Q&A With Cake

Though it’s been seven years since the last Cake studio LP, you can understand why it took the eclectic Sacramento, Calif., rockers so long to finish album number six. Like its predecessors, Showroom Of Compassion was self-produced, but for the new LP, the band members engineered it themselves in their solar-powered studio and released it on their self-run Upbeat label. And aside from gigging relentlessly, the group also organized the multi-genre Unlimited Sunshine Tours (which have featured bands as diverse as the Flaming Lips, De La Soul and Cheap Trick) and is currently in the planning stages for a 2011 UST. Cake—vocalist/pianist John McCrea, multi-instrumentalists Vincent DiFiore, Xan McCurdy and Gabriel Nelson and drummer Paulo Baldi—is taking to the road this week in support of Showroom Of Compassion, playing multiple nights in numerous cities. The band will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. MAGNET caught up with DiFiore via email.

“Long Time”
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/LongTime.mp3

MAGNET: You guys write, arrange, perform, produce and now engineer and put out your own records. Are you control freaks or just self-sufficient?
DiFiore: We’ve always been low-to-the-ground. We like to know who we are, and the best way to know who we are is to be who we are. There is something satisfying in having a hand in all aspects of production.

Why did it take seven years between records? You usually crank a new one out every two or three years.
We were out of our contract with a record company. We were accustomed to being on a regimented schedule, dictated by that contract, to have a new record delivered every three years. Since there was no contractual obligation, we took our time in order to deliver an album of utmost value to our listeners.

You have been on about every kind of label there is: major, indie and now self-run. Is there a big difference between the three? Do you think self-releasing records is the future of the music industry?
It was necessary for us to experience a major label in order to have the confidence to be on our own. Honestly, I’d recommend that any new band do all they can to gain the support of an entity that has a greater reach into the music-buying public than the band themselves would ever be able to initially possess.

“Diversity” has always been a word used to describe Cake’s music, and you have collaborated with everyone from Tom Zé to Jay-Z. Does this come naturally, or is it something you do consciously? Do you worry about your audience keeping up with you?
Seriously, we simply go song by song. We’ve all heard and enjoy a wide variety of music, so that is what ends up in the songs and arrangements. We have never consciously decided to go with any particular style on any song. The end result lends itself to an interpretation usually of what direction our collaboration took us.

You guys update your website quite frequently compared to most bands at your level—with lots of news, as well as a road journal and weekly polls—and seem to really want to stay connected with your fans. Is that the case? Do you think the existence of the web at the start of the band would have significantly changed how your career would have gone over the past 19 years?
We do want to create a quasi-community of listeners through our website. It has also served as communication within the band. The web content for the site keeps us connected as people. It’s really a good thing we didn’t have the website at the beginning of our run, because I’m guessing it would have been divisive.

I notice on this tour you are playing multiple nights in many cities. Why is that preferable to just playing bigger venues?
In the past, we have kept moving and found the proper size venue for each city. This time, we want to see what it’s like to spend more time in each city and take some of the stress off of all the traveling.

Will there be an Unlimited Sunshine Tour for 2011? Who would you want to be on it?
We are brainstorming about the next Unlimited Sunshine. There are some ideas, but we are keeping them a surprise.

What is the music scene in Sacramento like these days?
Sacramento continues to nurture its musical community. There are new bands all the time. I wouldn’t say it is burgeoning anymore, but it is fertile and sustains itself.

—Eric T. Miller