CocoRosie - Anastasia Sukhanova - The Untitled Magazine Issue 8
Bianca Cassady of CocoRosie – The Untitled Magazine #GirlPower Issue – Photography by Anastasia Sukhanova.

“Mystery, fate…” was what prompted Bianca “Coco” Casady to reunite with sister Sierra “Rosie” Casady in 2003 and form the avant-garde experimental “freak folk” group CocoRosie. They create songs that challenge one’s notion of every musical convention under the sun, just as their ethos challenges every beauty ideal, merging genders, generations and genres. Born into a tumbleweed of a family, the two moved around a lot as children in a non-traditional upbringing. Sierra was born in Iowa and Bianca in Hawaii.

Their mother, a Syrian/Native American artist and singer, encouraged them to seek education through art and their natural surroundings rather than through schooling. “My mother thought school was a waste of time, and so did I. I had my first art show at fifteen in a small cafe and just kept going from there. I started teaching poetry in New York City to teens when I was still seventeen. Not having been to school hasn’t seemed to slow me down.” During their travels their father became increasingly interested in Shamanism, becoming increasingly absent. Their parents split when they were young girls. Though resentful of the experiences at the time, the vision quest journeys with their father would influence their otherworldly style.

Over the years, the two embarked on a series of separate adventures. “I think it was important for our personal development to take space from each other and generally from our whole family. We are very tight. I think it served us.” Eventually they reunited in Paris on a whim and began making music. “We don’t remember deciding anything. We were drawn into the work in a trance. It was automatic and effortless and enchanting,” says Bianca. “We wanted to play a concert at a blues club in Paris so we had to make a demo, this became our first record.” That record was La maison de mon rêve, released in 2004. While their reunion was unexpected, it stuck. “It’s great. We get to take turns being the boss and slacking off. We push each other…” Their creative collage of genres and moods they’d become known for is rooted in their surreal mentality. “We have always loved putting things together which don’t really belong. This approach creates an unending narrative for us, which guides us into the next story. It’s like a dream without a clear sense of time or place. Everything is possible there.”

Both in personality and artistry, CocoRosie appear to exist in another time/space continuum, unaffected by social constructs. For their third album cover, The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn (2007), photographed by Pierre et Gilles, Sierra is featured as two women, and Bianca in drag (as she often performs). “We do what we like. Sometimes our idea of beauty makes people uncomfortable or even angry. I used to wear a realistic mustache on the street and people would get upset with me. I couldn’t understand. We had our topless days in the Brooklyn summer too. People got all worked up!”

Over the years they have collaborated with an eclectic lot of creatives, from producer Valgeir Sigurðsson (Björk’s longtime collaborator), to artist Neda Sanai. Their songs are sung like raspy incarnations, and blend folk music created on a variety of instruments (Sierra is said to speak through instruments and plays guitar, piano and harp), and Bianca toys with percussion and noisemakers such as children’s toys. They both contribute vocals. Thematically, they explore femininity and spirituality as a means of empowerment, with songs like 2008’s “God Has A Voice, She Speaks Through Me,” which challenges notions of patriarchy and the belief that “god” is a male.. Of this trope, Bianca comments that “challenging the male idea of God for me is at the crux of the whole issue. Patriarchy, The Father…The Pope, The Father God… it’s all interlinked…These images are imbedded deep.”

In addition to what the future may hold for CocoRosie, Bianca has a solo project in the works. “I’m touring for the first time with a new solo project called Bianca Casady and the C.i.A. The year is kind of mysterious right now…” They are also have self released an album, Heartache City. “We have been all over the place and back, and this record feels most akin to the first one. We limited ourselves to mostly acoustic instruments. The last few years was ‘sky’s the limit’ as far as production goes. We have carefully honed it back to a more simple garden of toys and sounds.”

When it comes to fighting for gender equality, CocoRosie may as well be helming the ship. “There are many places where women cannot express themselves and many places where they are not taken seriously for it… Girl Power is where it’s at. Sometimes we forget to just do things ourselves and we can’t wait for the innovation. We have to just go for it. For me being a feminist is not a choice. Over all it’s about the empowerment of the feminine both in women and men.” Indeed, change is what Bianca believes is the path to personal acceptance. “My advice is to let it all out of the bag and don’t be afraid to change and change again.”

Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine #GirlPower Issue

Photography by Anastasia Sukhanova 

This article originally appeared in The #GirlPower Issue of The Untitled Magazine (2015).

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