One of the more unexpected treats of 2011 is Cat’s Eyes, the collaboration between Horrors frontman Faris Badwan and classically-trained soprano/multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira. Their debut hangs in an ethereal limbo between the Shangri-Las and Ennio Morricone. Not a bad place to be.
I interviewed the duo for BrooklynVegan recently and managed to sneak in a few cullinary questions at the end.
SOUND BITES: Did any food fuel the making of the Cat’s Eyes album?
Rachel Zeffira: Snacks.
SB: Such as?
RZ: Classic things with rediculous names. In England they don’t have candy corn so I made them eat that. That was disasterous.
Faris Badwan: It’s deadly, candy corn. If you have ten kernals or whatever, you’re ill.
RZ: Mostly it was healthy stuff. Spelt stuff. Steve Osbourne likes spelt. Dried mango. It was healthy stuff that was eaten in an unhealthy way. I wasn’t allowed any sugar. I get really hyper. It affected the recordings.
SB: Do you cook?
FB: Rachel cooks and I let her cook for me.
RZ: I was vegan for a long time so I still use tons of vegan recipes. I’ve got two vegan cookbooks that I love.
What was the gateway back into meat?
RZ: Moving to Italy. The word “vegan” doesn’t even exist there. No translation. Then I was just vegetarian, and they served me veal because it was grass-fed! Like something out of a movie. Because it ate grass, they thought that was the same thing. I swear. And then I ate the veal…and I liked it. I don’t think I ever liked meat before moving to Italy. All the food is good in Italy.
Where did you live?
RZ: I was in Verona for three years. I love Italian food.
BP: And that’s what you cook?
RZ: Yeah. The different regions are so different. That’s what I love. It’s not just pizza and pasta. Sicilian food versus the Northern, more Austrian stuff.
Do you have a signature dish?
FB: She does — gnocchi.
RZ: I make good homemade gnocchi. I really like sugary stuff, baking. Nanaimo bars…which are only found on the West Coast of Canada.
FB: Whoopie pies.
RZ: But then everyone started making those so I stopped.
Do you have a favorite city when touring or otherwise for the food?
RZ: Sicily. I would fly to Stromboli for this one restaurant, Il Canneto. It’s unbelievable. I would fly there just to have a meal and fly back. Well worth it. What about you, Faris?
FB: There’s been loads of places in the States, actually. There’s a vegan cafe in San Francisco I really love. I’ve always liked touring the States for that reason. The food’s a lot better than in England.
When you knew you were coming to New York to do press, did you have a food agenda?
RZ: I have a list! Have you noticed my eyes getting wild while we’re talking? I wanna go to Katz’s deli for matzo ball soup. And that place Babycakes as I don’t eat much sugar, I wanna see if it’s as good as people tell me it is.
FB: What’s Moby’s place called? Teany. That’s pretty good, I went there once.
RZ: I really like American breakfasts. In England, pancakes are like crepes and the French toast is flat. In New York it’s made with challah bread, which is so much better.
On the flip side of that, is there a food you wanna eat when you get home from touring?
RZ: Usually healthy food.
FB: Not really for me. I feel like I get to eat more of what I like when I’m away from home.
Are there any foods you just don’t don’t like?
RZ: Prawns. I have a shellfish phobia.
FB: I eat pretty much anything but I don’t like raw onions or peppers