Whether you’re 80 or 14 you’ve probably heard the song “Walking on Sunshine” at least 100 times and have probably found yourself either voluntarily or involuntarily dancing like crazy to it at some point as well. The 1985 hit was of course performed by Katrina and The Waves, a British band with an American lead singer who got their first big break right here in Canada (Canadian connection!). If you don’t know much about the band, do a little bit of research as they have a really interesting history — guitarist/songwriter Kimberley Rew was a member of the Soft Boys and The Waves themselves had a remarkable longevity, scoring their biggest hit with “Walking on Sunshine” but then winning the Eurovision competition more than 10 years later with the song “Love Shine a Light.”
Katrina and the Waves broke up in 1999, but Katrina (her last name is Leskanich) is still making music. She just released a new album called Blisland, which is full of dreamy songs inspired by her youth in the 1970s. Katrina is currently on tour with the Retro Futura tour, which also includes sets by the Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Howard Jones, Midge Ure and China Crisis. We caught up with Katrina while she was on the road between a couple of shows at the top end of the tour and she was more than happy to talk with us about food and nostalgia.
Rolling Spoon: Are you much of a cook? If you are, what are some of your favourite things to make/serve to guests?
Katrina Leskanich: I love to cook but rarely use a recipe unless for example I need to see the proper way to make hash browns or something like that. I like to make breakfast things like Huevos Rancheros but without the meat bit as I am a vegetarian. I love to make soup as it’s always a great way of using up vegetables and you never know which way it’s going to go sometimes. I let the soup decide and it’s often down to the spices that give it an identity in the end.
The new album and this new tour is probably putting you on the road more than you have been in a long time — do you look forward to being able to eat in cities you may not have visited for some time? Or is touring kind of a drag from a food point of view?
Sometimes when you are on the road it becomes a bit like quest for food. Google comes in very handy and I use Trip Advisor a lot to help narrow down a good restaurant or diner. I always travel with some instant miso soup and cans of tuna and some crackers so there is always a little something healthy if I get stuck. It’s kind of tricky as a singer you have to have the right amount of food in your stomach to have the energy to sing but not to much making you feel too bloated to get the notes out.
I love that your new album is inspired by the music you loved growing up. Are there any foods that make you feel nostalgic?
My entire MO on food is nostalgia driven. I had a lovely golden childhood and came from a very large family, six kids and my Mom was an absolutely wonderful cook and baker. She made everything from scratch, never used a mix and had a Better Homes, Betty Crocker cookbook from the 50s that was worn and pages sticking out all over the place. It’s cute to look at it now and see the pages with the most wear and tear, like the homemade pancakes page which she made for us every Sunday. On Saturday night my parents would go out for dinner and we always had the same thing, grilled cheese and tomato soup and brownies or homemade rice krispie treats or chocolate pudding. My “last supper” would probably be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with potato chips and chocolate milk. If my Mother was alive to cook it for me it would be her meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy and corn and her homemade German chocolate cake.
Your bio mentions that your album is named after a little town with a fantastic pub — what are some of your favourite pub foods?
There are some wonderful pubs in Cornwall (South west of England). The Blisland Inn is in a little village called Blisland. Most of the pubs will do fish and chips which is always a good option for a pescatarian. When I was a meat eater I loved sausage and mash or shepards pie or steak and kidney pie. Sometimes old fashioned pubs will still have pickled onions and pickled eggs displayed on the bar in large glass jars. Little pork pies and scotch eggs are also a lovely bar snack and of course the cheese and onion toastie and pork scratchings. I like salt and vinegar crisps (potato chips) with my pint.
This tour you’re going on features some of my favourite artists from my own experiences growing up — do you have any good stories about breaking bread with other hit makers from the ’80s?
Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins is a vegan and Howard Jones sis vegetarian so the food back stage is centred around lots of beautiful vegetables and tofu. Eating together is a big part of being a touring act and it’s usually after the sound check we enjoy a delicious meal prepared by the catering team at the venue. It’s always a nice moment to sit down with everyone in a relaxed environment and If we are lucky, like last night at the very sweet Keswick Theater outside Philly, the catering team of women made homemade meals for us. When you are on the road there is nothing as satisfying as eating homemade food lovingly prepared and presented with your fellow musicians and crew. It’s also a great opportunity to socialize and find out more about the people you are touring with, where they come from, families etc…
What is absolutely always in your refrigerator?
Soy and almond milk and usually chocolate soy milk. Salmon, greens and berries. Tuna and tofu. Eggs, ALWAYS eggs!
“Walking on Sunshine” is such an enduring hit and just makes me feel happy and healthy every time I listen to it. What foods make you feel healthy and happy and evoke that same kind of feeling that the song has given millions and millions of people?
That is probably the most original question I have ever been asked regarding the song Walking On Sunshine!!! I love it. I made the decision to try and cut out dairy and bread items from my diet. When I hit the 50s it just seemed like I was gradually gaining a bit more weight with each year so I decided on elimination. I need a nice fresh feeling and good energy for a performance and things like pasta and meat were making me feel too bloated and stodgy. I keep it really clean and eat a lot of salad and tuna. Apples are wonderful for your voice and lungs and I drink ginger tea with lemon and honey. I will also have protein shakes to keep my energy up and take rehydration salts after the show. Before the show I will have a couple of beers to relax and loosen up a bit and after the show, coconut water.
What is your favourite kind of pie?
Oh you are naughty! Homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream every time. I’m just an old fashioned gal from Kansas after all!
Do you have a recipe that you’d like to share with us?
Ok my Huevos Rancheros KICK! I use Quorn mince (soy protein) for mine but mince beef is the norm.
Heavy skillet, olive oil, brown meat/Quorn, add, minced garlic, chopped onion, several fresh diced jalapeño chillies, chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper. Fry together for 10 mins. Add a squirt of ketchup, and a few shakes of Worcester sauce. Pile onto a heated corn tortilla and top with a fried egg, chopped cilantro and some nice hot salsa, cheese optional. Enjoy with a hot cup of coffee. Good to go Folks!
I’m not going to write up the recipe for Katrina’s huevos, because as you can see, it’s a pretty intuitive recipe with lots of room for improv. As you can see from the photo I used beef rather than soy, but otherwise stuck to her instructions. Next time around I think I’ll add an avocado and and not be as shy with the peppers. Either way, it was unsurprisingly delicious, as anything that involves the terms “Mexican” and “breakfast” should be.
Like I said, Katrina is on tour with a bunch of other amazing ’80s stars, snaking through parts of the U.S. with one Canadian date in Toronto on Tuesday (August 26). See a full list of dates here. And, coming back to the present, here’s “Sun Coming Upper” the new single from Katrina’s latest album: