Web Exclusive: CAKE, Anyone?

The full 15-minute interview with CAKE trumpeter Vince DiFiore

It’s fairly hard to believe it’s been 15 years since an underdog band from Sacramento did the unthinkable, going way outside the box and turning a head-shaking disco anthem into a head-nodding alternative rock jam. But that’s what CAKE did, because outside the box is what CAKE does. Underdogs no more, next Thursday CAKE will be inside the loveable box you know as Sokol Auditorium to play their rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and other unique hits like “The Distance” and “Short Skirt/Long jacket,” as well as material from their latest album Showroom of Compassion, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s charts upon its release in January. We caught up with CAKE trumpeter Vince DiFiore, one of the two remaining founding members of the band (the other is frontman John McCrea) to talk about the success of the band and their new album. How you doing? Good, man, I’m good. I’m looking forward to the show in Omaha. It’s been awhile. Do you remember the last time you guys were through? Yeah, you know I think we’ve played somewhere else since but the thing I always remember about Omaha is the Ranch Bowl … is that what it was? That was cool. It had a bowling alley, video games, and then the music venue of course. Yeah, uh, it’s a Walmart now. Sore subject. Oh wow. Yeah, when you get here mention that to somebody and you’ll probably end up with somebody in not too good of a mood. Lots of stories; lots of pissed off people. But you guys are playing a different sort of classic Omaha venue this time around, Sokol Auditorium. We’ve got a couple newer places but I suppose you’re still getting to one of the classics. Cool. How are things going out on the road? Good, good. We’re outside of Buffalo right now in Lewiston, N.Y. at a place, a pretty cool venue called Art Park. Have you heard of it? Nope, but it sounds interesting, you sound excited about it. Yeah, it’s cool. I guess it’s called Art Park because there’s some sculptures here and it just looks like a really cool concept for a concert venue building on it. It’s also right here on the Niagara River, just about six miles downstream from Niagara Falls. Is CAKE hitting up Niagara Falls today? That’s something to think about. Yeah, well, we’re thinking about it if there’s somebody that can give us a lift up there. It’d be pretty cool. It just rained, but it stopped now. So we might get up there. Anyway, I’ll let you talk about the new album. How has it been received so far on tour? Um, you know it’s been received really well. When you put an album out you hope for the best and honestly, we weren’t going to release this album until we felt really good about it. We didn’t have to put it out at any certain time. We picked a release date that made sense for us and then we met that deadline so we could have all the pistons firing at the right time as far as getting out and letting people know that it was out ... but we weren’t on a contract with a label that said "you have to have an album out after two years, or three years or else you’ll be penalized." We’ve had that in the past and it sort of, uh, it made us feel … it caused arguments. In general, it pushed the music along in a way we weren’t comfortable with. Still even then we never put out an album we weren’t ready to put out, but this time we really had total say in it. And we made steady progress on it, and when we comfortable with it, we released it. It was sort of a thing where if it wasn’t received well, then it would have been some sort of hard reality that we needed to face. But as it was, we felt good about it and everybody else did, too. It’s been really nice to get all the positive feedback. It’s been truly, truly rewarding. If anybody says they don’t care what people think, they’re probably not telling the truth. Nobody lives in that much of a bubble. I wanted to get to your continued success, which has given you the freedom, like you said, to take your time like you want … how nice is it to know you don’t have to just crank out album after album to build up your reputation or gain exposure? It’s nice to have that, but I don’t have any complaints about the help we got from labels in the past. We wouldn’t be where we are now if we hadn’t had them, so I’m careful not to take them for granted. They’re the ones who got us the first radio play and really built awareness of our group. And the ones we worked with, they never took control of our artwork … or demanded we get some slick hotshot producer to work with. We had really good luck with the major labels. But when we realized we could maybe keep what we had but doing it on our own, we thought it was a good option. Do you think more and more bands will continue to do that? Is that where this is headed? Well, for new bands, if you can get help from a label I would recommend that. Because you might need a little help. Especially if you’re new and you want to concentrate … it’s hard enough keeping a band together and keeping the music tight. If you don't want to deal with all that other stuff, it’s better to get somebody to help you with and it will be worth it once more people are aware of your music. Sure. I’m not in a band or anything but I have some friends that are, and I’m always curious to hear from a band that has “made it” … you know, what’s the key? Why do some make it big? Why did CAKE make it big? I think we didn’t put many people off. We played a lot. We came from the ground up. We started in Sacramento in coffee shops and some bars. From there we started to get in in San Francisco. Then trips up to Portland and Seatlle. Then we signed with Capricorn Records in 1994, we toured with some success with the single “Rock and Roll Lifestyle.” But we still played a lot of really small places. I remember we played in Norman, Oklahoma for seven people. That’s how it was. But we prevailed through all that, kept on going, and built up an audience. I remember sending out postcards every month, printing up the labels … sitting down and getting them ready to send out. But all of that wouldn’t have done any good if the music wasn’t accessible. There’s something about our music that didn’t put people off. When we were playing those small places we didn’t pretend like we were playing for an arena. We played for the 25 people that were in the room. So it’s that kind of thing about actually playing music for people that was a big part of us catching on. Well, you’ve certainly hit the big time. No. 1 album, then pretty much the whole late night circuit — Conan, Jay, Dave, George ... What’s a bigger measure of success than a run like that? Yeah, it’s fun to get to meet some of the guys that play in those bands on those shows. I like to talk with those guys. I made a friend in Mark Pender, who’s the trumpet player on Conan’s show. He actually invited me to a show that we did at The Troubadour and he played on three or four songs with us. That was a great exchange we had there. And then in general, it’s pretty fun to be in places like Rockefeller Center and CBS Studios … all these places where the magic happens. You know what I mean, all that TV magic is kind of fun to be around. You guys are from Sacramento. You guys worried your Kings might get moved to Anaheim or Las Vegas or whatever or do you care about basketball? I’m a fair-weather Kings fan, you know. They were talking Anaheim, so I guess that would mean Los Angeles would have seven teams. But they are staying for another year. And if an arena gets built, which it won’t, then they’re going to stay. It’s fun having a basketball team, it’s a great sport, but the WWF aspect of it is kind of a turn-off. A lot of BS sometimes with the macho stuff, "I’m a caveman. ROAR!” They’re super talented though. Do you guys all still live in Sacramento? Gabriel (Nelson, bassist) and I still live in Sacramento and also our studio is there. I’ve been there since the fall of ’86 and the band got together in the fall of ’91. It’s a good town. It’s like a lot of places in the United States — very manageable with just enough interesting things to get you by. Sounds like Omaha. Except you have Warren Buffett and we don’t. This is true. He was on “The Office” last night so Omaha made its mark on the TV magic you were speaking of. It was kind of awkward though. I didn’t see it. But I saw Ed Asner is going to play him in that HBO “Too Big To Fail” show. I hope to catch that out on the road. Good luck man. Anything you’d like to add? Just encourage people to check out our website CAKEMusic.com. We’re always adding content in the form of news and I’ve been making some video road journals. I’m working hard on them but I’m not sure anybody is seeing them. It’s be great if people watched my videos. Nothing more frustrating than that, so I’ll spread the word. We look forward to having you in Omaha. Thanks so much. Have a good one. CAKE performs Thursday, June 2 at Sokol Auditorium, 13th and Martha, at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $38.50 and available at ticketmaster.com.

posted at 09:18 am
on Thursday, May 26th, 2011

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