Cake is defined as a sweet baked good composed of flour, liquid, eggs, and other ingredients; personally, I think the better definition includes Alt-Rock music you can sink your teeth into, brass instrumentation, and years of experience under the belts of its band members. CAKE's music has been hitting the airwaves for almost two decades. Their tracks have been integral to many movie and television soundtracks, including Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You Man, Smallville, and Friends, to name a few. Throw in the honor of being named one of Billboard's Top Ten Greenest Bands, and their use of one hundred percent solar energy to record their upcoming album and it's not difficult to see why this band has held their spot in the music industry for the past eighteen years.
I caught up with CAKE's Vince DiFiore to talk about the upcoming album, their use of solar energy, turnips, spoon collecting, and everything in between.
UpVenue (UV): Are you at the studio right now?
CAKE (C): I’m at home right now but CAKE has been in the studio; we’ve been making an effort to not tour, really putting our foot down and saying we need to concentrate on studio work so we’ve been working on the album for about a year and a half and, you know, touring here and there, doing a show here and there but mostly realizing the importance of finishing our next album so we can move on into the next phase of our musical relationship.
UV: So at the few shows you’re doing, are you testing out new material?
C: Yeah, we have been. We’ve been doing two or three songs from the upcoming album but realizing that, you know, an audience doesn’t want to hear too much stuff that they’re unfamiliar with and just keeping it to that, and just playing the stuff that’s really strong right now. But we hope to have a surprise show, like an unannounced, small show in Sacramento sometime in December.
UV: That’s very cool.
C: Yeah, and at that time, maybe play nine or ten songs.
UV: How has the crowd response been to the new songs you’ve played?
C: Really good. It’s been encouraging. The very moment you get a response for a new song, you’re sort of slipping into the future a little bit, you know? It’s been amazing how generous audiences have been to us going out there. We have five or six albums so we have a lot of material to choose from and people are familiar with the music but after a while you just want to do something new that establishes you as a current band again. You have to keep on doing that over and over again. That’s probably the most rewarding and interesting part of the job, having new music out there for posterity.
UV: I’ve heard that your new album is going to sound a bit different from the ones you’ve already released. How so?
C: The big difference in the course of our albums is that we used to play a lot of our songs live, like our first albums, Motorcade of Generosity, and Fashion Nugget, all of the songs on those records were played live frequently, and then it came time for us to make a record and we chose which live songs we were going to record. But then after that, we started catching up with ourselves and were being introduced to new material, writing stuff we’d never played live for our new album so it became more of a studio band. And then playing those studio creations live, sort of going in the reverse way, in that process we’ve added a lot more keyboard and background vocals, those two things especially.
UV: I can’t wait to hear it. Do you guys have a title yet?
C: No, we don’t have an album title yet. I’m sure John, our main songwriter, has one cooking but he hasn’t blurted it out yet. Do you know what I mean? He’s probably keeping it to himself. But until the album is released, we’re offering free ringtones on our website. You just go to http://www.cakemusic.com and you find on the margin on the left of the news page, you click on the mailing list and if you’re on our mailing list, which just means you’ll receive an email from us every once in a while, then you’re also eligible to get the free ringtone that we’re going to be releasing before the album is ready. We hope to have a series of six ringtones and the second one will be released in a couple of weeks.
UV: And how did you come up with the idea for the ringtones?
C: I guess it’s just a way of rolling with the times. The digital music age is here and you wrestle with that idea and you realize that it’s not the same as before but what can you do in response to it? And that’s one of the ideas in response to the way things are now. Let’s have some fun with ringtones. It’s a good way to let people know; it’s sort of like a preview of a movie or something like that. Like our own album trailer.
UV: I’ve been reading that you’re recording your entire album using 100% solar energy. Can you tell us a bit about that?
C: We talk about environmental issues just as much as everyone else. We’re aware of the planet warming. We’re aware of overconsumption of fossil fuels, things like that, but at the same time we’re consumers just like everybody else. If you’re a human being, you’re a consumer. So aside from just quitting altogether and going to live in a grass hut someplace and having a little patch of turnips, we decided that one thing we could do was put solar panels on the studio. So we did that and we’re actually generating more electricity from the sun than we’re using and that extra goes back into the city’s energy grid. So we’re able to rehearse and record using just solar energy and it’s great. And it’s great for band morale too, there’s a little less anxiety. You know how people kind of fiddle with the thermostat sometimes or somebody thinks that the air conditioning is on too much or…you know what I mean? It reduces all that and makes for an enjoyable recording process.
UV: You guys have adopted a lot of changes for this new album. You’re putting this one out on your own label, UpBeat. How did you come to that decision?
C: We decided we were more interested in our music than any label could really be and the album sales are so low now that we thought we’d just control our destiny a little bit more and not be on a record label and timetable. I’m very grateful for everything that Capricorn Records and Columbia Records has done for us as far as letting people know we exist. That’s the most important thing, just letting people know you exist and getting your album out to the stores, all that distribution and promotion. But we decided we’re going to do that ourselves, you know? If we need a publicist, we’ll hire our own publicist. If we need radio promotion, we’ll hire independent promotion. If we need our record distributed, we’ll contact a distributor. That’s how we put out B-sides and Rarities, the last album. That wasn’t really a studio release, that’s a collection of tracks that we never used for other albums. So we’re going to do it this time with the new material and we can’t physically put all the CDs in stores and do everything that someone with a better infrastructure can do so we do plan on the partnering up with somebody who can help us do a lot of the physical work of getting an album released, that we’re not able to do.
UV (via a fan question): Speaking of B-Sides and Rarities, how do you come up with the songs that you choose? You go from Frank Sinatra to Black Sabbath, so how do you choose?
C: We like the idea that if a song is a good song, it can be done in any different style. If there’s a standard from the forties that’s really good, it can probably be played as a swing tune, a country and western tune or even a disco song, you know, or a rock ‘n roll song. Most of the songs that we pick are on the song’s merit itself and it ends up being interesting that we pick a country and western song here, a heavy metal song here, and a Frank Sinatra song there. So we just like to mix it up that way and keep ourselves and other people guessing.
UV: If you were to pick a song from your entire backlog that would represent CAKE now, what song would that be?
C: The song, Frank Sinatra, off of Fashion Nugget; it’s the opening track on that album from 1996 and it’s good, there’s a lot of metaphor involved. It talks about being informed about the past but looking towards the future and I think that’s something we’ve always had, that’s been important for our survival and getting along with each other.
UV: And once the album is complete (an expected Spring 2010 release), are you going to tour?
C: Yeah, we will. We will tour in the United States. We hope to do regional tours; concentrate on the Southwest, then on a different tour concentrate on the Northwest, then a different tour Northeast and do it that way and hopefully go back to places like Europe again, also.
C: And Canada.
UV: I was going to ask you about that!
C: You know, being on the West Coast, I didn’t realize until I toured how much of Canadian life was so close to that of the Eastern part of the United States. It’s all right there, you know? It just takes a little bit of geography knowledge to realize that but...
And the cities Toronto, Montreal, Quebec are just right in a line there with New England. I guess that’s something you know if you grew up in that neck of the woods.
UV: Do you ever collect any mementos when you’re on tour?
C: Like spoons or something?
UV: Spoons or bells...you know…
C: Coffee mugs. I have a cherished coffee mug from when we went to Spain to Santiago de Compostela, which is in north-western Spain…I think it’s in the province of Galicia and it’s the end of a pilgrimage where people walk from the south of France all the way through northern Spain to get to this place where there’s a shrine inside of the Catholic church there. We happened to be playing a show there and the place was so impressive that I picked up a coffee mug and I use that mug often.
UV: Your music is part of a lot of soundtracks and television shows. How does that come about?
C: There’s always music directors on movies and they scour current music and see what they can use, that will maybe resonate with the viewers in the movie so it ends up that way. I think maybe having the horns in the music helps in the soundtrack because there’s often brass in soundtracks so I think that’s a positive thing. The music blends well with the tone of certain comedies, a lot of humorous movies. My favorite is the song, Shadow Stabbing, that’s on the top of the documentary about the crossword puzzle enthusiasts. It’s called Wordplay; our song is in the opening credits. It’s a song about a writer so it goes in with the theme about words quite well, and that movie features cool people like Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, among others.
UV: It looks like I’m unfortunately out of time with you but is there anything you want to say to your fans before we go?
C: I would encourage people to check out our site, http://www.cakemusic.com […] photos, advice, monthly poll questions, news; it’s a pretty active site, we’re working on it all the time, giving it new content.
UV: I actually went on the site yesterday and responded to the poll. It’s a pretty cool site.
C: That’s fun. It’s very unscientific but always interesting.
UV: Hopefully we’ll see you in Canada sometime soon.
C: Yeah, definitely.
I Will Survive
CAKE is: John McCrea (Lead vocals, Acoustic Guitar), Vincent DiFiore (Trumpet, Keyboard, Percussion, background vocals), Xan McCurdy (Electric & Acoustic Guitar, background vocals), Gabriel Nelson (Bass guitar, background vocals), Paulo Baldi (Drums, background vocals). For more CAKE, check out their Official Site and MySpace Page.