Katrina and the Waves Are Selling Their Gear on Reverb

Founded in 1982, Katrina and the Waves can claim to have both created the perfect opener to your "special Monday morning tape" (with "Walking On Sunshine"), and won Europe’s most prestigious songwriting competition. Now, the band has partnered with UK shop Rare As Rubies to sell their gear on Reverb.

We caught up with KATW drummer Alex Cooper to talk about the band’s formation, the success of "Walking on Sunshine," touring with the Beach Boys, and how they came to be crowned Eurovision winners.

Many people’s first encounter with Katrina and the Waves would have been when "Walking on Sunshine" became a big hit. What is the history of the band before then?

The band goes back to late 1975 in Cambridge when Kimberley Rew and I (with Rob Kelly on bass and lead vocals) formed The Waves, a power-pop trio singing Kimberley’s songs. Kimberley left in late 1977 to join another Cambridge band, The Soft Boys (with Robyn Hitchcock) whilst The Waves continued for a time.

In 1981 The Waves were revived when, after a couple of well-received solo singles, Kimberley returned and he and I reunited. We then joined with Vince Delacruz and Katrina Leskanich, two American military brats from Lakenheath USA air base in Suffolk, UK. Three albums date from this period: The Bible of Bop by Kimberley Rew, Shock Horror by The Waves, and Walking On Sunshine, the first under the name Katrina and The Waves. It was this album that led to a release in Canada on Attic Records. The band began touring in North America and, in 1984, signed to EMI’s Capitol Records in Los Angeles.

I think a lot of people would regard you as a pop band, but your early albums feature songs that range from punk to R&B. Who would you class as the main influences on the sound of the band at that time?

The sound of the band essentially came from the combination of Kimberley, Katrina, Vince, and I playing 1,500 shows all over the world over 19 years to audiences of nil in 1981 at The Officers’ Club on Lakenheath USAF Air Base to over 750,000 on the Mall in Washington, D.C. at a free concert with The Beach Boys, July 4th, 1985.

Kimberley, always the main creative source in the band, grew up in the 1960s and the music from that time remains his, and my, greatest influence. In contrast, Katrina and Vince grew up almost a decade later in the USA. Collectively our influences included The Rolling Stones, Beatles, Tamla Motown and Stax Records, Etta James, the Eagles, Steve Miller, Linda Ronstadt, to mention but a few.

Gibson 1989 SG Standard owned by Katrina & the Waves
Gibson 1955 J160e owned by Katrina & the Waves

You mentioned playing a show with the Beach Boys. As someone influenced by 1960s pop and rock, how did you feel about that experience?

Following that show we were invited to tour the USA twice with them, which was a dream come true for all of us, especially as they always asked us up onstage to sing and sometimes play with them in their encores. Carl Wilson was a true gentlemen and had the voice of an angel.

What’s the background to "Walking On Sunshine"? Who wrote it, did you know the potential of the song straight away, and how did things change for the band when it became a major hit?

Kimberley Rew wrote it round about 1982. Of course we had no idea it would become what it did and, incredibly, still is. We thought it was pretty good but the band had been signed to Capitol Records as a loud, energetic, rock band, and Capitol certainly didn’t think it was the obvious first single off the debut Capitol album. Capitol’s choice was "Do You Want Crying?" which, to be fair, was a hit in the USA in 1985 after "Walking On Sunshine".

You described yourself as a loud, energetic rock band at the time you signed to Capitol, and many of the tracks on your first two albums certainly fit that description. When was the decision made to re-record some of this material for the first Capitol album, and how did you feel about it as a band? Also, was there any backlash from fans of the rawer sound of those first two records?

We didn’t experience backlash at the time, and the hit version of "Walking On Sunshine" was made for the Capitol album, so no complaints! With hindsight there is certainly an argument to say that being on MTV and with a major record label in the USA in the 1980s did take us away from what was our strength for a time. But we never lost it live and so were always able to work all over the world—and that was what we got into music to do in the first place.

You represented the UK and won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997. How did that come about, and what was the experience like?

Jonathan King, working for the BBC at the time, asked us if we had a suitable song for Eurovision. Vince Delacruz remembered a song Kimberley had written several years before called "Love Shine A Light". Jonathan liked it, it got voted by the public to be the UK Song For Europe in 1997 and it won!

Fender 1967 Super Reverb owned by Katrina & the Waves
Tone Bender owned by Katrina & the Waves

It was never part of any plan but it happened and it was a blast! We did things we never dreamed of, had experiences that only come once in a lifetime. It was a huge honour of course, but it wasn’t "serious" or "important" except in the sense that Eurovision is a huge, fun, and wacky event with many countries cooperating together. We thought that was a positive thing and that the lyrics of the song (“Love shine a light in every corner of the world”) were appropriate. Everyone treated us very well and it went to number 3 in the charts, which was five rungs higher than "Walking On Sunshine"!

What have you been up to since the Eurovision win, and can we expect and new Katrina and the Waves material in the future?

The band finished in 1999, by which time the four of us had been together for 19 years, and the inevitable internal squabbling had reached a point where nobody was happy. The band has been asked again and again to reform but so far it has never seemed to be the right time for everybody. We are all busy in music still. Kimberley and Vince continue to write, record, and play in solo capacities, Katrina continues to tour and perform in her own right. I managed to develop the publishing and recording copyrights owned by the band to provide a decent retirement fund, and also continue to play and record with whoever will have me.

Finally, "Walking On Sunshine" has appeared in many different forms of media over the years, including films and TV shows. Do you you have a favourite place it has been used and do you remember feeling proud when you’ve heard it pop up in something?

It was in so many films, tv shows, and commercials and covered by so many that it is almost impossible to pick one out. John Travolta danced to it in the original Look Who’s Talking, and that was the first major Hollywood movie for the song, so that was pretty cool!

See all of the gear the Katrina and the Waves have for sale over at the Rare As Rubies Reverb shop.

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