Jason Koerner

Louisville Rock Lowdown
By Jason Koerner

"Let Them Eat CAKE: The Palace Steps Up"

The world's most eclectic rock band on the radio, CAKE, paid a visit to the Palace Theater on Tuesday, February 5. The band played an incredible set of songs spanning their career; featuring the latest release, Comfort Eagle. The show had a neighborly ambiance, and the room came together in chants on many songs. Some of CAKE's biggest singles are "Short Skirt, Long Jacket," "Never There" and "The Distance." A 5-piece band with a full sound, well-written music, diverse instrumentation and sounds, and puzzling lyrics are the ingredients to make CAKE.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Vince Difioro (trumpet, keyboards, and backup vocals) about the band and it's current tour/album. Here's what he had to say...

- How long has the tour been going on? How have things been on the road so far?

John McCrea, guitar and vocals. Photo By Jason Koerner

Difioro - Since August... really, really good. We went to Canada more than we ever have, and it's good to be back and tour in the States. We've had good shows, and the audience has been great. So far, so good. We're back in the South now because this is one part we haven't really been on this tour. We've never been to Kentucky... I think the closest we got was Knoxville. We also had a show booked in Lexington about 3-4 years ago, but we had to cancel.

- I know a lot of people were disappointed about that...

Vince Di Fiori, trumpe Photo By Jason Koernert

Difioro - That was right before our first bass player quit. We had to cancel some dates, and everything really fell apart for that album at that point... I notice that Kentucky is on the quarter. You know these quarters that have been coming out?

- Yeah, it's one of the newer ones...

Difioro - It says "My Old Kentucky Home" on the back and has a horse on it and a big house in the background... I saw one for the first time at the airport.

- What state are you from?

Difioro - California, the band is half in Oakland, half in Sacramento. Our drummer Pete is actually from Connecticut, but he lives in Los Angeles right now.

- How many copies of Comfort Eagle have sold so far?

Difioro - About half a million, 500,000 or so. I think it's gone Gold.

- How long has it been out?

Difioro - I think since about August (2001).

- What kind of roles do the band members take on when touring? Are there any difficulties on the road?

Difioro - Well, we get along pretty well, we all travel on one bus. The crew and the band share the same bus. We do get along really well; there is a lot of dice playing with a little bit of wagering involved (laughs). I brought along a fern for the bus, which was pretty nice, to have a houseplant along! On our last tour, I also took along a crock-pot so we could make soup before the show to have it afterwards. But we gave away the fern and the crock-pot at our last show in Norfolk, VA. Sometimes it gets a little tight; people just have to remember to let go a little bit...

- How many people are on the bus all together?

Difioro - That's a good question, uhhh... (counts 5, 6, 7...) I think 10 all together.

- Where does the theme for your album cover artwork come from?

Difioro - That's John's (lead vocals) original artwork. It is sort of this flyer approach we have from back in Sacramento. It's an interesting juxtaposition between the word CAKE and the image of some sort of animal or some people dancing.

- Is that going to be an ongoing theme for future albums as well?

Difioro - Yeah, John originally said that it was going to be a trilogy, but we're past that. It will continue that way.

- How long have you been with CAKE?

Difioro - Since the fall of 1991, about 10 and a half years now.

- Who were your major influences on trumpet?

Difioro - Growing up, I probably just heard a lot of trumpet in television and movies. My parents had Herb Albert records, and I remember hearing Louis Armstrong a lot. Probably Beatles records too; there's a lot of trumpet on them. Those are probably the main influences. There was no (single) trumpet player I really worshipped or anything like that.

- How long have you been playing?

Difioro - I started in 4th grade, that was long time. I guess I was about 8 or 9 when I started.

- Are you mainly self-taught or classically trained?

Difioro - I had some lessons from the conductor of the local symphony. His name is Joseph Valiente. I went to a great music camp when I was in junior high school, so I kind of went through all the roots that someone would go through who is classically trained, but I didn't practice very much. I got into trumpet through punk rock and improvisational jazz groups, and then John invited me to be in CAKE.

- What kind of trumpet do you play most often?

Difioro - It's a Calicchio. This trumpet was made in 1971, so it's about 30 years old. I've had it since I was about 10 years old. I've been playing this one trumpet since then, so what... (makes a "thinking" noise) I'm really old now. I've been playing it for 28 years.

- What's the meaning behind the song "Pretty Pink Ribbon?" Is it about breast cancer?

Difioro - Actually I have heard other people say that too. It's really not about that, but I can totally understand that interpretation because I think there is a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness.

- So is it just about Cheetos or something totally off the wall?

Difioro - (laughs) It's really about being a girl and the entitlement you have in the world if you are a female. You kind of get away with a little bit more if you are a woman. We almost didn't include it on the album because John was concerned that maybe it seemed misogynistic. (Vince tells a summary of the movie "The Bad Seed" that illustrates the thoughts brought up by the song, explaining the innocent appearance of a little girl who committed the murder of a classmate.) John also likes his songs to be open to interpretation, so if someone thinks it is about breast cancer, then maybe it works that way.

- How did the band feel about the live web-cast performance recently?

Difioro - It went really well. We went to the Yahoo! Studios in Sunnyville, CA. It was a little weird at first because we would do a song and there wouldn't be any applause, it was really quiet. It was good; we'd like to do another one of those. We built it as CAKE finally plays Europe because we hadn't been to Europe yet on this tour. It hadn't worked out on the other records either... It was just a good experience because it was something new that hadn't been done by us before, and it was the first time they did something like that at Yahoo! Someone painted a really nice backdrop for us, and it was a good experience.

- You guys seem to be very in tune with your audience and fans. Who's influence is that to be so in touch with your fan-base, when most other bands are not?

Difioro - I think it is something that has come out of getting our success gradually. We started out with a fan-base before we ever got a record contract. On the web site, the poll questions were John's idea, and we've all kind of contributed questions at one time or another. We want to give people a forum to express their opinion and to keep interest in our site. I think it's what makes it a dynamic place. It is updated every week, along with a picture, and a letter from a fan that is not always a positive one. We are pretty thick-skinned by now; we don't take things too personally. It's a lot more fun that way, to kind of have this pen pal relationship with our fans.

- Canada rules, doesn't it?

Difioro - Canada is cool! They are really open to our strange video ideas, and they have been really good about playing our music.

- It is hard to stereotype an entire country for supporting your band so much, but what do you see as the major difference between them and what the American press/media does for you guys?

Difioro - I think that (Canadians) do not lose the subtlety of our music. Our culture is really based on large vehicles and a strong military; and people are encouraged to be indulgent, I suppose. In Canada, they are a little bit more restrained, I think. Maybe that is part of it. Maybe if history were different, they would be more similar to us. I mean, listen to the mainstream rock right now, and even what is called modern rock; it's really hard, it's really heavy stuff. I think that just has something to do with Americans' tastes right now. I guess they are just not as into that as we are.

- What is CAKE's message to the world?

Difioro - First of all, we are just trying to be musicians. We don't want to be politicians or diplomats. Our message to the world is probably "give our music a chance." We try to rock out with discretion. We want our music to be exciting, but we want there to be some dynamics to it, varied rhythms, and interesting melodies. We want peace on Earth just like the next person does. I think everyone really wants the same thing, which is to live their own life and hope that other people are able to live their lives too. We're just entertainers, and we're trying to survive as a band and entertain people.

- Lastly, what is the next chapter for CAKE?

Difioro - We are playing a closing ceremony party in Salt Lake City for the Olympics. I don't think it is going to be televised or anything. We are trying to get together a tour for April, which will include 3-4 other groups. We want to get together a little mini-festival-concert for about 3 weeks in April.

This is just one major concert the Palace Theater has brought to town lately. It seems they have really stepped up the pace since the demise (and rebirth, what's up with that?) of Louisville Gardens, as well as the reduction of heavy rock shows from Headliners. A major `thank you' goes out to them for providing a beautiful music-friendly venue (I even saw Megadeth there!) for us here in Louisville. In the month of March, look for major events like "The Veggie Tales" children's performance March 1,2,3; Carrot Top on March 5; Prince on March 9; Boney James on March 14 and Diana Krall on March 26. In the coming months, be sure to see B.B. King on April 19 and the rendition of Saturday Night Fever on April 23-26, 27, and 28.

Send me your submissions to JJKSLACKER@cs.com, or you can reach me at (502) 262-8728 for other information. Rock on Louisville!