By Ryan Scott
CAKE will be bringing their sweet selves to the Marquee Theatre on June 21st for a show to promote...themselves. In anticipation and promotion of the show, I got to have a chat with lead singer and founding member of the band, John McCrea.
The band is not touring to promote a new album or any particular project they are working on. They are touring to “keep the lights on,” as McCrea put it.
“Recorded music is mostly free now so the only way they (bands) can pay their bills is to just keep touring. Our last record we released on our own label, which I think helped somewhat. You know, just keeping the costs down,” McCrea Said. “We're trying to actually do less touring so I can write some more songs and we can get back into the studio pretty soon. But lately the tour kind of seems to last longer and longer each time.”
The decision to release Showroom Of Compassion on their own label paid off as well, because it debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart when it was released, selling 44,000 albums in its first week of release. However, the band managed to set a record for the lowest-selling number-one album in the history of that particular chart, which sort of brings McCrea’s thoughts on the music industry these days full circle.
“If you're nineteen (years old), you're pretty much an idiot if you pay for recorded music. I know songwriters who I know you've heard of and respect who are calling it quits. I could tell you bands that everyone has heard of and everyone thinks they're big and everybody in that band has at least one day job. And you think 'Oh, those guys are rich.' And some of those day jobs are pretty humble jobs.”
Unfortunately, for many of those bands, the prospect of having to maintain a day job presents its own set of problems that conflicts with their art, according to McCrea.
“There’s no day job that pays well that will allow you to go on tour for two months at a time,” McCrea said. “I think a lot of musicians are conflicted about that. They're like 'do we tell people how bad it has gotten?' Because one guy told me they don't tell people because part of the worry is that people think they're all rich and everything. That's part of the allure of it, but the reality is that really good guitar players are driving taxi cabs.”
Even though the music industry is having a hard time monetizing itself in the current climate, McCrea thinks that could just be karma in some way.
“The music industry has historically ripped people off so maybe there is a karmic debt there. I just remember being a teenager and thinking 'I can't afford this much for an album, this is crazy.' Especially if there's just one good song on the album. The music industry generally had this coming,” McCrea said.
Though things seem bleak in a lot of ways, it hasn’t discouraged CAKE from wanting to put out new music and keep the band going.
“We're going to make an album because we feel like making an album, not because we think we're going to get rich or anything. That was sort of always the reason why we did it. The music was never particularly appropriate for the time. It wasn't the popular scene. We've always been playing the music that we liked and hoping that there were some people that would like it too,” McCrea said.
CAKE started in the early 90’s and released their first album, Motorcade of Generosity, in 1994, and their sound conflicted quite heavily with what was big at that time. Bands with big, loud sounds such as Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden were what was big at the time. Though, those sounds have been replicated through the years while CAKE has managed to stay sounding like CAKE. McCrea has a simple answer for why that might be.
“Its sort of a 'less-is-more' approach. Our sound is sort of defined by what's not there as opposed to what's there. I think that's been really key for us. That aesthetic is in a lot of the music that I like,” McCrea said.
CAKE will be playing an all ages show at the Marquee Theater on June 21st at 8 p.m. Advance tickets for the show are $40 and can be purchased at http://luckymanonline.com/events/cake-2/.