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July 16, 2009

Leftover Cake is kind of depressing

cakeIn case you (gasp!) didn't see today's print edition, it featured my centerpiece on alt-rock group Cake. Here's a link.

It was, perhaps, one of the more depressing -- but open -- interviews I've done recently. I spoke with front man and lead singer John McCrea (pictured, second from the left), who founded the band back in the early '90s.

McCrea sounded really downbeat and grumpy for some reason. I don't know why. Maybe that's just how he is. I played devil's advocate a bit and he got pretty riled up. Here are a couple quotes that didn't end up in the article.

"It wouldn't take much to push us off the edge, just the edge of being able to exist, being able to continue to exist as a band. ... It's getting easier and easier to be a big star on YouTube. But in terms of being able to eat food, that's getting almost impossible for all but a very, very few bands."

(The band sold out the 4,200-capacity Pier Six Pavilion in 2007 and sold out a two-night stand at the 9:30 Club in late May) ...

McCrea on starting their own label, Upbeat Records:

"We're not involved with the machinery anymore. It's certainly interesting to watch us disappear because of that. ... I think being culturally irrelevant is not the worst thing."

On not being a part of a major label anymore:

"I don't think you're going to see us on late night talk shows anymore. That whole thing's rigged."

On where he was coming from when he released the first Cake album, Motorcade of Generosity, in 1994:

"For me, it was always trying to prove something to myself -- that I could do it. I was always very angry. I hated the music that was going on that the time when I released [Motorcade of Generosity]. It was just a big, huge, [expletive] you to the wide load, big, dumb American rock."

(Handout photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:37 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Random stuff


i'd need actual leftover cake (chocolate, please) to make me feel better after that interview.

John McCrea is no Pollyanna, but he's right about the sad state of the music biz. While the emergence of iPods and MP3's has helped, music sales have fallen off precipitously from the pre-Napster heyday of 10-15 years ago.

Only "American Idol"-affiliated and Disney channel acts have enjoyed any consistent success in the past 5 years, as the number of places to showcase more off-beat acts like Cake has dwindled.

Waaaaaah. You lived a life most people can only dream and now you're basically complaining that you and your band just don't have "it" anymore. Appreciate the great years and move on.

Still gonna see them for free this Saturday.

Cake doesn't have to change at all, and props to them for being dedicated to releasing albums. That's how I want to listen to them.

My old roommate Ian and I talk about Cake being like listening to a musical—when you put on one of their albums, you're agreeing to enter Cakeworld. It's as much a mood as anything else. I judge other bands by their songs, but with Cake I feel like I'm paying them a's totally their show.

PS: One of my babysitters went on to date Cake's sound guy. I had awesome babysitters.

At least they've started their own label and can actively take charge of their own destiny. That's better than being controlled by a mega-conglomerate that only thinks in numbers and couldn't care less about your music.

The Cake show at Artscape was great. War Pigs!

Cake is the band that kept me sane when I was young, broke, and studying at an arts conservatory in rural England. That sounds worse than what it really was. But anyway, I would wander down to the kitchen at 2am, stir-crazy and unable to sleep. I'd pop in "Prolonging the Magic" and sing along to every single song as I cooked my vegetable soup and rice.

Props to Cake. I dig 'em. And for those of you who expected to listen to Cake and receive an uplift: sorry, not gonna happen.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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