Necessary Functions Of The Mind- An Interview With Cake’s Vincent DiFiore

April 6, 2012 by Chris Grosso

As they approach their twentieth anniversary, CAKE’s adherence to their original guiding principles has only grown stronger. Formed in the early nineties as a somewhat antagonistic answer to grunge, which they saw as just another form of big, dumb American rock, CAKE’s democratic processes, defiant self-reliance, and lucid yet ever-inventive music has made them a nation-state unto themselves, with no obvious peers, belonging to no school.

By maintaining their ideals while continuing to challenge themselves artistically and professionally, CAKE has managed to not only survive, but to thrive. We still exist,” explains original founding member John McCrea, “because we’ve always stayed outside of current trends. We’ve watched them inflate and deflate. We’ve never been invited to the party, so we’ve never had to leave the party whether the police arrived or not. It’s a sad and beautiful world.”

The following interview was conducted via phone on 4/5/12.

 

The Vince DiFiore Interview

TIS: Thanks for taking the time to do the interview Vince. I’ve dug Cake for some years now.

VF: Sure, happy to do it. I was actually checking out your website and thought it was a really cool concept. It made me think of a documentary I watched recently about Carl Jung on Netflix. It had a lot of interviews with him from the mid 50’s and was basically just him in his own words talking about some of his revelations.

TIS: Well, that’s a cool connection to draw from my site. Sounds like a very cool documentary.

VF: Yeah, I think it was after he wrote Memories, Dreams, Reflections. One of the coolest quotes from it was something to the affect of, “Man has always lived with myth. It’s always been a part of life and to deny that, to deny history, is a mutilation of the human being.” He thought so much about biology and living with myth as sort of springing from our DNA, and not just as a fantasy of the mind, but something that’s sort of necessary for the biology of being. It’s an interesting new way to look at things instead of delusion as a necessary function of the mind, you know?

TIS: Absolutey. I’m definitely a fan of Jung’s work, especially pertaining to our shadow selves. I wasn’t aware of that documentary on Netflix so I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the heads up on that.

VF: Yeah, no problem.

TIS: I also noticed, before we get into the “Cake” business, that your wife does some really awesome work with “Yoga Across America” which I thought deserved some recognition as well.

VF: Yes, this will definitely get me some brownie points (laughing), so thanks for asking. She does Yoga Across America which brings Yoga to High Schools that don’t have a lot of funding. So for example, here in Sacramento, she’s been going to several High Schools and recruiting other Yoga teachers to go to those schools as well. More recently, she’s also been working with “Wounded Warriors” by going to Army Bases and having Yoga sessions with soldiers who’ve been injured and introducing Yoga to them.

TIS: Wow, that’s so commendable. I really respect it. Are your three kids active with her in that endeavor as well.

VF: Yeah, they all have been at one point or another. My wife also does something called “Yoga in the Park” on Saturdays in McKinley Park. It’s free Yoga and there’s usually 100-200 people that show up and our kids enjoy it.

TIS: Wow, truly great stuff. So, moving on to the reason we’re speaking in the first place, Cake.

VF: Ah, yes (laughing).

TIS: Well, here we are twenty years later and Cake is going strong as ever, so first, and foremost, my congratulations to you and the band as a whole.

VF: Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

TIS: Yeah, of course. So now, with it being twenty years later, what are some of the main differences you see in comparison to when you first started out (minus the obvious lineup changes)?

VF: Well for me, my personal experience on stage and dealing with the persona of being a guy in a band who’s hanging by a thread has lessened. There was a kind of precariousness about it at first. I felt funny being a trumpet player in a rock band. We’re primarily a string group and I wasn’t a brass section, I was just a dude who was doing harmony vocals and paying trumpet. These days, I definitely feel more a part of the group as a whole. It’s not like I’m somebody hanging on the edge of it anymore. Also, there are people who appreciate the music that I bump into at shows and I’ve become more comfortable talking to them on a grounded level. Having a nice, natural exchange that’s rewarding, something that I can cruise through and move on to the next day.

TIS: Nice, and speaking about being a trumpet player, you also sing and play keys in the band, and I’m always impressed with multi-tasking musicians such as yourself. That being said, I’m curious about your musical upbringing and the various influences you had?

VF: I think my biggest influence actually was being in school band and the fact that I started in fourth grade and continued until the end of High School. There’s something about the continuity of that and the consistency of going to a music class in school every day that made me feel comfortable and prepared to play music with other people. I’ve been playing with Cake for about twenty years now, but there’s still a feeling I have that started when I was in school and stays with me to this day. It’s like, here’s this group I’m playing with, and we work together to sound good as an ensemble, but that’s something I learned way back in Jr. High School.

TIS: It’s really cool you can trace it back to that experience.

VF: Yeah, it’s played a major role in my life for sure.

TIS: Awesome. So something else I thought was very cool you guys did as a band was that you built your own solar-powered studio which you recorded your last release, Showroom of Compassion at. Can you tell me the story behind your decision to do that?

VF: That was John’s inspiration and when he introduced the idea to me, I was on board immediately. We realized our conscience was starting to get to us. We keep track of the news, like everybody else, and believe that climate change is real, and pollution is very real, and at the same time, we kind of felt like we were part of the problem. We’re a touring band, but we’re also regular domestic consumers at home just like everyone else, so we felt like we needed to take some sort of action that would put us back in black, something that would make things feel a little better to continue what we’re doing as touring musicians. So we put 13 panels up on the roof and now we’re able to record and rehearse without using any of the energy from the grid. In fact, there’s actually energy that’s created that goes back into the energy grid from our panels. So it was sort of a practical step and just made so much sense. I think that financially, it doesn’t make sense for everybody to put solar panels on their roofs right now, but I hope the cost comes down considerably so everyone can do it eventually. We had a little bit of a break from the company we worked with because they realized they’d get some publicity out of it, so we were able to basically meet them half way. It’s been great and seems to have changed the mood in the studio as well. I think we’ve been getting along better and that there’s a calm that’s settled there now because all the electricity is being channeled from the sun.

TIS: Well much respect to you guys for being trailblazers with that, and you also mentioned staying appraised of current affairs via the news. One thing I’ve always been really impressed with about your website is that when one checks your news section, it’s not just a borage of Cake updates. At any given moment, readers can find information on things like Big Banking, Chemical Plants and Goat Cloning etc. What was the bands inspiration to incorporate socially relevant topics into the website?

VF: I think it comes from the fact that we’re exchanging ideas and information like everybody else on Facebook etc and because we have the bigger platform of being in a band, we’re using it. If someone has something to post, they post it for all of their friends and when we post something, we’re posting it for all our visitors to the site.  I guess it’s on the same level as corporations being people, maybe that’s not the best analogy, but we’re not just a band, we’re people too. Everyone is always telling us to shut up and play music, but we’re part of the community and if we have something pertinent to share, I don’t see any reason why we can’t.

TIS: Agreed, and good for you guys. So going back to the Showroom album, it’s been out for a little over a year now, and is the first album you guys released on your own label, Upbeat Records. How’s the experience been so far of doing it on your own?

VF: It’s been great. The thing is that it’s good to have a record company in the beginning when you’re starting out, I have to say that. They have a longer reach into the music industry and they’ll make you more visible. If you’re a band that’s unknown, they’ll make people know about you. They’ll bring a certain awareness about your group because they’ll get radio play for you, posters made etc and they’ll make people believe that you’re a big thing. So we’ve been through all of that and we felt like we reached a level where we’d made it, we’re at least something people hadn’t discarded over a significant number of years. So since there’s people out there who already know about us, we figured why not do it on our own, and it’s worked out. It’s been more attention for ourselves and our manager. I think we may have sold more records had we stayed with a major, but we would have probably sacrificed a little bit of our identity. Record Companies are always finding gimmicks for bands to sell records, but it changes your persona also. The face of the band has to conform a little bit towards some commercial interests. I’m not saying that it’s a totally evil thing, but it does happen and it takes a little bit of the wind out of you and makes you feel a little funny. So this experience has been good and we’ve been able to hold onto the direction that we want. We continue our creative control. The Record Companies we were with, Capricorn and Columbia, always let us do our own artwork and rarely, if at all, interfered with our recording process. We always delivered an album to them and we discussed it, but they never forced us to edit anything and never occupied the studio while we were recording. It really feels very similar to how it has been except that we’ve had to hire different people for the jobs that a record company would do for us.

TIS: Well I’m really glad it’s working out for you guys.

VF: Thanks.

TIS:  Yeah, definitely. So I read a quote regarding Showroom of Compassion you made, that I found rather interesting and was hoping you’d elaborate on for me which is, “This album represents a band that has created its own story together.”

VF: Yeah, writing this album felt a little like our first album because it had been seven years since we’d released B-Sides and Rarities, which was a collection of things that we hadn’t released before, but Showroom of Compassion was the first time we’d been together making music in seven years. A lot had changed in our lives. Everyone has grown personally and become bigger people, wiser people. So I think all of those personal dynamics were expressed as a group when it was time to record. So yeah, it felt like a debut album because it’d been so long since we were together as a group. That pause, to reset and rejuvenate made things really fresh again.

TIS: Very cool. So can you tell me about the bands decision to go the route of doing two sets on tour rather than having opening acts?

VF: It’s something we started a year or two ago. We’d titled it “An Evening With Cake” which consists of us coming out and doing a set, with no opening act, taking a short break and then coming out for a second set. Finding an opening band has always been pretty time intensive for us. We tend to not go out for long tours, so it’s hard to find an opener because we’d only need someone for 1, 2 or 3 shows. So we used to look regionally for bands, take your state of CT for example, we’d look there for someone to open the show next month, but it’s just so time intensive to find a band that’s appropriate for a Cake show and that’s available, so we made the decision to make the show just us. We have enough of a catalog now that two sets isn’t a problem. So that’s where “An Evening With Cake” started out and it’s been working. We definitely miss having an opener at times, because when we had them in the past, they were always unique experiences.

TIS: Right on, definitely makes sense. So while I’m sure there’s many, can you give me one of the funniest tour memories you have?

VF: Well I always fall back on the one where we broke into a place in Phoenix where we’d left a guitar. We had to drive the next day so we broke the padlock on the front door of a place called The Mason Jar and grabbed the guitar. To pull from something different though, we had a show in Baltimore and our drummer Paulo got stuck in the bathroom, it had locked him in. We came out for the second set and he wasn’t able to get to the stage so he had to break his way out. I’m sure there’s more but we actually play it pretty straight on the road. There’s a lot of logistics so there’s not too many super goofy things happening because we’re usually pretty focused on the task at hand.

TIS: Sure, I get that. So on the flipside of that question then, can you tell me one of the most defining moments of your career in Cake?

VF: Playing on all of the talk shows this past year was both gratifying and defining. Being invited to so many Late Night Talk Shows in 2011, especially because we didn’t think we would be since we were representing ourselves, but we played twice on Conan and twice on Jimmy Kimmel. We played Craig Ferguson and The Late Show. We were actually given one of those hour webcasts on The Late Show. We played on Jimmy Fallon. We did all of it with the exception of Saturday Night Live. So those were defining moments for me for sure.

TIS: How awesome for you guys, and it definitely speaks volumes to the impact you’ve had on the music industry for sure. So in close, what’s on the horizon for Cake in 2012 and beyond?

VF: We want to make another album and not wait another seven years. I know that there’s material to work on, it’s just a matter of herding the cats and getting us all together to work on it. John doesn’t like to give up songs before they’re ready. He really likes to have all the verses worked out. So I think that’s the next thing, to make another album soon, that’s the priority. We’re still not finished with Showroom yet though. We had a third single and are hoping to maybe work a fourth out sometime, if we can. We feel like Showroom still has fire so if we’ll continue on with that for a bit, as we have been. It’s never business as usual for us. It feels like we’re on the edge just like we were when we started. There’s never any sort of comfort zone with us, it’s always discomfort and that’s how we are productive, to make ourselves as uncomfortable as possible and to know that we can be squashed like a bug at anytime. That’s what keeps us moving and working hard.

To Purchase Cake Tickets For Their Upcoming Performance At The Palace Theater In Waterbury, CT  Or For Other Premier Concerts Upcoming Events- Click Here!

Visit Cake Online Here!

For More Information On Yoga Across America Click Here!

More Cake Tour Dates!

04/14/12 Richmond, VA Richmond Raceway Complex
04/15/12 Raleigh, NC Raleigh Amphitheater
04/16/12 Columbia, SC Township Auditorium
04/17/12 Montgomery, AL Montgomery Performing Arts Centre
04/19/12 Fayetteville, AR The AMP
04/20/12 Kansas City, KS Uptown Theater
04/21/12 Oklahoma City, OK Diamond Ballroom
04/22/12 Frisco, TX Pizza Hut Park
04/28/12 Oakland, CA The Fox Theater
05/09/12 Waterbury, CT Palace Theater
05/10/12 Providence, RI Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel
05/12/12 Washington, DC DC101 Chili Cook Off
05/13/12 Philadelphia, PA Festival Pier
06/02/12 San Francisco, CA Live105 BFD Festival
06/14/12 Boston, MA House Of Blues
06/15/12 Cooperstown, NY Brewery Ommegang
06/16/12 Burlington, VT Midway Lawn Concerts Series
07/06/12 Minneapolis, MN Basilica Block Party
07/07/12 Milwaukee, WI Summerfest
07/14/12 Grass Valley, CA Nevada County Fairgrounds
07/28/12 Denver, CO Red Rocks Ampitheater
08/10/12 Brooklyn, NY Williamsburg Summer Garden
08/11/12 Annapolis, MD Silopanna Festival
09/15/12 Victoria, BC Rifflandia Festival

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Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, recovering addict, spiritual director, and author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster) and Everything Mind: What I've Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening and the Mind-Blowing Truth of it All (Sounds True). He writes for ORIGIN Magazine, Huffington Post, and Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine, and has spoken and performed at Wanderlust Festival, Yoga Journal Conference, Sedona World Wisdom Days, Kripalu, Celebrate Your Life and more. Chris is passionate about his work with people who are in the process of healing or struggling with addictions of all kinds. He speaks and leads groups in detoxes, yoga studios, rehabs, youth centers, 12-step meetings, hospitals, conferences, and festivals worldwide. He is a member of the advisory board for Drugs over Dinner.
  1. […] The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Vincent DiFiore (Cake) […]