You’re wandering through a labyrinthine mansion, lured on by eerily seductive voices. Spider webs audibly brush your cheeks and chimes ring out all around as you stumble into a room painted with murals of unicorns and rainbows. Some kind of plastic box emits scratchy beats and two beautiful sirens with mustaches and goatees beckon you with nonsense words. Crickets or perhaps a ceiling fan whir in the background. Did you watch a David Lynch movie right before bed? No, but you could’ve been listening to CocoRosie.
The core of CocoRosie is Bianca and Sierra Casady, two U.S.-born sisters who combined their childhood nicknames to dub the band. They started making their curious music in a Paris bathtub in 2003, after spending several years out of touch. When Bianca showed up unexpectedly at Sierra’s Montmartre apartment, they began playing around with instruments, toys and other noise makers, recording their first album, La maison de mon rêve, in the room with the best available acoustics. After hearing the album, Touch and Go Records pursued and signed the sisters.
Commonly labeled freak-folk, CocoRosie has since released three more whimsical full-length albums, most recently Grey Oceans (Sub Pop Records, 2010). The band’s music is a stew of instruments and influences. Hip-hop beats mingle with nature sounds, drum and bass meshes with cellos. Lyrics—often opaque—are sung by two voices, simultaneously lovely and weird. Grey Oceans has more tracks one could feasibly dance to than past albums, but even these have layers of operatic crooning, glockenspiel and other random sounds. Some people want to stick their fingers in their ears, but many find the ethereal concoction addictive.
Lyrics—often opaque—are sung by two voices, simultaneously lovely and weird.
CocoRosie’s music is experimental, and critics have accused their albums, particularly Grey Oceans, of being too cerebral. But through e-mail, Bianca Casady insists she and Sierra never make intellectual decisions about songs, instead creating what they feel in the moment. “Although in the end it turns out quite different,” she says. “It’s always a surprise and sometimes it feels like something we are stuck with. It’s not a matter of good and bad. It just is.” The sisters don’t experiment just to be experimental, she says, but for the sake of discovery. Many of CocoRosie’s nonlinear, free-
The Casady sisters’ taste for the magically off-kilter is evident in CocoRosie’s live appearances. Bianca and Sierra’s outfits could have been co-designed by a team of 6-year-old girls, Flavor Flav and the costumer from The Lord of the Rings. (Many were actually designed by Bianca.) They sometimes dress in drag and frequently sport intricate faux facial hair.
CocoRosie has worked with many boundary-pushing kindred spirits, including Devendra Banhart and Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons). In Albuquerque, Bianca and Sierra will be joined by musicians Marc Lacaille and Gael Rakotondrabe, and beatboxer extraordinaire Tez. Yet despite their eagerness to collaborate with musicians of all stripes, the sisters have said on record that they prefer silence to music. Surely there are some bands they listen to, someone who inspires them? “No one,” says Bianca. “Andrew Sisters from time to time.” Maybe there’s so much swirling around inside the Casady sisters’ heads, they simply don’t have the space to listen to anything else.