Cake’s Vince DiFiore Muses Over the Music Industry, Parenting + More
Cake haven’t been known to rush themselves and release albums on a yearly basis. That is most evident with the seven year gap between their last two records. ‘Showroom of Compassion’ came out last year, which is the follow-up to 2004’s ‘Pressure Chief’ and their first studio album released independently since being dropped from Columbia Records in 2005.
The band has been on tour to continue supporting ‘Showroom of Compassion.’ Founding member and trumpet player Vince DiFiore chatted with Diffuser.fm from his California home about the band’s steady fan base, the rapid rise and fall of bands, his favorite concert ever and more.
Why did it take seven years to put out a new record?
I think it was a little bit of being disgruntled, or perhaps a pragmatic response to the way music was being distributed. We realized we weren’t going to be compensated for recording as we have in the past, so maybe that slowed us down. I think the more important factor is we just don’t like to put out an album if it’s not ready. We don’t want to just put out an album because that’s what’s prescribed by the rhythm of the industry. We had something worthwhile after seven years so that’s when it came out.
When bands sign a contract a lot of them say you have to have an album out within two years of a prior release. I think that is sort of assuming a lot. It’s assuming that the next batch of material is going to be good enough to keep the band in the pink and keep their career going. We don’t take our listeners for granted, so we don’t want to just throw anything out there thinking people are going to love it. We know it has to be good material in order to survive as a group and keep us in a favorable light to the people who have enjoyed us in the past.
Did you personally witness a lot of your peers forced to release an album so quickly and become victims of sophomore slumps?
I never saw it with friends or bands that I knew, but I think I saw it listening to albums purely as a music listener, looking at music from a purely entertaining point of view. Especially in that period where albums were just being cranked out. There seemed like there were a million bands putting out records.
I could tell when something crazy came along. Like Lou Reed, for example. I think he put out an album of just feedback. I think he had a contractual obligation to put out an album. His finger to the record company ended up being to his fans too because lots of people bought the record. It was an artistic statement but I don’t think it helped him, the record company or people that liked his music.
‘Showroom of Compassion’ was No. 1 after selling just 44,000 copies, which is telling of where the industry is today because when ‘Pressure Chief’ came out, it sold about the same but was No. 13 on the charts. In your opinion, has the industry gotten better or worse since Cake formed in 1991?
I don’t know if I have that kind of omniscient perspective of everything. I don’t trust my own taste. I sort of like what I like and I’m not one of those people who says, “Oh ,the music in the ’80s was horrible.” To me it is what it is. There’s no way that it [music industry] couldn’t have changed though, right? Music seems pretty good right now. It seems like there’s a lot of good songwriting still and a lot of good musicianship.
So you wouldn’t be in that school of thought where rock music is dying?
No, I think it’s still alive and well and there are more challenges to keeping a band afloat instead of finding other pursuits. I’m hearing good perspectives and observations in lyric writing and good melodies. You know, good musicianship still.
Since first week sales were similar between ‘Showroom of Compassion’ and ‘Pressure Chief,’ were you surprised that Cake were able to keep the same core group of fans after being out of the spotlight for so long?
There’s a good example on how technology has been good for us because we kept an internet presence. We were very active on our website. We had advice columns and road journals for any shows that we did do. This is before the big Facebook wave. We had a pretty good thing going with our site and now a lot of our traffic seems to be going over to our Facebook page. That did help get us through the period of not having an album out.
Our other albums were solid, too. They stood up; they weren’t throwaway albums. So people still have those albums around to remind them that maybe out next album would be decent.
Since Cake have been touring in support of ‘Showroom of Compassion,’ have you noticed new and younger fans coming to your shows?
It’s been great that way, actually. There’s been a wide variety of people that have come to our shows ever since the beginning. When our third album came out [1998’s ‘Prolonging the Magic’] we noticed a new wave of young people who were being introduced to our music. That’s how it was this time, also — but people who were listening to us in ’94, those people are still coming out to the shows.
I think we’ve always had a populace appeal. We haven’t ever excluded anyone. It hasn’t always been about teen angst or tender loving moments. The songs have a broad appeal. They’re kind of clever in that way.
Has being a parent changed the way you approach music and live the lifestyle?
Musically, it’s actually made me work a lot harder. When you have kids watching, you don’t want their opinion of you to go down. I worked really hard on the last album, part of that being the motivation that I didn’t want my kids to think that I suck.
Cake started out in ’91 when grunge was exploding, yet you managed to create your own unique sound. Ironically, it seemed like you were rebelling against a movement that itself was a rebellion at the time. Was that intentional?
There is something ironic about punk rock and grunge being a reaction to the man, but still using the tools that the man provided. You know, like electricity and all these nicely manufactured guitars, and just kind of stomping on it, which seems like a spoiled child throwing his peas and corn off of his high chair.
What was the best live show you’ve been to?
A pretty good show was back in ’82, and it was at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio singing, Molly Hatchet, the Babys, Cheap Trick and Journey all on one bill. It was quite the show.