According to Cake frontman John McCrea, the alt-rock group spent the six years between 2004 effort “Pressure Chief” and forthcoming album “Showroom of Compassion” eliminating the middleman. Plenty of bands decide to self-produce their music and forgo the major-label route; far fewer acts go so far as to build their own solar-powered recording studio.
“Instead of going to a fancy recording studio and spending $300 an hour, we decided to get a house and some recording equipment,” says McCrea, who spent nearly five years constructing the Sacramento, Calif., building with his bandmates. “It’s something that we felt right about, and it really didn’t cost that much. Thanks to the world recession that we’re in, it really is a good time to go solar.”
Cake has been resisting rock band clichés since forming in 1991, with a sound marked by unusual songwriting, patches of brass and McCrea’s speak-sing vocal delivery. “Showroom,” the group’s sixth album that’s due Jan. 11, 2011, is a predictably offbeat offering, but it also represents a new business endeavor for the band. The four-piece will release the set on its own imprint, Upbeat Records, and will take a DIY approach to showing people that the band is still relevant six years after its last release.
“[The long break] is certainly a concern,” says Stu Bergen, president of Warner’s Independent Label Group, which will distribute the album. “But when we heard how strong the music was, it was an easy decision to take on the album.”
After releasing its last two albums on Columbia, McCrea says the band was able to “extricate ourselves from the deal” with the label. Due to its problematic label experiences and the uncertainty of the music industry, Cake realized that setting up Upbeat Records was a necessary, if less than ideal, solution.
“It’s not our dream to run a label, but given the other options, it seems like the smartest thing to do,” McCrea says. “The music industry is in such torpor right now that I don’t trust anyone.”
Once Upbeat was created, “Showroom” took two-and-a-half years to finish, partially due to the band’s insistence on recording its material and self-producing it afterward. In the meantime, the group issued “B-Sides and Rarities” in 2007 on Upbeat, which McCrea says helped “dip our foot in the water” of the self-releasing process.
Video: Cake featured in iPod Nano commercial
In an effort to expand the “finite window of opportunity” that labels allot for most releases, Cake issued anthemic first single “Sick of You” in September, nearly four months before the album release. The song is No. 15 on Billboard’s Rock Songs chart.
Bergen says the band will continue pushing the single to radio, while MTV2 recently added the song’s oddball music video to its rotation. Cake will follow upcoming performances on “Conan” and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” with tour dates throughout the first half of 2011.
However, the biggest piece of the band’s promotional run might have nothing to do with its new album: Cake’s 2001 single “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” soundtracked an Apple iPod Nano commercial that debuted in September. Although the synch was unexpected, Bergen sees it as a nice reminder of the band’s return.
“It could be problematic if we didn’t have a strong single,” he says, “but this way people could remember what they liked about Cake, and now hear something fresh from them.”