Cake Interview


The Sacramento band Cake recently left a major label and have started their own, named Upbeat Records. They are just about to release their first new album in three years, B-Sides and Rarities, which includes some appealing renditions of old classics and a few new tracks, presented as a multi-sensory delight with special Scratch ‘n Sniff packaging. Last week, I had the chance to catch up with their trumpet player, Vince DiFiore, who assured me that CDs and wicker chairs are still available to the dwindling public who seek them.

usounds: So, you are currently on tour?

Vince: We’re doing like three shows over a weekend, then coming home, and going out for another weekend and doing another three shows.

usounds: Your new album (B-Sides and Rarities) is coming out with a Scratch’n Sniff CD package. What brought that on?

Vince: Well, you can’t download smell yet, so we’re getting the jump on that. We just want to give people something tangible, something that has to do with a sensation because, let’s face it, you can download music all over the place and it’s just a way to go back to the LP. [Scratch’n Sniff] is a hook to make the experience appealing…the ‘whole album’ package. It’s nice to have the album art and the CD with the picture on the cover and all of it together, direct from the factory. The CDs were a step down from the LP vinyl record, right? And now digital downloading is a step down from compact discs.

usounds: I think it’s sad because so many people now just do the iTunes thing. The art of music has kind of been lost as technology has progressed. Have you noticed a difference in the amount of records that you’ve sold?

Vince: Yeah, definitely. Our album sales have gone way down, and we have more people coming to our live shows. So, there was a correlation with a decrease in our album sales, substantially, with the increase in online music interest. It wasn’t that we were becoming less popular as a band, but we were definitely selling fewer records. And that was happening across the board to just about everybody. It’s a part of history; you can’t feel horrible about it, you just have to roll with the punches, and that’s why we’ve gone out on our own, and gone away from the major labels. We just wanted to have ownership of what we do. That’s our response to it; let’s see what we can actually possess, what sort of satisfaction we can have and what interest we have among music listeners by doing everything on our own. I don’t think you should really take for granted the major label system. It’s a great way to promote your music, and get people to know about it, but to have your own means of distribution, it’s a different means of expression.

usounds: So that was a conscious decision by the band, to move away from the major label and start self-releasing?

Vince: Yeah, we put out Comfort Eagle and Pressure Chief, the fourth and fifth albums, on Columbia. We had had a successful tour on Pressure Chief and the option was coming up for Columbia to take us up for a third album. Instead, we decided to take the bull by the horns and be proactive, and we made our own decision to leave.

usounds: With album sales going down, do you have any sort of strong stance on downloading music?

Vince: No, I don’t. I went to the library as a kid and a lot of the first music that I heard was by checking things out at the library, taking an LP home in a plastic sleeve, taking care of it, bringing it back to the library after I listened to it and maybe put it on a cassette tape or something like that. [But] it doesn’t seem fair that everything is free; for something that musicians used to get paid for, now they don’t get paid. There is something that doesn’t seem fair. The example that John [McCrea] always brings to mind is that, sure music can be free, but do you want a sandwich for free? Or do you want gasoline for free? Why should music be free? The answer is that it just so happens that music can be transferred digitally through computers, so there’s a lot of information that’s free. The people who are really making out are the people who sell computers and iPods. That’s just the way it goes. It’s hard to have sour grapes about it when it’s such a widespread thing. You can’t take it personally because it’s happening to everybody.

usounds: With computers, you can download clips and that’s a tremendous way to reach an audience, especially on a global scale, but for people like me who actually prefer to go out and buy records and CDs, it is worrisome that downloading has become so popular.

Vince: Yeah, but wicker chairs used to be more popular, and now not as many people buy wicker chairs anymore, but you can still get a wicker chair if you want to.

usounds: It just might be a little bit more difficult.

Vince: The same thing is true about recorded music.

usounds: Is most of your recording digital?

Vince: We’re using a computer program for recording. It made it easier to do recording, but I’m not sure if the recordings are as warm. I’m sure that when we recorded on tape in a professional studio, the recordings were warmer, but we’re a little bit more scrappy, we have to think on our feet and get back to being sort of experimental with our own studio, working with a digital setup here. I have to say I miss being in a studio, with all the wood, all the nice carpeting, the wood walls, somebody’s setting up a microphone for you…all you have to do is be ready to play your part, ready to make a good performance and they’re going to put it on tape for you. I’m sure everyone in the band misses that a little bit, too.

usounds: Does that make recording a little more spontaneous or exciting?

Vince: Yeah; it makes it a little less boring. I mean, you’re definitely less of a pampered individual. There is a lot more of a blue collar aspect to it, every time somebody’s got to be setting up a mike, somebody’s at the computer, working things out. Somebody’s got to be performing, so there’s always a job to be done. You can’t just sit and read Rolling Stone magazine or something.

usounds: When is your next LP is coming out?

Vince: We’re taking preorders on our website right now (, and the first batch is almost out of the factory. You can order them [now], and very soon we’re going to have the discs in the mail.

usounds: I know that some of these songs are from other records, from compilations and things like that. Are there new recordings as well?

Vince: Yeah, I think it is seven covers, two originals, two live versions of originals and the extra bonus track.

usounds: Were those covers all songs that you were fans of?

Vince: We were stretching the parameters of who we were; doing a straight up country song, going to the heavy metal thing and doing a black Sabbath song. And then one of the covers on there is a song called “Mahna Mahna,” because we were asked to do a song for a children’s compilation.

usounds: Which record was that?

Vince: It’s called For the Kids and it was something that Sarah McLachlan was putting together. She was sort of the spokesperson behind it. It’s a good album.

usounds: Are there other songs that you would like to cover? Or perhaps something that you wanted to cover that you didn’t get around to recording?

Vince: I’ve always wanted to do “Hey Bulldog.” And we have a pretty good version of “Fire,” the Ohio Players song, that we never got around to recording. I thought it sounded pretty good. We’re always throwing around ideas for covers. We don’t always get around to doing them, but there are a lot of great songs out there.

usounds: I have noticed that you can take a variety of songs and interpret them in a style that it very much your own. The covers of yours that I have heard are unmistakably Cake.

Vince: Yeah, there’s that vocal there and we usually manage to get the trumpet in. A song with strings in it, you can change the strings to trumpet or a lead guitar solo, you can adapt it to trumpet. We have spaces in our music, and the minimal production.

usounds: Looking at your website, I see that you have a lot a political links. Is that new or have you been doing that for a while?

Vince: It sort of emerged. The only purpose being that we are just human beings and have concerns just like everyone else. It’s sort of a symptom of having a website. That kind of stuff is out there because it’s human interest. We have a lot of people coming to our website for music, but we want to give them something [else] to grab onto.

usounds: Does Cake integrate politics into their music?

Vince: It’s vague. Some of it is a little bit oblique. We don’t write songs like Neil Young does. It’s not very literal. Usually something about politics will be more of a metaphor, something of an allegory about politics.

Thanks to Vince for taking the time to speak with usounds. To order their new CD, and for additional information, please visit their website at

-Andrew Boe

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