Cake / Nearly two decades and five studio albums since CAKE formed in 1991, the alternative rockers aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. The band, known for its distinctive vocals and blaring brass, kicks off its spring tour in Honolulu this weekend. Honolulu Weekly called original CAKE trumpeter, keyboardist and percussionist Vince DiFiore to chat about pop music, environmentalism and why he feels like a lobster.
First things first: How sick are you of questions about the edible kind of cake?
[Laughs] Well, we always ask specifically that if someone’s making a poster for a show, no cake imagery may be used. We’re pretty serious about that. The word cake is meant to be a non sequitur or maybe a verb. You know, like how mud gets caked on your shoe.
What’s the worst cake-related pun you’ve seen in a headline about the band?
Yes! [Laughs] Probably something like, ‘They bake up hits,’ or ‘CAKE bakes a jam.’ But it’s all been nice! It’s usually a compliment. They mean well.
You’ve been in CAKE since it started in 1991. How have you seen American music change in that time?
It seems like it’s gotten bigger and bigger. The way that music is produced is different now, like the stakes keep getting raised. A lot of the popular music right now is very epic sounding. And since we’ve been around, the women have really come to the forefront. You know, the independent woman as a focal point of the music. That seems to be really popular. Even the way people listen to music is changing. But we still believe in the album. When we finish this record, we want it to be a good listening experience from beginning to end with that arc from start to middle to finish. For me, these changes, it’s kind of like I feel like a lobster getting boiled in a pot. You don’t notice the water getting hot around you.
Do you often find you’re listening to newer artists and that lack of narrative is sort of a shock to the ear?
Yeah, people are just making one pop single after another. It’s like, just keep on firing until you get that one pop single. So, they’re throwing everything at the one song to make the sparks fly.
Let’s talk about the trumpet, which you play, and is a major component of CAKE’s sound.
It’s something that has a lot of history in American music, so you’re kind of harkening back to a lot of other expressions people have made. Basically, when John [McCrea] was starting the band, he knew he wanted some horns. He wanted his music not to be too overtly happy. There’s a bittersweet element to everything, everything has a little bit of a tragic edge to it. The trumpet is a little more immutable to the band than a saxophone and it creates these checks and balances with the electric guitar.
I understand you’re the person behind CAKE’s Twitter account.
It’s true, it’s true. But I don’t do anything like, “I’m making chocolate chip cookies right now,” or “I can’t find any underwear!”
I clicked around on your Twitter page a bit in preparing for this conversation–it’s a nice little collection of fun facts.
[Laughs] Well, I’m glad to hear that because that’s the battle on our Web site! Half the people are telling us to shut up and finish the record, you know, enough with the politics and environmental issues.
From what I understand, you guys are pretty devoted to the cause–a solar-powered studio, a ride-sharing program to concerts, giving away trees at shows?
Well, if we wanted to be so true to our environmental concerns, we’d just shut everything down and live in a fort in the countryside, or dig a hole in the ground and live in a burrow. But we still want to play music, and play for people in other cities. We’re doing what we can, like using solar and carpool page on our Web site. We aren’t going to have any plastic water bottles backstage–we’re really aware of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch–so it’s mandatory that everyone on tour brings their own canteen. We are a part of the community that’s hoping to realign our relationship to the environment.
Anything else you want to add before we hang up?
Just that anyone interested in the band should definitely check out [cakemusic.com]. We have an advice column, a road journal and links to interesting things about the cities we’ve been in. Oh, and samples of our music, too.
Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St, Fri 4/2 & Sat 4/3, 7pm,$33-$65, [pipelinecafehawaii.com]