Fresno Beehive

‘Voting is a chess move, not a valentine.’ Cake’s John McCrea on why the band is back

John McCrea, lead vocals for the band Cake, performing in 2011 at the Buzz Under the Stars concert series in Kansas City’s City Market.
John McCrea, lead vocals for the band Cake, performing in 2011 at the Buzz Under the Stars concert series in Kansas City’s City Market. Kansas City Star

It’s telling that the first single Cake has released in seven years is an apocalyptic ode called “Sinking Ship.” Also telling is that its flip side (its being released on vinyl) is a cover of the late ’60s classic “Age of Aquarius.”

“One side really optimistic and the other side really pessimistic,” says singer John McCrea, on the phone from his home in Northern California.

And that sentiment is also pretty much how he feels about the country at the moment. He see a tremendous opportunity for progress and change, but it’s tempered with the possibility that it could all be “flushed down the toilet.”

“It’s an amazing time,” he says.

It has led the band to produce new music (a full length album is slated for next year), but also an online get-out-the-vote campaign and a series of Vote Like Hell concerts. On Tuesday, the band was in Texas, playing an event for senate candidate Beto O’ Rourke. On Wednesday, they were in Illinois with congressional candidate Lauren Underwood.

On Friday, the band stumps for democratic congressional candidate Andrew Janz with a concert at the Crest Theatre in downtown Fresno.

The darker tones and political bent may seem out of the norm for the bad, especially to the casual fan who knows the band for “The Distance” or “Short Skirt/Long Jacket.” If McCrea has been political in the past, it’s never been this public.

“I’ve pretty much studiously avoided direct political association with candidates,” he says, because it could prove disappointing, damaging even. “That is a luxury I can’t afford anymore,” he says.

He’s reminded of writer Rebecca Solnit , who in 2016 said “Voting is a chess move, not a valentine.” Real political change is incremental and emotionally unsatisfying, which can lead to cynicism, McCrea says.

“I know that cynicism very well.”

And he’s trying to fight it. That means going back on the road, even though McCrea says he never really liked touring. Following the Vote Like Hell shows, the band is doing a European tour in January.

“If you want to see us perform, come and see the show,” he says.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

Cake

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