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For Cake Trumpeter Vincent DiFiore, Energy Comes From Many Places, Even the Sun

Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 17:12


Robert McKnight

Who eats cake?

Remember those seven years when that quirky alternative band called Cake went wayunder the radar then came back in 2011 and released its first top 10 album ever? After 7 years of playing the occasional show and releasing a few b-sides, the group has returned to open arms. It's one of few alternative bands with a permanent trumpeter, keeping company with Dave Matthews Band and Foxy Shazam. And although the group has a rep for its testy front man, trumpet player Vincent DiFiore has a big heart. He recently put to use arranging the song "Federal Funding" for marching bands and distributing the sheet music for free.

He took a few minutes to chat with College Times about responding to fan mail, finding a balance between trumpet and electric guitars and how solar powered recording may have affected Showroom for Compassion.

College Times:You have a degree in psychology, so was the advice page on Cake's website your idea?

Vincent DiFiore: Yeah, that was my idea. [Laughs] I had a good run at it. I hope to go back to it someday, but it's been pretty dormant. I'm doing the Cake road journal also. It takes a lot of work, keeping up with all the other band business and keeping up with my practice on the trumpet, it's too much to keep the advice going also. I figured I could safely answer a lot of these challenging questions and it'd be worthwhile to some people. Even if their questions didn't get answered, it's good to get your question out there because your brain ends up answering that question anyway when you give that question up to someone else. It frees your mind of burden and then the answer comes more easily.


Is it common for fan mail to seek advice instead of being full of praise?

Um. Yeah, you know, wisdom is something people are always seeking. Sometimes, there's the illusion that other people might have some and we kind of ran with that illusion. [Laughs] I appreciate the letters a lot. There are some really heartfelt questions in there and I don't take it lightly. If there's something that's too heavy, I've never answered it. If there's something where there's suicidal thoughts, I think I've sent a quick note back of encouragement [against suicide], but I don't want to be responsible for super-heavy problems. I'm not a licensed therapist. There's some things that should be taken very seriously and not dealt with on a band website. [There's] a very good variety of questions, from what should I do with my popcorn texture ceiling in my recreation room to somebody just broke up with me and I don't know what to do. Those are the most common ones – people with heartache.


It does seem to be an epidemic, unfortunately. I've always wondered about permanent trumpet players in bands. Are there ever songs where the guys are like, "where's the trumpet going to fit in?"

Well, that burden falls on me ultimately. Sometimes other guys in the band come up with trumpet parts. Sometimes they think it's better to say nothing on the trumpet and come up with keyboard parts and harmony vocals instead. And then, lo and behold, Gabe Nelson, our bass player, will have a trumpet part for me. I jump on that. I've always had this idea that it'd be guitarists trying to squeeze me out, [that] didn't want me to be a part of the group, but ever since the group has had some traction and it's worked as the five piece, the other guys in the band have been very helpful. The way the band originally started was [vocalist] John [McCrea] had some trumpet lines he wanted me to play. I'm not so much of an outsider. The fact is: there's a trumpet in the band, so there's going to be trumpet on the songs. It works. It's just something we've made work.


Growing up, the majority of trumpet players seemed to have two options: ska or jazz. Were you ever worried about being pigeonholed?

[Laughs] I was part of two bands before Cake. One was like AC/DC with a trumpet and the other one was like the Sex Pistols with a trumpet section. Those bands were a lot of fun. They didn't really go anywhere. You know, I thought we were pretty good for what we were. Then, I played in some jazz groups around town. You know, groups that were fond of the free jazz movement. We just improvised a set. For some reason, I've been able to hang with electric guitarists. That's my favorite part about being in Cake, having an acoustic wind instrument but working with the mix of an electric rock band.


Everything for Showroom for Compassion was recorded in a solar-powered studio you guys had built. As an acoustic player, was the experience different from previous recording sessions?

No, I was affected by it. There's something about feeding off the teat of the city. You know how you see pictures of dogs with their exhausted dog mom and all these little puppies are just like gnawing at the nipples and it's kind of tense with competition to get this milk energy from the exhausted mother? That's kind of what we avoided by getting the solar panels. We're off the city's energy grid and we're supplying our own energy from the sun. I think it made the temperament better in a room that's combative.


You felt less combative because you weren't wasting energy?

Yeah, we weren't wasting energy, so that was off of our conscience. We weren't wasting energy and there was something self-reliant about it that made us feel confident about what we were doing.


Cake, The Marquee Theatre, December 10, 7 p.m., $39

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