Leftovers: Talking Food with Cat’s Eyes

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.

MP3: Cat’s Eyes – Bandit (buy it!)

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

Sound Bites Interview: Sloan’s Andrew Scott

Sloan1This is a continuing series of interviews in which musicians talk about food, and chefs talk about music. One of Canada’s national treasures, Sloan are now in their 15th year as a band and have just released their eighth album, the 30-track Never Hear the End of It. Through hits, misses, appearances in various Don McKellar projects, and the kind of record company woes that would kill most groups, Sloan have maintained the same lineup throughout, and all four members share writing and singing duties. Andrew Scott spends most of his time behind the drums, but also knows his way around the guitar and Fender Rhodes. He is also an accomplished painter and, as you’ll soon read, quite the epicurean.

Sound Bites: Did any food in particular fuel the making of Never Hear the End of It?

Andrew Scott: Nothing great – mainly bad coffees and Portuguese “club sandwiches” from this place called Nova Era Bakery down the road from our space. The surliest service in town.

SB: Who is the best cook in the band?

AS: I’m going to have to nominate myself although I’ve never tasted the others cooking.

SB: Who is the most finicky eater?

AS: Jay.

SB: According to Wikipedia, Jay’s favorite food is shrimp. [This has since been removed from Jay’s entry – Ed] Can you confirm? What is yours?

AS: I doubt Jay has ever had a shrimp. As far as I know his favorite food is French Fries or steak – “well done.” Mine would be cassoulet soup, made with my own goose stock and real goose meat and really good cured sausage; not to mention beans that do not come from a can, dry white wine, tons of fresh thyme, shallots and, the most important thing of all, butter. Pretty yummy in the winter.

SB: Is there a city you look forward to playing… for the food?

AS: Any city in Japan because it is all so good – or Spain for the same reasons, but add the coffee. Japan has some work to do in that department. Then again, Spain has no sushi infrastructure as yet…should i go on?

SB: Any good food-related band anecdotes?

AS: Not really – our band has generally treated food and eating as a way to go off on one’s own for a while. Until recently. We’ve started to venture to a good restaurant now and then as a group and it sits better when someone, inevitably me, will look to Mike (Nelson, Sloan’s manager) and suggest we “band it.” We’ve had many a fine bottle of wine on the Sloan tab.

SB: Which city has better bagels: NYC or Montreal?

AS: Montreal.

SB: What is your hangover food of choice?

AS: Bacon and eggs.

SB: You’re a dad now. What do your kids refuse to eat?

AS: Quite a bit but, to their credit, they have both expanded their horizons somewhat. For the longest time anything green – naturally – is shunned, however every new meal is just that. They are pretty easy to feed these days. They just eat whatever we eat. A lot of salmon or pastas with pancetta. Lots of lollipops, cookies and popsicles.

SB: You’ve been living in Toronto for some time now. Are there any advantages, culinarily, to living there as opposed to Halifax?

AS: I never had a relationship with food when I lived there last but the benefits of living in Toronto are so many. Really fresh ingredients are everywhere – organic markets, butchers, dairies, produce and fish…etc. Halifax, one would think, has great seafood but, really, all the best fish is shipped here and to other big cities. They get left with a pretty unfortunate selection. You have to get out to the country to get the best fish I think.

SB: You were in a rap band in college called Oreos in Reverse. What’s your favorite cookie?

AS: My wife Fiona makes this one which is like a folk art chocolate chip cookie with demerara molasses sugar…mmmmmmm…