The musicians talk balancing friendship and work, audience and artist boundaries, and all things spooky before headlining District Fray’s Cult Classic Halloween Party.
The sun has just set in Congressional Cemetery, and Cat Janice and Cathy DiToro are sitting on the ground hugging in front of a solemn row of headstones. Strobes pop as they chat with photographer Mariah Miranda and pose for District Fray’s October cover shoot. Their relaxed body language makes it easy to see they’re friends.
But when they both stand up to change their positions, a spine-chilling, shrieking bark —probably a fox — erupts from a distant corner of the cemetery.
“What the f–k was that?” Janice says.
DiToro’s eyes widen into huge saucers, and she looks around theatrically. Everyone laughs — nervously.
Even though we’re all slapping mosquitoes and sweating, and dog walkers are strolling by the shoot in shorts and tank tops, the eerie sound feels like a herald for the season to come. DiToro and Janice look like they’ve just walked off the set of “The Craft” (the original, of course), and fog is pouring out of a smoke machine and pooling at their feet. The two will headline District Fray’s Cult Classic Halloween Party at Dock 5 on October 31, performing live with band members from local rock cover band 7 Deadlies and ’00s hit cover band So Fetch, which DiToro fronts. The soirée is an homage to all things ‘80s, ‘90s, cult and creepy, and the duo’s setlist and costume choices will reflect this.
Janice and DiToro have each made their own impression on the D.C. music scene. Janice’s intimate, playful songwriting has yielded a Washington Area Metropolitan Music (WAMMY) award and has been featured on Netflix’s hit TV show “Selling Sunset.” In July, she released her latest album “Modern Medicine.”
In addition to So Fetch, DiToro fronts the local favorite ’80s cover band The Legwarmers, who have a devoted following and are known for their raucous shows. She has also toured under her own name writing and performing original songs, and in 2017 she founded ProjectHERA, a D.C.-based initiative to support and increase opportunities for women in music.
In fact, DiToro and Janice first connected at a ProjectHERA festival in 2019.
DiToro says, “We just met and became friends —”
“Instantly,” Janice jumps in, finishing her sentence. They laugh. “Afterwards, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to get involved.’”
The two started playing shows together, and last year, DiToro and Janice teamed up to form the DJ duo Step Sisters. Since their debut, they’ve been throwing dance parties at spots like Decades and Songbyrd Music House. The project has given them insight into the delicate work of collaborating creatively with your close friends.
“We both bring something really unique to the table — and that’s the only way this would work,” Janice says. “I feel like we can have real conversations about what we want and don’t want. We can set goals and hone our specific talents.”
“As we get older, being honest is really the only way, especially in an industry like this where things are always changing,” she says, pausing. “Demand is the wrong word — I almost require the people I work with to go to that next level with me. Because I don’t just show up and clock in and clock out.”
Being a musician with any level of recognition comes with a lot of considerations. Fans want to be able to connect with the artists they love on social media and are eager for a peek into their lives, and artists have to decide how much to let their audiences see.
When Janice was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half ago, she was open with her fans throughout her treatment process.
“That vulnerability is helpful,” she says. “If I were to try to hide or not talk about going through this, I think it would make me more depressed and anxious. It’s also helped me push more about just being open and honest with who I am with the people in front of me.”
Still, she says, she draws boundaries — particularly around her son. She wants him to make his own choices about how he shares his life with others.
As for DiToro?
“I’m terrible at boundaries,” she says. “But what you see on stage is exactly who I am in person. I struggle with this a lot. I give a lot of energy all the time. It’s just who I am. However, it has affected me, too, physically and mentally. I have to build in days of rest, and it’s something I’m still learning to do.”
Having both been in D.C.’s music scene for a while, they’re looking to their futures as artists and making the most of this moment.
“I just appreciate every single show I have,” says DiToro, who continues to juggle back-to-back gigs with her two bands and solo act.
Post “Modern Medicine,” Janice is planning to focus more on producing, DJing and writing.
Their upcoming show with District Fray will feature plenty of spooky songs, some jokes and a lot of dancing, but they’re not overthinking it.
“So many times, we over-prepare and then end up changing things last minute,” Janice says. “So, it’s gonna be fine wherever the energy takes us. And we’re very high energy when we get up on stage.”
Their affection and regard for one another is clear offstage and when they’re performing, too.
“It just adds a whole element of organic, fun chemistry — whether we’re DJing or playing live together, people are drawn to it,” Janice says. “And by the end of the night, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much.”
See Cat Janice and Cathy DiToro perform at our Cult Classic Halloween Party on Tuesday, October 31 from 7:30 p.m. to midnight at Dock 5 in Union Market District. Spooky ’80s or ’90s-themed character costumes are encouraged.
Dock 5: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; bit.ly/wearetheweirdosmister
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