Artist/Band: Piece of Cake
Members: Brynn Bixby (Lead vocals, keyboard), Dave Nolden (Bass, vocals), Rob Lejman (Drums), Mark Alletag (Sax, guitar).
Hometown: Chicago (Northwest Burbs)
Latest Album/Release: Piece of Cake (May 2016) (Available at Spotify and Apple music)
Influences: Jenny Lewis, Fiona Apple, Spoon
TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Bixby: I try not to, but if I have to pick a genre I usually start off with indie-folk-pop. Describing my music is one of the most difficult things for me to do. I’d rather someone just listen and take what they can from it. I was once told it sounded like Amy Winehouse meets Jenny Lewis, which is probably the biggest compliment anyone could ever give me, so I’ll go with that.
TrunkSpace: Everyone loves cake and when one is present, they want a piece. Is that reflective of your music as well? Does everyone want a Piece of Cake?
Bixby: I hope so. We have been pretty well received live. Our shows are always a good time and I think that we have a sound that most people can connect with. It’s not your usual lineup, so I think we bring something that you don’t hear in every bar/venue/backyard. I can’t speak for everyone, but I damn sure want a piece of cake.
TrunkSpace: Jokes aside, your music seems very accessible. And by that we mean, there’s something for everyone without alienating fans of any one sound. What was that initial conversation like when you guys got together to form the band? Was there a discussion about the sound you wanted to create or was it more of a natural blending of musical tastes that ultimately became what Piece of Cake is?
Bixby: I started writing songs for Piece of Cake back in 2012, when I was in another project, a pop-rock trio called Caught In Your Pockets. I was looking for a different sound and wrote a couple of songs that I themed around the idea of “Piece of Cake.” One was called “Sweet Tooth City,” another “Easy As Pie,” it was random and fun. It felt natural and freeing to write outside of what I was doing at the time. About two or three years later Caught In Your Pockets broke up and I went back to this idea. I haven’t actually used any of the tunes I wrote back then, I should revisit them, but I wrote “Somebody,” a ballad I recorded and released as the first Piece of Cake single. It was a totally different vibe than anything I had written before and I wasn’t playing with a band at the time. It really spoke to what I was going through emotionally; starting over, moving on, figuring out my self-identity as a songwriter. It opened up a new process for me, and I wrote a few more songs before I reached out to anyone to get together. I’ve known everyone in the band for at least eight years, and I just started jamming with them and getting their opinions on new material. It really came along after about a year, and we recorded our first album and started playing out regularly. Everyone involved has another project that they play with and a diverse musical background so it’s been a blast working on this. I am incredibly thankful to everyone who has been a part of it.
TrunkSpace: What is the key for a band in finding an audience in 2017? Is it hard work? Is it luck? Is it a combination of the two?
Bixby: I wish I actually knew the answer to this question, it would be very helpful to me. From what I can tell, it’s a combination of the two. Luckily, we have had a lot of support from friends, family, and other local musicians with this project. I am extremely grateful for that. Mostly, I think people want to hear something different that they can relate to. If you can’t engage, what’s the point?
TrunkSpace: The chicken or the egg question. Does a band decide its identity or do the fans decide it for them? When it comes to a band, how much of the scene that you ultimately find yourself in is defined by who is in the scene itself?
Bixby: It’s all about perception. I know what Piece of Cake is for me, and I know what I think we sound like, but that’s not how everyone interprets it. I try not to worry too much about how we are labeled or what genre we fit in. It’s exhausting. I find that what I consider to be the best bands are those that cross multiple genres and influences and just do their thing.
TrunkSpace: Speaking of scenes, Piece of Cake is based in Chicago, a city known for having a great music scene decade after decade. What are your thoughts on it today in 2017? What’s great about it and what would you like to see changed or improved?
Bixby: Chicago is a hell of a city for live music. There is constantly something worth checking out and so many amazing local artists and bands. I love the scene for that because there are a ton of people to collaborate with. But, at the same time, there is an oversaturation of bands, and it can be hard to get noticed or book a show when there are a million other people trying to do the same. Still, we are lucky to have access to all the great venues in Chicago, and I appreciate the DIY scene and constant support from fellow musicians.
As always, I would definitely love to see more women artists in the spotlight in the Chicago music scene. It can feel like a boys club so much of the time. There are a multitude of badass women artists around and I love seeing these ladies rise to the occasion and steal the show.
The main thing I would like to see improve in the Chicago scene is that every single person who is part of it feels safe and is free of harassment and abuse at these shows and events. I am fortunate to not have had many personal experiences with this kind of disgusting behavior, but far too many people have, and it has to stop. This is a place for creativity and diversity. If you can’t handle it, get out.
TrunkSpace: The band has a great sound that seems as if it would translate really well to getting a crowd on their feet. What does a Piece of Cake live show look like?
Bixby: We try and have as much fun as possible. There is usually cake, so that’s a plus. I have a tendency to jump around and head bang, and I always appreciate it when people join in and get down. I think our live shows are energetic and people are usually enjoying it. It’s pretty hard not to move your body when you hear the horns kick in, the groove is very real. Did I mention we have cake?
TrunkSpace: What does the band hope to accomplish in its career together?
Bixby: I just want to play and record music with my friends. We are getting back in the studio this spring to record some new tunes, which should be great. When we recorded our album, it was a 24-hour marathon and this time it will be much more laid back. I am also trying to book a small tour this summer and get on the road to play for some new friendly faces.
TrunkSpace: Separate from career goals, what do you hope people take from the music itself?
Bixby: I just hope that people can listen and enjoy, even if it’s just for a distraction. People can take whatever they want from it, I just ask that they give it a shot! Obviously I wish everyone would buy our album and be lifelong fans. Is that too much to ask?
TrunkSpace: What would happen if Cake and Piece of Cake shared a stage?
Bixby: Everyone would be really confused, including me. I’m totally down for it though. Let me know what they say.
TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Piece of Cake in 2017?
Bixby: New tunes, killer shows, and more cake.