CocoRosie unafraid to explore the unexpected
For sisters Sierra and Bianca Casady, the intriguingly convoluted brains behind CocoRosie, the creative process is a voyage of discovery, a journey without maps into always-unexpected places. This doesn’t help much in trying to make sense of the duo’s new Tales of a GrassWidow, a survey of beautiful reveries and chilling nightmares, but it’s a good thought to keep in mind along the way.
And, as Bianca explains from a Chicago tour stop, recalibrating one’s sense of the possible might be useful, too.
“I feel like in a lot of the record there’s time-travelling happening,” she explains. “Not only are we kind of doing early-childhood work, we’re also imagining that we can access our future selves at the same time. For instance, in the song ‘Gravediggeress’ there’s this narrative between an older woman and a young child, but it’s actually all one character having its own communion with itself.”
What this bifurcated creature is discussing remains obscure, but the situation might provide a clue to the sisters’ creative partnership. While they present as having an uncanny creative kinship, they actually have surprisingly different working methods and voices—classically trained Sierra takes a lush, operatic approach while self-taught Bianca sounds cracked and impish in comparison.
“Everything we do derives from a very intense and often conflicting kind of polarity,” the younger of the two Casadys explains. “It’s something that we know very well by now and are okay with. It’s a bit arduous, in a way but we know that it’s inherent in our collaboration, and it’s part of what really works for us. So there’s a battling aspect to our collaboration.”
Does this sibling struggle strike sparks?
“Yes, definitely!” Bianca says.
While the writing of Tales of a GrassWidow took place over several months and in many different locales, the album really came together when the sisters and their band decamped to Iceland, where they took up residence in Björk collaborator Valgeir Sigurðsson’s studio. (Sigurðsson also produced CocoRosie’s 2007 effort, The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn.)
“It was really a spontaneous, last-minute move to finish the record there,” Bianca notes, adding that both she and Sierra find that the North Atlantic island’s otherworldly landscape has a way of focusing their attention, while Sigurðsson helped transform CocoRosie bandmember Tez’s mouth percussion into the layered, hip-hop inspired rhythms that drive the final product.
“Valgeir has a particularly nice touch with sampling beatboxing and turning it into electronic patterns, so there’s also this kind of polarity between electronic and organic,” Bianca explains. Many of the background textures on Tales of a GrassWidow were also built from the sisters’ sampled singing, she adds, a touch that might explain the record’s beguiling and atmospheric intimacy.
“I feel like the voice in general is where we’ve grown the most in this record,” she notes. “People often ask us ‘How have you evolved, and how is this record different?’ and I don’t really know what to say. But I feel like the singing has taken us to new places.”