Cathy Petőcz is a Canberra-based theatre practitioner – a playwright, director, performer, and musician. Cathy’s first major work as a playwright, Where I End & You Begin, was staged in partnership with The Street Theatre and ArtsACT in 2014. Cathy also writes and devises performative music works such as the Judy Blume-themed girl band Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret which had sell-out shows at Canberra’s You Are Here festival in 2013 and Melbourne’s Emerging Writers‘ Festival in 2014, before releasing an EP with Cinnamon Records. Cathy won Triple J Unearthed’s Flesh It Out singer/songwriter competition in 2007 for her solo music and currently writes and sings in the new-folk band Burrows. She is directing a production of Caryl Churchill’s Vinegar Tom as part of Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres’ Ralph Indie Season in November 2016.
Cathy Petocz talks to The Street ahead of the launch of Burrow’s debut album.
YOU WORK ACROSS MUSIC AND THEATRE. HOW DO YOUR DIFFERENT PRACTICES INFORM EACH OTHER?
They are very similar: each song is a theatrical moment, a story, and theatre itself has a strong rhythm and musicality about it. I think about my theatre and music practices in a very similar way.
HOW DID BURROWS COME INTO BEING?
Our primary writer and singer, Sam King, formed Burrows almost overnight to accompany him playing at the National Folk Festival. This was well before I joined the band. After I finished up with my grubby pop band Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I received a text message out of the blue: Will you join us? Love Burrows. That is very Burrows — spare and simple with a lot of heart.
YOU HAVE BEEN IN A FEW BANDS? HOW DOES BURROWS FIT INTO THE MIX?
I’ve written and performed in a number of bands, all exuding a lot of energy. Burrows is different; the music is quiet and draws an audience in. I sing in a different way when I’m singing with Burrows, more air, more texture, softer, the sound is more liquid. I really love singing like that.
WHAT IS THE SOUND OF BURROWS?
Waking up on a cold Canberra morning, staying in bed, someone making you a cup of tea. That’s the feeling of the sound of our music. Our instrumentation is quite spare, just guitar, cello, and drums, with three voices which are all very different: Sam has a very natural, warbley voice, Seb has a magical sound as if he’s singing from outer space, and I have quite a pure, clear voice. We will be joined up the Pop-Up Choir for our album launch at The Street on Saturday, which is very exciting.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED OUT?
I wish I’d been comfortable saying, I don’t know about that! I felt too embarrassed to acknowledge when I didn’t know how to do something — now, I just ask and it saves a lot of time.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
Later in the year I will be directing Caryl Churchill’s play Vinegar Tom, presented by COUP: Canberra and Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres. My co-producer and I have been watching a lot of teen witch movies to get in the spirit of the play, which is about the witch trials in 17th century England, but also about women in general, and also about humanity in general and paranoia around the threat of terror.
WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?
I am reading Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. Fascinating poetry and essays about race — she’s a thrilling writer.