Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich are really just friends with instruments; instruments they play emphatically and an album full of them, which just happens to be on the way. Their folk-tinged indie-rock outfit Whitney is a product of that creative bond and now, the duo are currently anticipating the release of their forthcoming debut album Light Upon The Lake, out on June 3 via Secretly Canadian, following the disbandment of their former band Smith Westerns, a couple of other break-ups and some organic writing sessions that put their past on record and their future in perspective.

Despite quickly being pegged a buzz band, following the release of submerging singles 'No Woman' and 'Golden Days,' Max and Julien have no expectation as Whitney. After all, their project was sporadically formed in their top floor Chicago-based slacker apartment with an open-door policy and an open bottle preference. The way they see it, there's not much to anticipate when they're doing what they want and making the music they want. We're just lucky they gave us the invite to hang.

When looking at your life and your vision for this, what did you think you would be doing right now? Where did those expectations fall?

Julien: I don't think either of us feel pressured or overwhelmed. This is exciting for us. We were writing the record with absolutely no expectations. We just wanted to make something that we wanted to listen to a million times in a row over and over and over again and now we're going to play these songs over and over and over again at least for the next year and a half.

Max: One of the reasons why we did'’t really kind of need expectations to feed off of is because we've both been in bands before and this is just an exciting thing that both of us are working on. For me, he's the first songwriting partner that I've had in a while and the excitement that we created for ourselves just being inspired by what we were making was enough. The fact that other people are catching up to it is awesome but we really fed off of each other for a long time.

Julien: It helped a lot that we weren't forced to do anything. Towards the end of Smith Westerns, if felt like that album at least was slightly more of an obligation in a weird way and there was expectation put on the band at that time too. So to start a new project, it was just super freeing and super organic and we really got to do whatever we wanted to do. I think you can hear that throughout the record. I think you're listening to us discover this crazy new ground that we just learned.

What was the process like of taking advantage of that freedom? I read that it was an intense creative period. What was that like of shaping what we're hearing on the project?

Max: We definitely worked for a year on the record. I think the beginning of the project was a two day thing where we wrote two songs in two days and that kick-started the project. Those two songs were a quick but intense creative period for us. But then kind of the next year, we spent shaping and refining the things that we wanted to go in. We discovered we wanted horns to be a major part of the album. And strings. That kind of came about a month after those songs were written when we were brainstorming new textures to involve in our songs. The whole process throughout the last recording mix was kind of discovering new stuff.

The interesting narrative around the album is your bond as well. It was quoted as being "something bigger, something visionary and something neither of you could have accomplished alone when it came to writing the project." What was that moment of realization of the significance of this new venture like?

Julien: Ever since I joined Smith Westerns, we've been really really close friends. There isn't really that much of a process because we're just bouncing a million ideas off of each other until we think a song is perfect.

Max: There are moments when you may be chilling with someone and it's just like there's only one brain. Does that make sense? There are some things that are unspoken that just make sense to both of us that we don't need to discuss.

Julien: We know that we have a special bond and it adds to the creativity of something.

Max: And we humble each other constantly, which I think is important. We're always challenging each other. We're challenging the arrangement of each song to make it as simple and essential as possible while exploring new textures and instrumentation. I had never recorded live strings or horns on any record I made so as we were learning how to record and arrange that, we were also making a record.

I know you two were roommates first. What was that hub like? What was your apartment like? What was life like for two young men from Chicago that urged you two to songwrite?

Julien: I don't want to go full out and say we had a had a slacker, party house but we would have a lot of bands in that apartment that we were writing in. We ended up leaving that apartment because the lifestyle was taking over in a way.

Max: But the best way to describe it is, we had no lock on the front door and an open door policy.

Julien: No, we had no door handle. We were on the top floor of this three-story apartment building. If you walked up, you just had to push the door and it was just open. And that was super normal for us to just be sitting there writing. We're not that into video games, but sometimes we would play NBA2K or whatever or just drinking. And our group of maybe 15 friends would just come over and just kick in the door basically and be like, What's up? Our place was the social apartment.

Max: And on any given night, if you were out with someone else and you went back to our apartment, there would be like 10 people drinking or smoking or doing whatever. People used to smoke cigarettes in our apartment and I remember coming in the door and just a cloud of smoke coming out of the place and just being like, Oh.

Julien: We did clean up though. Sometimes.

Max: It was that moment in time where everyone's in the same city having a great time before everyone moves to New York or LA. That's the classic Chicago problem. A lot of really creative people that start off in Chicago usually move to New York or LA to pursue.

Julien: And this was before that.

Sounds fun. And when it comes to collaboration now, what do you think is the key to that? Especially with new music that's so emotionally centred?

Julien: I think a lot of it has to do with just having a good relationship on a friend level too. We don't view our collaboration as a business. Like, we need to get the song done by now. We just hang out. All the time that we weren't spending hanging out with our friends, we just naturally needed something to focus on. It's a weird creative muscle together.

Max: And we're comfortable telling each other things we don't like about something. Sometimes that's hard for anyone. The easiest thing about collaborating with someone is being like, this is great. What you made is great. The hardest part is being like, this is great but I would change this about it and being able to accept that criticism.

Julien: Yeah. And then it's like, you take a step back and do a quick re-write and then the next morning, a lot of times, things just seem way more clear and obvious anyways.

And you two consciously wrote as Whitney, this singular character. How is Whitney's story your story too?

Julien: We kind of wrote consciously as Whitney. The first few songs, when the whole thing kicked off, we had a lot of fun writing those first two songs as a weird character. But even then, we were still putting our personal feelings and longing for love into the song.

Max: A lot of people latch on to this persona and when we first made those two songs, that was a way that me and Julien were using the character to get used to writing with each other, in a way. We had never written that closely before and we kind of just jumped into it. It was a way for us to talk about the project.

Julien: It was weird to have this third party that existed for a moment. As the scope of the album got way bigger to us and we started really diving in and shaping something that we would become obsessed with, it was a lot easier to just be able to say, I want to say this.

Max: Essentially, by the time we were writing 'Golden Days' and 'No Woman', the name Whitney was just a band name that we really really loved. We took over the project ourselves.