“I can go to a Cake gig where there’s 2,000 tickets sold and walk through the front door and onto the stage and no one will know who I am,” he said, speaking by phone Sept. 2.
This lack of recognition deeply troubles him.
“Anonymity is a great thing.”
OK, maybe not, but a fun game might be to pick him out of the crowd Oct. 8, when the band plays at the Knitting Factory.
“People don’t really understand what fame entails, and I don’t think it’s all that fun,” McCurdy continued.
An alternative rock band originating in Sacramento, Cake’s debut album, “Motorcade of Generosity,” dropped in 1994 and included minor hit “Rock ‘N’ Roll Lifestyle.”
It perfectly represents Cake’s style then and now – sardonic and unconventional, catchy and funky.
Their 1996 follow-up, “Fashion Nugget,” yielded mainstream hit “The Distance.”
But despite continued success, McCurdy is modest to a fault.
“Cake is certainly not famous,” he said. “[Fame] is something 14-year-old girls want.”
But like it or not, Cake is famous, and famous things have fans — many of whom use Facebook, and some of whom get offended.
On Aug. 17, the band’s Facebook Fan Page, which McCurdy said all the members can post on, put up this message:
“Do Republicans hate Obama enough that they are willing to intentionally damage the US economy to prevent his re-election next year?”
Users left more than 600 comments with varying levels of outrage and approval.
McCurdy attributed the more incendiary online posts to Cake’s lead singer, the famous-for-monotone John McCrea.
“John is the most political,” he said. “That’s his voice.”
He seemed somewhat exasperated with the situation.
“I try to stay out of it on that aspect because I’m more into music, and I kind of keep my politics to myself,” McCurdy said. “If people are upset by it, well, that’s too bad. We’re just going to be who we are.”
Plenty of people agreed with the message or defended the band's right to an opinion, but what else would you expect from fans? More interesting were the posts from critics.
“The distance is the only song i really like anyways.... and its only cause i drive a racecar. LIBERALS SUCK,” read one user responseon Cake’s Facebook wall.
Why give this example of poor grammar a soapbox? Because Cake already did.
On the band’s main website — not the wild west of social networking — that very quote was spotlighted.
“You have to keep it light,” McCurdy explained. “Angry people are funny.”
And Cake is no stranger to publicizing Joe Opposition. The music video for 2001 single “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” shows people on the street listening to the song and giving feedback — including complaints about the lyrics, the singing and the bass.
“You got to hear it from all sides … all voices should be heard,” he said. “Maybe.”
Another fan post on Facebook said, “If your albums were as remotely as political as your facebook feed i wouldnt buy them.”
That fan is in luck when it comes to Cake’s live shows, where songs do the talking.
“We understand that people paid money to come see us,” McCurdy said. “And to sort of preach to someone after they’ve spent their hard-earned dollars would just be f---ing rude. I think.”
McCurdy often seems ambivalent, like even when he has a strong opinion, he wants to be open to other thoughts.
His equivocal feelings extends to touring.
At live shows, Cake sometimes gives away a tree — “It’s not political, it’s not lefty, it’s just life.” And on Facebook, many of the posts deal with environmental issues which McCurdy believes shouldn’t be partisan.
“We feel a little bit guilty about our touring practices,” he said. “Travel is a huge [carbon] footprint … We want to offset that if we can.”
To that end, Cake’s website includes a forum for concert carpools. While his four band mates live in Sac and Oakland, McCurdy moved to Portland, Ore., and puts “maybe 1,000 miles” on his car each year because he rides a bike.
The band with a recurring car fetish in their artwork and songs is ironically counter-carburetor. Songs like “Long Line of Cars” and “Carbon Monoxide” are plainly critical and seem odd juxtaposed with the many that wax poetic with auto imagery — "Stickshifts and Safetybelts,” “Satan is My Motor.” "The Distance" may be a metaphor, but it still brings cars immediately to mind.
Maybe that blend springs from the democratic songwriting.
“John is the main man for sure,” McCurdy said. “But we end up coming up with parts for each other. It’s very democratic, everyone really steps up."
But democracy has its downside.
“I’ll tell you this — it’s sloooooow,” he said.
The band members were overflowing with idea for 2011’s “Showroom of Compassion,” their first studio effort in seven years and the first without a major label.
The result is easily recognizable: Consistent vocals, guitar and trumpet live alongside consistent inconsistency as the band flirts with unexpected styles and flourishes.
Still alternative and now technically indie, Cake enjoys autonomy.
“We’ve always tried to be in control of every aspect of everything we do, he said. “If we f--- up, we have no one but ourselves to blame, and if we do great, then we get to pat ourselves on the back a little bit.”
And if you come to the Knit Saturday to see them f--- up or fly, be prepared to sing a special part.
"Oh, we’re going to teach them," McCurdy promised.