Cake Bring Their Trademark Brand Of Alt-Rock To Westville Music Bowl

Cake (Credit: Robert McKnight)


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When it comes to rock music over the past 30 years, very few bands have as many legit hits as Cake. People have most likely heard either “The Distance”, “Never There”, “Sheep Go To Heaven”, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” or the rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” at some point in their lives. Along with their consistently great recordings, this act from Sacramento can put on a stellar live show as well. This is exactly what’s going to be happening when Cake performs at the Westville Music Bowl in New Haven on July 19. The whole thing starts at 7:30 p.m. with no openers so make sure to arrive promptly.

I talked with lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist John McCrea about the musical direction of the band when it started, being one of only two original members, his activism outside of music and trying to figure out how to release the next batch of recordings in the age of streaming services.

RD: During the early ’90s in Sacramento, Cake started out as a reaction to both the local coffeehouse music scene and the mainstream grunge boom. How did you and fellow founding members Vince DiFiore, Greg Brown, Shon Meckfessel and Frank French go about crafting a sound that incorporates funk, country, ’60s pop, hip hop and experimental variations?

JM: It wasn’t so much like crafting it, it was more like sidestepping sounds that we hated. We were definitely a reactionary band at the beginning. There was a lot of big, dumb rock in different manifestations, there was still hair metal and there was grunge, which for us felt like the same thing but in different clothes. There was a lot of muscular music so we wanted to sound intentionally small and weak as opposed to the powerful and sort of Viking music at that time. It was us finding things in other genres of music that we thought were effective, but they didn’t cling so tightly to the rock convention.

RD: I totally get that from listening to you guys. How has it been incorporating new musicians into the band with you and Vince being the only remaining members from the band’s initial incarnation? Have you ever had difficulty finding someone to join up after another musician has to leave?

JM: It’s actually been pretty stable. We’ve had our guitar player Xan McCurdy in the band since the late ‘90s and Todd Roper, who played drums on our second album Fashion Nugget, he’s been back playing with us since 2016 it feels more stable than what you described. Vince and I have obviously done the long haul with it, we’ve definitely gone through some drummers and we sort of ended up back with one of our first drummers with Todd.

RD: Outside of music, you’re well-known for your activism and voice concerning the issues of global warming, reforestation and world poverty. Has this aspect always been part of you since you were young or is it a thing where as Cake’s profile and popularity has increased you feel that this is the best way to use your platform?

JM: I think it was something that was always there that I tried to keep quiet at the beginning. Then as I realized more and more that I have a bit of a voice, I allowed myself reluctantly to speak out about things here and there. Our primary job is to obviously play music, but with that said these are precarious times and it seems irresponsible not to use whatever tools you have to help out.

RD: Absolutely. What are some organizations that are combating these issues we just talked about that you’d like to mention so perhaps someone could check them out and get involved if they haven’t already?

JM: We did some stuff with One Tree Planted for tree planting and we also donated proceeds from a single we did a few years ago to World Central Kitchen, they seem to be really effective and the more I’ve learned about them the more impressed I am. We’ve also done other things with lots of organizations including the Union of Concerned Scientists, they do good stuff on climate change.

RD: Very cool. It’s been over a decade since Cake released their last studio album Showroom Of Compassion back in 2011 and you guys have released a few singles since then. Will that be the plan going forward? Do you just plan on putting out singles in the future or are there plans for another record of some sort?

JM: I have no idea what we’re supposed to do. Honestly, if you or anyone else knows please let us know what the right thing to do is. I think what we’re going to do though is just release another album out of habit. Not that it’s the right thing to do, but there’s a bunch of songs that we’ve recorded and we’re almost finished with them. I think we’re going to throw those onto an album and just do that. If that’s the right thing to do anymore, I have no idea.


Westville Music Bowl
45 Yale Avenue, New Haven
Wednesday July 19 @ 7:30 p.m.