Interview with Vince DiFiore of Cake

Photo: Robert Knight

Cake’s new album ‘Showroom of Compassion’ has been out for a little over two months now.

Yeah, we just put out another album. We had always felt like we were a band even though we had a break between albums. To put out another album again felt like we had taken a leap and landed somewhere. It’s been one of the coolest things we’ve done. One of the best experiences for me in the band has been putting out ‘Showroom of Compassion.’

No regrets?

Yeah, no regrets. That’s why it took a little bit of time. We didn’t want to have any regrets. You have these songs, and you feel like they have value, and you don’t want to let go of them until they’re really ready.

The new album was recorded in the band’s home studio, right?

Exactly. It’s a two bedroom house and we have the recording equipment in there. It’s pretty bare-bones; not a lot of fancy recording equipment like in those really great centerfold pictures you see of studios in England or wherever. It’s similar to what a lot of people have. We put solar panels on the roof and that contributed to good temperament among bandmates. Our process was similar to how it’s always been. There was an arc from ‘Pressure Chief’ to ‘Showroom of Compassion’ where we continued to communicate as a band and grow together as musicians. It made this experience unique and important for us as a group.

Do you find that recording at home is easier for you guys than being in a commercial studio?

No one is telling you that you have a deadline; that’s the biggest part of it. We’re answering to ourselves, our own sense of morality, good taste and work ethic — as opposed to a mandated three-year deadline. It had to be fulfilling. If it wasn’t fulfilling, then we weren’t really following through with what we should have been following through with.

Right on! You guys have always self-produced your records, correct?

Yeah, John always has the strongest influence, but we’re all producers. We all do a little bit of producing, as well as being a band member. It’s foggy what a producer does. There have been varying job descriptions for producers.

Who engineered the sessions?

It was Xan [McCurdy], Gabe [Nelson], and myself.

Did you learn everything on your own over the years: where mics go, what buttons to press?

Yeah, exactly. Those knobs were always there, and we were always watching other people turn them. It’s good to be hands-on. It became sort of a children’s museum for us when we had our own recording studio.

It must be really nice to have everything you want at your finger tips.

That’s right. It’s all there. The digital world has changed everything: the way people communicate, music, and so many more aspects of life. It’s been kind of interesting to be a part of it. Things have always been changing real fast, I suppose. We’re all experiencing the digital shift. I don’t know if you want to call it a revolution, but it’s definitely a different way of communicating.

Speaking of the digital shift, ‘Pressure Chief’ featured programmed drums, whereas ‘Showroom of Compassion’ seems to incorporate more acoustic drums.

Yeah, that’s right. I mean, for the most part. [laughs] It was though, it really was. Paulo [Baldi] is our drummer now, but because of proximity issues we also had a few other people come in and drum. We ended up getting some really great drum performances, which we needed. Some people had been harshing on us for using anything digital. At the same time, so much music over the last ten or twenty years has had some really great programmed drums. I guess it just went hand in hand with us having a studio and being able to mess around with stuff. But, we’re obviously all about being a band, so live drums are a priority.

Photo: Robert Knight
[laughs] It’s quite interesting. All this technology is still fairly new compared to the history of Earth. The Web has only been around for about 18 years!

It’s really been a flash. I guess that’s how it was back with the advent of the automobile. All of a sudden people were zooming all over the place. [laughs] It must have been quite a change.

Indeed. As with anything new and innovative, there will always be people opposed to it.

Yeah. If you’ve ever seen The Magnificent Ambersons — it’s an Orson Welles movie — it’s about a family who decides not to invest in automobiles because it seems like a bad idea and [that] it’s not going to pan out economically. It’s the subsequent ruin of the family because of that decision. [laughs]

Who knows what the future may hold? It’s fun to ride the wave.

Right. There obviously has to be some sort of clean energy eventually.

Totally. You guys are doing your part by making your studio solar powered.

I guess. I really feel that if we were doing our part, we would go dig a rabbit hole somewhere and have a little garden where it would be like The Matrix — everyone in a little pod. [laughs] Obviously there has to be some self-management with the human race.

I noticed that you guys covered Frank Sinatra’s “What’s Now is Now” on ‘Showroom of Compassion.’ On Cake’s ‘B-Sides and Rarities,’ the song “Strangers in the Night” pops up. Are you all big Sinatra fans?

Oh yeah. [His phrasing] was really innovative. Guys like Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra: those guys all really changed popular music by the way they presented their songs with their vocal styles. Maybe we should do some Jolson and Armstrong in the future.

It looks like you have some touring ahead of you in April. Congratulations on the numerous sold-out shows.

Thanks. I hope that we play big enough venues. The scalper thing is kind of bumming me out right now. It seems like if somebody wants to see a Cake show, they shouldn’t have to pay more than we’re asking for a ticket. The scalper economy is kind of a bummer.

I’m sure you heard of the LCD Soundsystem dilemma. There are only so many ways to get around scalpers.

Yeah, they kept on adding shows, right? That was a good idea. If there’s a demand for tickets, keep on adding shows.

Back to Cake: you wear a lot of hats in the band, so to speak.

[laughs] Oh, I thought you were talking about physically wearing hats.

[laughs] Do you do that too?

Lately, yeah! Anyway, I was invited in as a trumpet player. There became a lot of [free] time. I think the first thing I started to do [besides trumpet] was harmony vocals and some tambourine. So I was doing trumpet, harmony vocals, and tambourine. Then, when “The Distance” [from the band’s 1996 album ‘Fashion Nugget’] came along, there was that synthesizer line. So I started playing that on stage. I think I played it on a really tiny calculator synthesizer. Myself and everybody else in the band then realized we had a keyboardist. We started writing a lot more keyboard lines. It almost seems like I’m a keyboardist who happens to play trumpet now, but my identity for myself is definitely as a trumpet player who does all these other things. I try to look busy while everybody else is working.

Great. Thanks, Vince. Good luck on tour!

Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

Pick up Cake’s new album Showroom of Compassion.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their tour page.