WIUX EXCLUSIVE: Milk N Cooks Interview
After opening for Letter 9’s first annual #mus101 music festival at The Dillon apartment community in Bloomington on Sept. 25, WIUX’s Alec Steinmetz and Alex Webster sat down with headlining act Milk N Cooks for an exclusive interview. The boys dished about how they maintain their honkin’ bods (it’s their raw-vegan diet), what it’s like to wear matching outfits with your best friend every day (it’s amazing), and where twins come from (the placenta).
As explained on the Chicago-based duo’s website Milk N Cooks “consist[s] of identical twin stallions James (aka Dorian aka Milk) and Paul (aka Adrian aka Cookies) surname McElwain (aka Westwood).” Pioneers of post-bro house, the DJ-producer brothers are a popular name on the Midwest electro festival circuit and regularly perform at Kilroy’s Dunnkirk in Bloomington.
The numerals one (1) and two (2) have been used interchangeably throughout this article to randomly attribute quotes to Milk and Cooks, non-respectively, due to the scientific fact that it is impossible to distinguish twins’ voices from one another’s in audio recordings. Regrettably, we did not videotape our interview. Now we know to plan to videotape our next exclusive with twins. Luckily a photographer snapped this money shot:
Here are the juiciest highlights from our seventeen minutes in heaven with Milk N Cooks:
AW: Boys, you’re in excellent shape. How long have you been raw vegans?
1: Raw vegans? That’s a good one, you almost caught me off guard.
AW: What do you guys eat? Do you guys work out?
1: Yeah, no, we’ve just been, like, working out our whole life, uh, it’s very interesting to see—“
2: We eat organic! We eat organic.
AW: Are you guys actually vegans?
2: No, no, no.
1: We watch what we eat and we slam protein all the time.
2: The only time we eat, like, shitty food is when we’re drunk as hell, so that’s, like, often… but not that often.
AW: So, are you guys athletes or something?
1: We were athletes our whole life. Like, we played, like, three sports in high school – basketball, football, track.
2: We’ve never had an interview start with the fitness question… So, yeah.
1: Good job.
AW: Thank you.
AS: You guys match pretty hard-core today. Is that something you like to do?
1: No! That was completely coincidental.
2: We both walked out of our rooms, and he looked at me, and he was like, “So are we both doin’ this?” like—
1: I literally was like, ‘I’m gonna wear, like, kahki pants and a white tank,’ and then I walked out and I was like, “You’re wearin’ a white tank and kakhi pants…”
2: But yeah… Our mom used to dress us similarly, so maybe it’s subconsciously engrained.
1: But we literally walked out and looked at each other wearin’ the same thing, and that does happen sometimes, but—
2: I think when people see us performing they like to see a super-twin thing going on.
1: What’s that word? Like, when something’s, like… novelty! There we go.
ON IDENTICAL TWINNING…
AW: So you guys are twins—
2: Yeah we are identical… You were about to say “identical.”
AW: Wait, really?
2: But yeah, no, we are. I’m three minutes older.
1: We split from the same placenta… or whatever.
AW: So who’s the favorite?
1: I guess that we both have to say ‘no comment,’ you’ll have to ask our parents.
AW: Oh, come on. You guys can tell us.
2: It’d be a pretty messed-up family dynamic if there was an actual, certified-favorite twin.
1: Yeah, you gotta, like, love everyone the same, right?
AW: Do you like to buy new sneakers every season? Are you a sneakers man? A sneakers freak?
1: Not necessarily sneakers, I just, uh, love shoes, for sure.”
AS: What other shoes?
2: Uhh… I mean, low-top shoes that are sick are Supra. If Supra’s listening: Sponsor us.
1: I wear a shit-load of Vans. I’ll just buy, like, one pair of Vans and wear ‘em out, and he’s got, like, 40 pairs of shoes.
AW: Twin sneaker line?
2: Vans! Supra! Let’s do it!
ON BECOMING DJS…
AW: So have you guys always wanted to be twin DJs or did you want to be, like, veterinarians?
1: Uh, I wanted to be an NBA player.
2: Yeah we wanted to go into the NBA.
1: We wanted to play basketball.
1: Yeah, I mean the DJing just came… Like, we were always musical, we were always involved in sports. We played, like, saxophone, drums, piano, guitar, bass—
2: Mediocrely musical, but I went to Rothbury Music Festival going into college—
1: We both went there.
2: We both went there, but I was the one that decided to DJ.
1: Yeah I know I was just %&$*@$&#@ in a tent.
2: Great for the interview, bro.
1: Just cut that out! Just cut that out!
AS: So anyway…
1: This isn’t live, right?
AW: No, no, no.
2: Alright, sick.
1: Alright, perfect.
2: But Electric Forest, it used to be Rothberry. We all went up there. I had to pay one of my buddies to drive me home because I got pneumonia. It was crazy. But, we were watching Diplo thinking it was Bassnectar, and then we went through, like, the forest and saw Bassnectar and I remember just turning around and being like, “THIS is Bassnectar! That wasn’t Bassnectar!” But, uh, when I was watching Diplo he was just in, like, a straight Versace suit shredding, and it was just, like, 200 people in this little tent. And that was kind of the moment when… I had been thinking about it for years in high school, um, and I was like ‘When I get to college I’m gonna buy the gear.’ Freshman year I got all the gear, and that’s kinda where it all started.
AW: It’s kinda hard to make that initial investment.
2: Yeah! I was just like, “Fuck it!” Just dropped all my money and did it- didn’t tell anyone.
AW: What’s up with post-bro?
2: I’ll try to give the quickest rundown possible, the genre label started, like, five or six years ago, but it’s based off, like, three things. One: Us being, like, physically appearing like the classical bro, and then if you kinda get to know us, you can see that we’re evolved, so, in our essence, we’re post-bro. And then the music we make is, like, EDM which got labeled ‘bro-step’ back in the day.
1: Post-bro just randomly popped up, and it kinda stuck.
2: Well, it describes us, and then also, like, the actual music, and then it’s just a joke in general.
1: And we just make, like, whatever we want.
ON FRAT LIFE (AKA PRE-POST-BRO LIFE)…
AW: So were you guys in a frat?
1: We were.
2: We were.
1: Are you kiddin’ me? Are you kiddin’ me?
2: Beta Theta Pi!
1: No, of course, yeah.
2: Beta Theta Pi Sigma Roe.
AW: Were you guys DJing the frat?
2: That’s where it all started.
1: That’s where it all started.
2: That’s where it all started, yeah.
1: There was twin bros that were two years older than us that gave him our first gig.
2: They were identical twins. We went to U of I, and they managed the bars on campus, and, like, one day a DJ didn’t show up and I was the only—
1: He was, like, stoned as shit on this dude’s Tempurpedic bed, and I was, like, tappin’ him, like, “Yo, they said you need to go DJ!” And he’s like, “What?”
AW: So did you guys blow the gig, or…?
1: Well… kinda.
2: Well, it was actually funny, I showed up because I was the only student on campus with equipment… this was when, like, know one knew how to DJ.
2: Yeah, 2009. But yeah, it was funny because I was playing on turntables back then, and, uh, everyone was all, like, supportive or whatever, but I had the system plugged into phono. Er, so, if anyone knows, when you’re plugged into phono it sounds like you’re playing all of your music inside a bucket. And it was like that for four hours. And everyone’s like “You’re killin’ it! You’re killin’ it!” or whatever, and then at the end of the night I turned it over to line and it turns into crystal clear at the last song. And it was just, like, funny to me because everyone’s telling me I’m killin’ it, but clearly it sounded like [I was in a bucket] all night. So I didn’t blow it, but I blew it.
1: But no one had heard Katy Perry [or] LMFAO remixes ever in a bar, so they were just so pumped regardless of the quality.
ON THE MUSIC…
AW: Let’s talk about the music. What do you guys have coming up? What do you want to do?
2: We started our own label and, uh, we have like ten tracks backed up right now. It’s crazy because we’re basically making it up as we go, like, building an internal PR/marketing operation as we release songs to online retailers, um, because a lot of labels, like, liked our music but didn’t necessarily think it fit, so we just decided… because we do all of our booking and management in-house with all our friends. Uh, just, like, a squad of six to eight people. But being in control of, like, creativity, content, and our money, uh, was just, like, what makes us free, so that’s kinda the whole… like, we literally… this past month was sealing the label up, it’s running, so now we can release music, um, and sell it and not really have to just, like, you know, wait on anyone else or wait on other labels. We’re just building as we go. Like, we’re trying to combine, like, artistic visuals with our songs and run international PR campaigns, but it’s a straight-up operation that’s grown out of Chicago.
AW: Were they trying to brand you guys?
2: Oh, it was just like, we could tell—
1: Everyone was trying to figure out what our brand was and we are not trying to—
2: To have a brand. Haha.
1: To just pretend to be something. We’re just trying to be ourselves and eventually, you know, like, I feel like we always compare ourselves like Macklemore, like, how he was, like, in the game for ten years doing his own thing, and then he was 30 years old and blew up, like, on the Grammys… errr… whatever it was where he was playing Thrift Shop. But you know, that’s like us. We’re gonna be independent for awhile and build our shit, and then eventually, you know, we’ll be hosting the Grammy’s and everyone will say “Where did these guys come from?” and we’ll be like, “We’ve been doing this for awhile.”
2: Haha. Mmhmm.
ON STAYING AUTHENTIC…
AW: I thought Macklemore’s last track was corny as hell, so how do you maintain your authenticity?
2: Well you maintain your authenticity by not givin’ a fuck.
1: We would never, like, stand behind a track… like, we’ve made a lot of songs, that, like, certain entities have paid us to make that we wouldn’t release publicly just because they wanted it crafted a certain way… Um, it sounds like we’re making music for other DJs, but really it’s a traditional Norwegian coming of age where these Norwegian kids buy busses and travel the country and pay DJs to make them theme songs, so we were making songs for that.
2: Like ghost production for… kids.
1: They’re like, ‘We want this big-room banger!’ and we don’t really wanna release a big-room banger, we want it to have more musical, melodic elements—
2: Literally I don’t like what I’m making but I know I can make it—
1: But they’re paying us for it—
2: So I’ll make it for them……
1: And we basically just say, “Hey, you guys have the track, we’re not gonna release it, like, we’re not even gonna put our name on it, like, whatever,” you know?
2: In terms of our own brand, though, I think we remain authentic by just literally being ourselves and refusing to do anything else.
2: And people will buy into that eventually because we get better at being ourselves through, like, all the music and stuff.
2: And more people buy into it everyday.
1: And if you check out our Soundcloud, you can just see all the different styles of music we release because that’s what naturally comes out of us, and we could narrow it and, you know, fit into a certain, like—
2: We could… we could blow up if we wanted to—
1: But we don’t want to.
2: You know, the Chainsmokers are a really good example of someone who kinda does a bunch of different stuff and they really killed it and they’re really talented, but there’s a bunch of guys will just stick to one sound and will just use that to blow up.
1: And their goal is to make money off it, and our goal is not to make money. Our goal is to make music and be free.
2: Be happy! And successful! And able to survive.
1: When money’s behind it, you’re gonna, like, kinda shift your music. Like, if you’re getting paid for it but you can’t be yourself, you’re like, ‘Okay, maybe I’ll just, you know, not be myself so I can get this money.’ And then you go down that lane and two years later you’re just making shitty music that you don’t want to make, but it pays the bills.
2: You might be getting paid, but you’re not happy, so we’d rather not get paid and be happy then eventually make it later down the road.