I have a few choice memories of my cousins Owen and Ethan. I found myself at their house a lot when I was a kid, and for some reason there is always music of the moment playing in the bacground of those memories. I can remember being incredibly young and satirically reenacting Spice Girls videos (this explains a lot, I realize). I can remember pained recitals of City High’s “What Would You Do?” and similarly impassioned renditions of the classic duet “Forgot About Dre”. Mostly though I remember screaming the lyrics to Cake’s “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” over a television at max volume displaying the video for that song that seemed to be just about everywhere.
Cake would run through my life in a number of ways after that — car sing-a-longs at 3 A.M. to “Comfort Eagle” spring to mind — so interviewing a member of the band and working my way back through their discography was a heavy dose of nostalgia.
Originally appeared in Beatroute Magazine.
There are a few things most people note on their calendar. Anniversaries, birthdays, religious holidays, major album releases by recording artists that have not put out a proper LP in seven years. That sort of thing. So it stands to reason that Cake trumpeter Vince DiFiore would have a major album release – his own – on his mind the day it came out.
“God, is that right? This is the day! It’s like it’s my birthday and I didn’t even remember!” Of course he’s spaced on the release of Showroom of Compassion, Cake’s first album in the better part of a decade. Released essentially by accident on New Years Day, the occasion (now remembered) has allowed a founding member to reflect on his time in the legendary ska pop band.
“It feels really good. We’ve been through this before. We know the highs and lows of it and understand the significance of it, and it’s really that much more interesting for us and more of a life experience. It’s something we did all under our own power and with our intention.”
Indeed, the general Cake vibe with the new record is one of great satisfaction. Recorded in a studio owned by the band, the self-produced album features Cake at their most thoughtful. While some songs are in sharp contrast with even their Pressure Chief days, it’s nothing seven years of maturation and reflection can’t explain. It’s put the quintet in a good place. “Everything was something we needed as a band and wanted to do as a band. Everybody in the band is happy with their contribution. I believe everyone is happy with the record. Everybody had a really good part in it.”
Upon completing their recording contract with Columbia in 2004, DiFiore and company reflected before signing another dotted line, opting to go it alone instead. “We thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s better if we just do things on our own with the Internet.’” Through their working hiatus, the Internet became more than just a marketing vehicle for the band as it kept them mindful of each other and their goals. “The website is something that really kept us connected as individuals. It kept us on the same wavelength, and kept us developing our worldviews together.”
That wavelength is one that prevented them from releasing anything less than an album in the interim. Discounting a B-sides and rarities collection, the band shied away from singles or EPs. “I’m in love with the album idea – I love it when an album comes out. I guess everyone feels like that because we didn’t think twice about it when we started.” Far from assuming the album format is dead, DiFiore thinks participation in the format is beneficial. “If you make a solid album, you’re perpetuating the idea that the album is the way to go.”
Playing against a career spent cultivating bounce and sway, Showroom of Compassion is a sharp veer into a singular, cohesive album experience — arguably a Cake first. Launched to popularity on the mainstream back of a few gargantuan singles (“Short Skirt, Long Jacket”) and some enduring classics (“Comfort Eagle”), Showroom is a clinic in musical growth. “I think we threw caution to the wind and did crazy things, like put reverb on the vocals,” DiFiore says laughing. “I think we’ve been afraid…we always wanted a really dry sound, and this time we went ahead and used some of the resources a studio has, like that fancy reverb knob.” It’s a change, but a welcome one that will please fans and newcomers alike.
The Great Cake Hiatus resulted in some welcome consequences, but it’s something DiFiore is not keen on repeating. The band is primed and ready to get back to the studio, albeit on their own schedule. “We hope it’s more like two years than seven years this time.”