Whole Milk is a surf-jazz duo from Denver, Colorado, that has continuously been on tour until the coronavirus forced them to stop. Their new single, “Growing Pains,” was released just a few days ago on April 15th alongside their music video. In the interview below, we discuss their favorite songs and cities, their inspirations, and their new single, “Growing Pains.”
Jackie: When did you guys start making music?
Alec & Mariah: We started almost four years ago now. Right after we released our first EP 3 years ago (2017), we hit the road and started touring. After a couple of months of that, we switched around the lineup a bit. We did a summer tour in Chicago. After that, we realized that we miss being on the road, so we quit our jobs in January of 2018. We hit the road fulltime in March of 2018 and have been on a never-ending tour before the Corona Virus.
Jackie: What’s your favorite song you’ve ever written?
Mariah: My favorite song is “Every Drop of You,” but I really like the one we’re about to release, “Growing Pains” – it combines everything. The music video came together. Nara Visa is close to west Texas – where the music video was shot. We have friends that manage an art village out there with cows and eco-homes, and they’re both artists too, and so they welcome us in. They have rock parties with rock crushers.
Jackie: Who are your biggest musical influencers/inspirations?
Alec: Tom Waite, Sufjan Stevens, and Hank Williams. There was a big western theme for this one. I think if we answered this question ago we would’ve mentioned an artist from the Bay Area: Andrew St. James. We connected with him over Instagram and he is who hooked us with the producer who produced their album. He went from a music influencer to getting it done.
Jackie: So you’ve been on tour a lot – what’s been your favorite song to perform?
Mariah: My favorite song to perform is probably “Clinically Happy.” It’s really cheeky but also very pretty. We have this song coming out called “Colorful Colorado” (Alec: Me too), there’s a long story behind it, and it’s a really good entry point of us as people and as musicians. You feel it, and the story is true.
Jackie: And what’s your favorite city to perform in? Why?
Alec: You can’t beat Texas. We love all of Texas – it’s a diamond in the rough. We went on five Texas tours last year because we loved it so much. Everybody plays music, and you’re surrounded by animals. It feels like you are on a ranch 24/7.
Mariah: A few years ago, we went to Vancouver, and that’s the place I want to go back to the most. Also, Rochester, New York, has always been very special as well. Seasons matter too, though, because you won’t catch me in Austin in the summertime. But, Amarillo, Texas, was our all-time favorite place. I had actually never heard of it until we went there. It’s a small town right on Route 66.
Jackie: Do you write on tour?
Alec: Yeah, but not with all this COVID-19 stuff. We always try, though, and I think there is a lot of creativity in that. We are working on developing a stage presence and getting comfortable in speaking to an audience and interacting without feeling self-conscious about the process. It’s almost less writing music and more writing dialogue.
Mariah: Aside from writing, you have to have content for artists to grow now. Not just a song but also cool graphics for social media and the album artwork. We’ve been putting those pieces in place and developing our music style. Most of our tours have been with other artists, and we are learning to play with other musicians and having our music evolve.
Jackie: What inspires most of your songs?
Mariah: I think for Alec, it’s going through transitions, and then he’ll write a song to understand it. One of those life moments when you’re at the crossroads, and you ask, Will my life change here? Should I leap, or should I not? And putting it in a perspective view. Alec will connect the dots.
Jackie: How does Colorado effect your music?
Alec: There’s a huge legacy of really great music makers in Colorado; it keeps our minds full. Through the music anchors that start in colorado – we draw inspiration and encouragement from that. A lot of our style comes from Colorado, but I think a lot of what develops comes from our time in Los Angeles as the art workers.
We both went to Cal Arts and were in a community that actually created art. Our personalities give us our midwestern charm, which comes through in our stage presence. It also shows when we’re networking after shows and between sets. It was a very integrated and tight community. We are very aware of the Denver music scene even if not physically there because people are so good at supporting on social media and creating platforms to promote themselves and other people. Visually we embody Colorado; Mentally, we embody the west coast.
Jackie: What do you wish people would ask you in interviews?
Mariah: A lot of people don’t know about this, but we’re willing to talk about it. Our vehicle: we live in them and tour in them full time – they are part of the entity of the band. So, it’s an important thing to know about this—3 people + a dog touring in a Honda Element – a tiny SUV. Then, a Ford white van for two years. We just renovated an old RV from 1985, and now that’s what we’re living in now. Us 2 and the two dogs.
We get RV problems once or twice a month. Living on the road is a lot of moving around, a lot of weird interactions, and you just have to roll with the punches. We really work hard and build a lot to find a little bit of success. We love helping and talking to people and sharing knowledge. And helping other people take the next step has transformed our life. We hit the road with $150 collectively and said, ‘hopefully we can get through the next show for gas.’ We took the leap because it turns into part of the fun. We would go sit in the city during the day in some random street corner to get paid. We had to post up in the suburbs because street corners would be taken by other street performers. Every day for the first year, we made $10 per 2 hour show. Like that was a good day. We didn’t have to do it, but we were trying it out to see the reality. We were nobody’s, but we worked through it until it worked out.
Jackie: I know you guys are releasing “Growing Pains” on the 15th — what was it like making this song behind the scenes?
Alec: We had so much fun. Jim Greer – he’s a LEGEND. He was super connected, and he’s a pro. Mariah and I didn’t have much time in the studio, so the opportunity to sit down and do what we needed to do was amazing. He plays a bunch of instruments on this album. We spent a lot of time on it, and this one is the first one that came together. It was a positive and fun creating experience.
Jackie: What was it like making the music video for “Growing Pains”?
Mariah: It was COLD. We had our friend Alex, who filmed and edited the video come down. The tour was still happening and so because of that, we realized we were trying to release this while on tour and we need a music video. We set up a halfway point – Mariposa – we had two days to get it done but more like a day and a half. We filmed promotion shots with our photographer that first night. The first day was nice and warm with no wind; it was great. However, the next day was 20º with 20 mph wind, but we only had that one day to shoot. So, we just soldiered through it and used the shots where we didn’t look too cold. There were points where the wind was almost blowing us over. Then, it started blizzard snowing, so it all worked out. Fast and furious. We wanted horses, but it didn’t come together because of the weather and time frame.
Jackie: What was your inspiration behind growing pains?
Alec: It’s about high school relationships. That first love and figuring it out as you grow and change. It is having that remorse and regret for your past but also moving forward. Yolo. It relates to us a lot now as well, for example, dealing with parents and stuff. My mom thought I was backpacking in Europe when I was on tour. Even though your parents are supportive, they’ll always want something better for you.
Jackie: what has been your favorite song to record?
Alec: “Growing Pains” – it was a fun one; we played a lot of cool instruments, and it was a fun day in the studio.
Mariah: The next single is my favorite just because it was the most challenging. It’s more precise than a lot of other songs. Our last album was very minimal with 2 guitars and 2 voices. This one is very golden age country.
Here are links to their new single! Check it out!
And here’s the link to their music video for “Growing Pains”!