuning by ear. Which, I don’t know, when it’s out of tune it just has a little bit more character. I guess the scene of our party, in my mind, looking back on it, is pink for some reason.

Max Kakacek: Kind of like the end of Golden Hour. Remember that rope ladder too?

Julien Ehrlich: Yeah. We built a rope ladder up to the roof. It was super irresponsible. We could not get back down [laughs].

Max Kakacek: Which is why Julien stayed on the roof.

Jim Ford – “She Turns My Radio On”

Max Kakacek: The second song we’d choose to play is called “She Turns My Radio On” by Jim Ford.

Julien Ehrlich: This would be like the party jam.

Max Kakacek: When we were discovering Jim Ford, we read something that was kind of like the undiscovered link between Van Morrison and Sam Cooke.

Julien Ehrlich: I still don’t think he’s receiving much praise or appreciation.

Max Kakacek: One time, before one of these get-togethers, I bought all the taquitos that 7-Eleven had in one go. I brought 40 taquitos with me to the party.

Julien Ehrlich: Sometimes we’d just go out and buy 40 or 50 cheeseburgers from McDonald’s too, and just make it rain. But we don’t do that anymore.

Max Kakacek: We’ve grown up a little bit.

Julien Ehrlich: We eat sushi.

The Band – “Whispering Pines”

Julien Ehrlich: The next song we would play at our party is Whispering Pines by The Band.

It’s a song that you just kind of just zone out to it or listen to really intensely. I feel like you’ll get the same amount of enjoyment. But Garth Hudson’s keyboard work, it just kind of hangs over the top of the entire song and he controls the ceiling of the song, what the sky looks like in the song, if that makes sense. If everything is happening beneath him, like, he’s controlling the weather.

Max Kakacek: A lot of touring and hanging out is people talk a bunch and it’s really distracting, and this is a song where the whole van will get quiet when we start listening to it because something new pops out every time.

Whitney – “Light Upon the Lake”

Julien Ehrlich: Closing out the dinner party we would do “Light Upon the Lake” by us, Whitney.

Max Kakacek: So when we were writing the song, we had the versus plotted out and Julien actually had one line that he really wanted to say and the line is: “Will life get ahead of me?”

Julien Ehrlich: Like, “Are we gonna make it through this crazy transition?” It was all encompassing too. It was like our old band breaking up, family members dying. We lost that apartment that we were on the roof on having dinner parties. Yeah, so it was like, “Am I gonna make it through? Or am I gonna stay on top of this crazy wild ride?”