Cat Janice is a DC-area musician who has been working toward an official debut album for a while, and now that time has come! But Cat also is a survivor. She’s been battling cancer while writing music, and she’s not afraid to speak her mind or bear her heart.
Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter chatted with Cat about how her battle with cancer has affected her songwriting and some of the music she has in the pipeline after the relase of her debut EP, Modern Medicine.
Mickey McCarter: Hi, Cat. You have a record release party on Friday, August 18. Can you tell us a little bit about the record, a nine-song EP?
Cat Janice: Yeah, for sure. It’s my debut album, and I started writing it probably about two years ago. Some of the songs are from before I was diagnosed with cancer, some are from after, and some I wrote during my journey.
And one most recently, “Stage II,” from the album, I wrote very recently after I lost a good friend a little while ago. But yeah, I’ve been working on it for a couple of years and I was supposed to put out most of those songs last year. But then after I was diagnosed with cancer, I decided to wait and try and push through it and then put it out now. So, I’m super excited to finally get it out and have an awesome EP, or album release, party at Songbyrd.
MM: Pardon the personal question, but you mentioned your cancer battle, how is your health?
CJ: I’m doing okay. I’m still going through treatments. I’m going through chemo treatments right now. I had a break for a while, but unfortunately, some of the cancer did return. So, I’m still battling it, but we’re doing okay.
MM: Well, that’s good news. I’m wondering, and not to put too fine a point on it, but an experience like that likely had an effect on your songwriting, and I’m wondering if you believe that, and if so, how do you think you’ve approached songwriting differently before and after?
CJ: Yeah, it’s definitely taken my music toward a different turn. I used to focus a lot more on fun, danceable, bounce-on-your-feet-type songs, which are super fun and always important. But now that I’ve had something so traumatic that I’ve been going through, I’ve focused more on how does music make me feel and what do I want to express through it in terms of a different range of emotions? And really, I named the album Modern Medicine because, in a way, each one of those songs has been medicine to me and I hope it’s medicine to other people.
And it’s a twist on the modern medicine that I’m going through right now is trying to heal from cancer, but really each one of those songs has a very specific emotional appeal to it. One is about loss, one is about divorce, one is about falling in love, one is about being afraid for your future, one is about relaxing and chilling out with your friends. There’s just a range of emotions and that was the purpose of putting the album together and calling it Modern Medicine. It is medicine to express your emotions and let yourself feel them because the faster that you allow your body to feel, the faster that you allow your body to heal. It’s definitely taken my music in a different direction. And I know that moving forward, I see a lot of my music staying in that direction.
MM: I’ve spent today listening to it on Spotify, and I really find it to be a bright album. It’s very buoyant, it is very much dance music. It’s a little soulful and introspective, but still, overall the whole thing is quite bright, and yeah, clearly that’s part of the intent.
CJ: Yeah, definitely. I’m really glad that you felt that way about it.
MM: You listen to it and you come away feeling pretty good.
CJ: Good. That makes me happy.
Stream Modern Medicine by Cat Janice on Spotify:
MM: I want to digress a little. I was looking at your catalog and the stuff that you’ve put out, and I thought it was interesting in that there was a bit of variety when I was looking at the cover art and some of the album art for the various singles. Some have this DIY aesthetic and then there are a few when you were with SoCal last year and they have this retro sci-fi art on them.
I listened to everything but I maybe listened to those a little harder because the art was cool. When we talk about album art, is there an evolution there? Did someone approach you with the sci-fi idea?
CJ: No, I designed all of the album art myself actually, and I’ve always done so. I want the art and the visuals to surround the meaning of the song and the vibe of the song. I’m less concerned about me as an artist trying to have one cohesive picture, because I think that people are changing and they have differing emotions. And they change their art through time. For me, I do pretty much all of my music videos and I do all of my own visuals, so that’s a huge part in creating the picture of that song and the feel and the vibe behind it and what it means to me.
And so some of my music will have a little bit more of a vintage-y, fun, danceable imagery to it. With “White Shoes” for instance, there are a lot of light colors and a flashy feel around it, but then things like “Love Warning,” where I was very inspired by Barbarella. At the time, I was writing a lot of space music, not just for myself, but I was working with other people, too. I am also a songwriter for other people as well. And so, just at the time, I had had this kind of vision and I was working with the artist Strange Weather on “Launch Gate” as well, and we had this vision that we were going for of that kind of Barbarella ’60s space theme, and we just went with it for a little bit.
Watch the official music video for “White Shoes” by Cat Janice on YouTube:
CJ: In fact, we actually wrote a short EP, which we’re working on, and eventually we’ll put out, that goes along those lines and goes along that project. But in the meantime, I had this other project, Modern Medicine, my album that has a different feel, has a different vibe. I’m trying to say something a little differently than I would a ’60s Barbarella vibe. So, it’s really the art and the visuals that go along with it are very much more about how I’m feeling at that time and what that music means to me and what I want my listeners to experience, as opposed to trying to create a cohesive aesthetic as an artist where “this is my vision, this is my visual.” I’m bigger than that, and I like to think that me as a songwriter can write in a lot of different genres and a lot of different feels.
Stream “The Launch Gate” by Cat Janice on YouTube:
MM: I appreciate that answer! I definitely thought back to other artists who’ve done similar things when I was looking at that, so that’s great. That’s very interesting to know. So, does this mean, you mentioned working on some projects, does this mean more EPs, something later this year, or something next year? New music? What are the plans for the near future?
CJ: Yeah, I have an EP that I’m finishing up now. It’s a little bit more, oh, it’s funny following that conversation, it’s a little bit more in a pop/rock world, as I’ve just been inspired by certain things going on in my life. I’m planning on putting that out this fall with Handwritten Records. And I also have other projects that I’m working on with Footwork. He has a side project called Sharing Needles. We’re working on putting out some songs under that name along with my good friend Strange Weather, which is along the space-type lines of music. So yeah, I think right now probably what will come out after this album is my next short EP, which outlines a lot of trials and tribulations that I went through during a series of breakups. So it’s kind of a good old F-U breakup EP.
MM: The record release party is at Songbyrd! It seems like Songbyrd is a special place, not just for everyone, but for you specifically, and I was wondering if you had any reflections on doing your show there.
CJ: Joe and Alisha, the owners of Songbyrd, have been friends for a while now. As a couple, they do a lot for the DC music scene in curating this indie music world. It is so incredibly valuable because it allows artists a free and creative space to meet other people and to have shows that are not so controlled by big promotors. And it allows more of a feel that we’re in this together. You don’t get that a lot, and Songbyrd has really, really given that to me, whether it’s showing up to some of my other shows, whether it’s promoting me and pushing me through their websites, whether it’s inviting me on to really cool opportunities.
I’ve gotten to do some cool things with National Cannabis Fest through them. I’ve gotten to meet some really cool go-go artists that I am starting to do some writing with, which is a really amazing opportunity to have in the DMV area. And just in general, Songbyrd has just given me a lot of those opportunities that I just never would’ve gotten, or a lot of artists in the DMV would’ve gotten, anywhere else. So, Joe and Alisha and I are good friends, and I’m super excited to be working with them on this. I would not have chosen any other place in the DMV to do this.
MM: That’s terrific. Is there anything else we should add?
CJ: Oh, actually, yeah. After the album release party, my DJ group, Step Sisters will play some music. We spin remixes of 2000s songs that are disco, danceable, and stuff like that. It’s with me and Cathy DiToro from The Legwarmers and So Fetch, and we DJ these super fun parties. And after the album release party, we’re doing a late-night 2000s and beyond futuristic, fun, disco dance party at Songbyrd right afterward, following the show. So, anyone who sticks around can stick around for the after-party!
Catch Cat Janice in her record release party at Songbyrd Music House on Friday, August 18.
w/ Cathy DiToro, Massie
Songbyrd Music House
Friday, August 18
Doors @ 7pm