Icing on the Cake
Summer blows me away, and I’m brought back to some semblance of reality by the guitar-smooth, crunch-pop cute groove of Cake Like’s most recent album, Goodbye, So What . It feels like sunshine, but with a tight sonic edge. Since 1992, Cake Like have been twisting their instruments into a solidly maturing sound. I talked to bass player Kerri Kenney and guitarist Nina Hellman about the sound, the past, the future, and the confusion of three-way calling. Drummer Jody Seifert was otherwise occupied, dealing in the world of fashion.
A connection is made and I’m talking to Kerri and Nina, who are currently in California. All three Cake Likers have jobs that consistently leave them time to concentrate on the band and pull them away from the band. Kerri is working a TV deal, and Nina is styling on the stage with a new play. So I figure this must affect the band, and wonder where the priorities lie.
Kerri answers, “It really flip flops. We never have the chance to look at the big picture, because for months it will be our careers, and then for months it will be our music.”
When the music happens, it really happens. Their first release, Delicious , appeared on John Zorn’s Avant label. The band was given complete artistic freedom, and the only catch was that the CD would be released as an import only. Small price to pay for the debut of a strong band. Delicious is the first chapter in the story, and a necessary listen to follow the growth of the band. Following the music, we come to the “Mr. Fireman” single. This 7″ came out in 1995, produced by Ric Ocasek, and through that, and their New York style live shows, Cake Like managed to attract the attention of Neil Young.
Signed to Neil Young’s label, Vapor Records, Cake Like produced the CD that shows the transition from the rawness of Delicious to the more polished dynamics of Goodbye, So What : Bruiser Queen . Attracting attention immediately with the bright yellow cover and the image of insect sex, Bruiser Queen came out in 1997, attracting attention from CMJ , Time Out , Ray Gun , and other press. Now they’ve done their third, and I ask how they feel about the direction they’ve gone, the progression of their music.
“Well first of all, our first CD was recorded in five days. This new one took us five weeks, so right there we’ve got a difference. It was great taking the time to record it the way we wanted,” Nina explains.
Kerri adds, “Everyday is different, but as we play with each other more, our vocabulary grows. We can do things now that we couldn’t when we started. Having more time in the studio is also more fun”
I ask if they enjoy touring, when they have the time, or if they have a preference between the live experience and the studio world.
“The studio is definitely powerful, but playing live is a blast. Touring, though… tour is all sorts of things,” Nina pauses… “playing festivals is great, because there are all these bands, and you don’t really have to worry about it. We played festivals in Europe, and we did the HORDE festival, and that was great, but on the road, just going from city to city on your own… that can be extremely exhausting.”
I try and get some experiences out of them, but only learn that Boston is a really great city to play, they seem to get a really good crowd there, Seattle is always fun, and a town by the name of Morgantown, in West Virgina, hosted a Cake Like show that still has them smiling.
Turning the conversation towards the songs, I ask about the structure, always curious about such things… structure and band names.
Kerri explains, “We’re about as collaborative as you can get with our songwriting. It’s not like one of us walks in to practice and says, ‘I have a song,’ it’s more like we just get together, all writing on our own instruments until something comes together, we all throw in lyrics, and we get our song. As for our name, Nina and I were working in a bakery, and we wanted to call the band Cake. We even put up flyers for a show, billing ourselves as Cake. Finding out there was another band with that name, we had to change it, and decided to just add Like. It worked for us.”
Works for me too, I’ve got my cake, and, like, I can hear it too.