Twenty-five years in, Cake is still doing their own thing

Get to know band before they take Breese Stevens Field on Friday

Courtesy of Robert McKnight

Cake has marched to the beat of its own drum since its beginning, and it doesn’t appear they have plans of stopping anytime soon.

The band, coming to Breese Stevens Field Friday, possesses qualities that are unique in their own right, and even more so when combined.

John McCrea’s vocals often stand out on many of their tracks for being monotone and his lyrics sarcastic, ironic or downright weird.

Their instrumental arrangements, however, are anything but monotone, taking inspiration from a wide array of colorful music genres such as mariachi, big band jazz or early ’60s country music.

Together these two elements have the effect of being able to stir many different emotions within the listener in the space of one song whereas other bands would need the space of several.

One song, “Race Car Ya-Yas,” is a good example of the kind of quirkiness Cake possesses. The song begins with a twangy guitar line and a bass part that clash rhythmically, stirring strong emotions in the listener and charging them up.

But unconventional lyrics from the track, like “The land where large, fuzzy dice still hang proudly, like testicles from rear-view mirrors,”  perplex the listener and make them think as well.

In reference to diversity of genres present, McCrea said they were originally inspired by the popular music at the time of the band’s beginning, or rather their dislike of it.

“There seemed to be a lot of veins, bulging from neck, white guy power trip music,” McCrea said. “We thought that was silly.”

As well as limiting their music to one dimension, Cake also tries to altogether avoid a lot of the ups and downs of the music industry.

McCrea said the industry has become too romanticized in the eyes of non-artists. Perhaps the most romanticized is touring. There’s a notion that artists take time to write music on the road. For some bands, it’s doable, but McCrea said it doesn’t fly for Cake.

McCrea admitted there isn’t a lot of room to be creative when, during the tour, musicians are constantly surrounded by people and are therefore subject to judgement which halts the creative flow.

“[Touring] is like being a trained circus bear every night … and it tends to be all fairly superficial,” McCrea said. “You don’t dig in, to get to know a place or people. You’re like an astronaut waving as you orbit the planet.”

Wilco’s intuitive performance was exactly what audience wanted to hearWhen Wilco took the stage at Breese Stevens Field Friday there was, both figuratively and literally, lightning in the air. Read…

But the band still relishes the music-making process.

Cake took a seven year break to “extricate themselves from that sinking ship” of the music industry, as McCrea put it. It was during this time that Cake worked on some new music, built their own studio and started their own label.

Though it’s not an easy route to take when musicians have the additional work such as marketing or public relations, McCrea said it’s rewarding for them to know they have complete freedom over what they do.

And despite Cake’s dislike for the more restrictive sides of touring, their character and uniqueness should provide for an interesting show, one for both young and old audiences.

“In the same way Cake is not about genre assertion, we are not about generation assertion. It’s not a ‘just-for-you’ kind of music. Everyone is, at least theoretically, invited to the party,” McCrea said.

You can check out Cake with openers Dr. Dog at Breese Stevens Field on Friday, September 9.


This article was published Sep 6, 2016 at 11:02 pm and last updated Sep 12, 2016 at 9:49 pm


UW-Madison's Premier Independent Student Newspaper

All Content © The Badger Herald, 1995 - 2023