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Name: My Friend The Chocolate Cake
Established: 1989
Label: EMI Music Australia
Website: www.mftcc.com
My Friend The Chocolate Cake
  Pic:courtesy of EMI Music Australia
Biography:

Their name alone should have ensured a quiet life for My Friend the Chocolate Cake. No one dreamed of ARIA awards, two years of sold-out Edinburgh Festival dates or the kind of ageless and eternally devoted audience most bands with cooler names would kill for.

Somewhere within the unlikely union of kitchen sink piano tales, vivid chamber orchestration and hell-raising instrumental shenanigans, the Melbourne band has carved out a 15-year, five-album history that culminates – so far – in the 19-track retrospective, Parade.

As illustrated and updated by three new tunes – “Let’s Go Walk This Town”, “Television Theme #47” and “Black Dog” – Parade is a collection of moods as beautifully realised as they are diverse.

Whether wrapped in the warm, dark cloak of a rainy city or hitching their skirts to howl at the moon, they’re tunes that teach sad hearts to sing and bad dancers to throw their arms out and cut sick.

“One strength of this band is the range of melodic instruments,” reckons singer / pianist David Bridie. “The strings give us freedom to swing from the orchestrated pop of ‘I’ve Got a Plan’ to the happy instrumentals like ‘Vándorló’ and ‘The Romp’ to the melancholy of ‘The Gossip’.

“I’m sure plenty of people come to our gigs just to hear the girls play, they just kinda tolerate this miserable bloke behind the piano. It’s a broad audience we have and they’re very loyal and very passionate. They really connect and they ride the moods of the gig with us.”

Tellingly, it all started as harmless fun. In 1989, David and cellist Helen Mountfort were playing in globally acclaimed ambient/world music ensemble Not Drowning Waving when they opted to unplug and unwind with a few more breezy compositions.

Hope Csutoros, a violinist with eastern European gypsy roots and a flamboyant stage presence to match, was an inspired early accomplice. Mandolinist Andrew Carswell and guitarist Andrew Richardson added to an exotic web of acoustic textures. Russell Bradley was the first of several drummer/ percussionists.

“We played a casual two-month residency,” David recalls. “Sunday nights at this place called Madigan’s that had a grand piano and op-shop furniture. We ended up with a lot of songs so we went into Sing Sing Studios for a day to record them. The whole thing cost us $800.”
 
In a highly regarded career of song riting, performance, production and film scoring, it was perhaps the best investment of David’s life. My Friend The Chocolate Cake (their self titled first album) has sold in excess of 40,000 units. Its successors, Brood and Good Luck, scooped ARIA’s Best Adult Contemporary Album awards in ’95 and ’97.

Meanwhile, under the mainstream music biz radar, the Cake was making wider impact. From Brisbane to Perth and, by the late ‘90s, from London to Hanoi, every house was packed and rapt. Live At The National Theatre recorded one such gig in ’98. Curios followed in ‘02.

“It was quite enlightening putting Parade together,” says Helen. “David and I listened to stuff we hadn’t heard for years and realised there’s a very different sound on all the records, from Russell’s shuffle snare feel to Michael Barker’s percussion and now Greg Patten’s groove-based drum style.” Dean Addison’s double bass also added ballast in ’00.

And choosing the songs? “It was actually quite obvious which songs couldn’t NOT be on it,” Helen says. “So it was a full house pretty quick.”

Among the aces, of course, is “I’ve Got A Plan”. The band’s gently uplifting song of everyday escapism has been heard everywhere from ABC regional radio to the Home and Away soundtrack, a genuine Australian classic with a chord of universal emotion that resonates beyond time and fashion.

“A Midlife’s Tale”, “Throwing It All Away” and “The Gossip” further define David’s knack for wry back fence observations rich in human detail, with Helen and Hope’s strings adding subtly cinematic support.

Speaking of strings, evocative instrumentals “The Romp”, “Vándorló”, “Cello Song For Charlie” and “My Friend The Chocolate Cake” bring the alternately pensive lulls and euphoric rushes that make a Cake gig such a brilliant study in contrasts.

Then there’s the offbeat stuff. The exhilarating Barry White homage of “The Lighthouse Keeper”, the dark threat of Magazine’s “Song From Under the Floorboards” and the loose-limbed funk of “I Like It Like This” claim territory few bands have the tools or daring to attempt.

Of the new tracks, David’s “Let’s Go Walk This Town” follows the contented heartbeat of “She’s Got More Heart Than Me” and “Talk About Love”, songs of urban romance with a keen social awareness that elevate the beauty of companionship above the grey realities of city life.

“Television Theme #47” and “Black Dog” testify to the easy chemistry at the heart of the band. “We wanted a couple of new instrumentals,” Helen shrugs. “David had a piano idea that started ‘Black Dog’ and I had a cello riff that started ‘Television Theme’ and there they were.”

“That’s why Chocolate Cake is such a joy of a band to be in,” says David. “Everyone in the band believes in all those diverse elements really strongly. While it’s entertaining, it stands for something. It’s a unique band in my experience. You’d bottle it if you knew what it was.”

Parade is out on 19th April through EMI Music.

Source:courtesy of EMI Music Australia

Releases
Parade Parade
Release: Apr 2004
Label: EMI Music Australia
Type: album
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