Van, Jennings, and Lain Carney are three brothers who live on neighboring farms in Virginia’s Blue Ridge foothills. For over a decade, they’ve been playing hearing loss-inducing, psychedelic stoner rock under the band name Pontiak—not quite the sound you would imagine from the horse pastures and idyllic fields that surround their homes. I recently visited them on a short break between months of touring where they spent the day cooking a feast with food (mostly) sourced from their farms. All three brothers have restaurant experience—Van is a former cook, Lain has worked as a bartender, and Jennings has been a caterer and server—so you know it was good. We ate and drank until I fell asleep at the table, and the next morning we sat down in the music studio that they built in an old barn to talk about what it’s like to grow your own food, tour life on the road, and tips on slaughtering chickens.
MUNCHIES: You eat very well when you’re at home. How do you reconcile your eating practices with what’s available when you’re on the road?
Van: At home, we have lots of gardens, chickens, and everything’s fresh. We make real food. When you’re on the road, it’s really hard to stay within some kind of budget and eat a balanced diet. You gotta focus on the shows or else it’ll drive you nuts.
Jennings: There were tours that we went on where we really tried to eat as close to what we were eating at home and it’s nearly impossible.
Van: We’ve had tours where we’ve literally used a cook stove and made food. We used to do tours where we would live in the van because we didn’t have any money for hotel rooms. Sometimes we’d stop at a national park or a state park, get a picnic table with bathrooms and a grill, and that’d be awesome. Otherwise, we’d park in hotel parking lots until we’d get kicked out, Walmart parking lots—which they don’t kick you out of anymore—or we’d just try to find a truck stop. We’d sometimes be cooking on a camp stove behind the van. And we just didn’t have enough money for anything, so that’s the way we did it. We probably did four tours like that, maybe even five.
Speaking of poultry, what is your process for slaughtering them?
Van: With the turkeys we just got five gallon buckets, like a drywall bucket. You just cut a hole in the bottom of it. Then you turn the turkey upside down, pull the head through the hole, and so it’s sitting there in the bucket with its head down and its feet in the air. And then you make 2 incisions on the side of its neck, where the jugulars are, and you don’t want to cut the windpipe if you can help it because that will make them struggle. So you just cut the jugulars and then they bleed out. They’re usually dead pretty quickly, they pass out pretty quickly. And then if you accidentally hit the windpipe, that’ll make them freak out a little bit. That makes them struggle ’cause they can’t breathe, so if you can avoid that, that’s the best thing to do. And then after that, as quickly as you can, you want to put them in 145 to 150 degree water, and it’ll loosen up the feathers. Pluck all the feathers, and then you take off the feet and the head, and then you open up the cavity, pull the guts out, and you’re done. And it takes about, depending on how fast you are, ten minutes with a chicken. A turkey, it took us probably about 20, 25 minutes per turkey. And then after that, depending on what you’re doing with it, you want to let it sit for a while, like 24 hours, in a refrigerated environment, and that’ll help it be tender when you roast it. If you’re going to do coq au vin, or you’re going to braise it or make stock, if you’re not worried about how tender the meat’s going to be, you can just go ahead and cook with it.
Lain: I lived with them, which was really intense. When I’d get home, they’d run up like a dog, and be running around your car chirping at you. Where like, chickens are like, AHHH, they scatter. These guys were like, as soon as I’d come out in the morning, they were always up on the porch, jumping around on the porch. They’d let me pick them up. Sometimes I would throw them back in the pen, if I was throwing some food down or something. And they would run up in front of me and turn around with their backs to me so that I could pick them up and do it. You know, like, “I’m ready.” So then when we killed them it was awful.
What cities do you look forward to eating in when you’re on the road?
Van: There’s this place in Austin, Texas called Taquerias Arandinas, which was fucking mind blowing and dirt cheap. They made all their tortillas fresh. They had an egg and cactus breakfast taco that knocked your socks off. It was so good. We all had breakfast for like $11, and we each got like three tacos. They had tongue and head tacos, and their carne asada was just the bomb.
Jennings: Taco Zone, a taco truck in LA is great. I got brain tacos and tongue tacos that were mind-blowing. Brains and tongue can sometimes have that real intense metallic and deep animal flavor, and these tacos didn’t have those at all. They must have brined it or done a nice water bath or something before they cooked it. I also like BrisketTown in Brooklyn.
Van: But it’s kind of funny because you have this level of food popularity in America now where you have like, foodie restaurants, and they’re expensive, and they’re real hit or miss.
How is touring and eating different in Europe compared to the US?
Van: When we go to Europe, we’re always given dinner. That’s not really done here in the states. We’re either taken to a restaurant or the promoter will provide dinner for us, and it’s usually really nice.
Jennings: I’ve had some of the best meals that I’ve ever had in Europe, but I also had the worst meal ever. You guys remember that one in Frankfurt? The promoter went back into his East German pantry and pulled out white rice and some kind of red gel.
Lain: It was like a sweet and sour sauce, so it was basically just sugar with some chunks of onion, and he just dumped it on the white rice. It was disgusting.
Jennings: But the beer was fantastic that night.
Well, that sounds both delicious and awful. Thanks for talking to me, guys.