Palatine brothers Paul and James McElwain have been dropping tunes and playing shows under the moniker Milk N Cooks in the suburbs and Chicago, but that only scratches the surface of what these ambitious twins are up to. Their newly established local label — Kitchin Records — is home to some of their other musical ventures, including Wednesday night demo sessions on their Facebook page, where they play and discuss tracks from local artists with other local music producers; and Tasty Beats, their monthly mix show podcast.
Paul (Cooks) took some time to discuss the duo’s involvement on the local scene and their Friday slot at Spring Awakening in an email interview.
Members and hometown: Paul and James McElwain, managed by Nicholas Busch (all from Palatine)
Tell us a little about your history. What got you into music production? Our family is pretty musical. Our dad is awesome at guitar, our mom’s side has a bunch of pianists. We played many instruments growing up and, at around 18, James started DJing, I started “makin’ beats” ha, eventually we merged the two.
Where did your name come from? James was telling an older fraternity brother at U of I that he had just bought turntables. Simultaneously that brother was telling him about a kid he played basketball with in high school named “Milk Shake” … James became “DJ Milk Shake,” and when we combined efforts it eventually evolved to Milk N Cooks.
What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences? We like to not be classified as any particular genre. We feel it’s limiting creatively. It’s also bad for building a strong brand and unique style that’s synonymous with your name, so we are dealing with that and trying to really innovate. We want to be known eventually for a sound that is exclusively ours. Influence wise, we are influenced by everything, literally. Whether it’s Celine Dion or South Park or Daft Punk. The magic that leads us to create cool music comes from any and everywhere.
Are there particular themes or messages you address in your music? Be yourself, have fun and don’t sacrifice your integrity as an artist just to appeal to the masses. Take your time and become something that you love as an artist but also has broad appeal. This takes time, and we are still doing it, but it seems worth it.
What is your experience with Spring Awakening? It’s epic. We started playing a little Red Bull truck years ago. Each year we have moved to a bigger stage at a later time. Last year we did not play kind of on purpose as to not oversaturate ourselves in the market. Took a break to release a ton of music, and now we are back — Friday, Main Stage, at 3:30 p.m.
What other Chicago-area festivals have you played or are you playing this year? We played a few Midwest festivals in April — Numbers Fest, Chirp Fest, The New Spring Fest in Iowa. Not sure if we will play too many Chicago festivals this summer. Maybe some smaller ones later in the summer.
Are you rolling out anything new for SA? We have a ton of new music. It’s going to be lit.
Do you have any upcoming news or projects you’d like to share? What spurred on the creation of Kitchin Records? We have our first Kitchin records collaborative event with React Presents Aug. 6 at Concord Music Hall. Pretty pumped about that. The show has been dubbed “The Cafeteria.” Beyond that we are focusing on refining a few new songs to release as some sort of summer EP. That’s next for us, and the most pressing issue for sure. It’s been a few months, and we’ve been working on a lot that needs to get out!
Hear more: soundcloud.com/milkncooks