January 2011

Bianca Casady

[Musician, CocoRosie]

“It can be pretty limiting to make something to your own taste.”
Several ways to explore identity:
Spend more time in the woods
Think about fashion in nature
Imagine a post-human future

In her work with the band CocoRosie, Bianca Casady cross-dresses, raps, plays coffee grinders, and inhabits a series of creative, costume-wearing personas, including one named Rupert, a psychic and a tarot enthusiast. The band, a collaboration with her sister, Sierra, has become known for its signature collage of genres (French jazz, opera), sounds (windup toys, beatboxing), and fashion styles (Victorian, vaudeville, 1990s urban), a divisive cocktail that has pointedly attracted or repelled audiences.

With CocoRosie, Casady is, foremost, a writer. Her poems, transposed into lyrics, tell the story of the band, dictating costumes, artwork, and characters. Sung-spoken with a Billie Holiday timbre and a Wu Tang swagger, the words go deep, both into K-holes of language and the Casady sisters’ past, a sprawling, emotional fairy tale of shaman fathers and long-lost siblings.

In addition to her music, Casady has founded the Voodoo-EROS record label, releasing a motley roster of subversive rappers and songwriters, and Mad Vicky’s Tea Gallery, a temporary art gallery in Paris whose namesake is one of Bianca’s witchy personas. Casady is also an internationally exhibiting artist, and her collages and drawings depict a visual universe not dissimilar to CocoRosie’s, filled with gender-bending unicorns, Native American mythology, and the everyday, man-made spaces she and her sister refer to as “artificial paradise.”

This interview took place backstage at Terminal 5, a few hours before CocoRosie’s most recent performance in New York City, the band’s onetime home before they became, as they are now, itinerant. Casady and I met as we searched for an entrance into the venue, where, later that night, her new video works projected across the stage and the duo performed in vintage pajamas.

—Ross Simonini

The Believer: I’ve heard you use this term artificial paradise before, describing your music and art. What is that?

Bianca Casady: That really belongs to Sierra. She’s really into huge swimming pools, running tracks, shampoos. That’s a good example of artificial paradise—a big swimming pool. It’s the kind of thing that makes her imagination go wild. When we first started making music together, we were exercise fanatics. We’d go to this outdoor track at a gym. It was the first time I’d started running. A lot of our creative ideas really came on the track, especially at night, when the big lights come on. There’s something about being in a really controlled and man-made space that allows your imagination to really expand. Nature is so unbelievably beautiful and creative already, it’s almost like you don’t need to come up for more ideas of beauty in that context. Maybe it’s the ugliness and synthetic qualities that get us going. Being in a place with no windows.

BLVR: Maybe creativity and nature can only be perceived in juxtaposition to these artificial paradises.

BC: We like high contrast.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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