The project of multi-disciplinary artists and sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady, CocoRosie combines a wealth of influences -- hip-hop, folk, opera, electronic, found sounds, and more -- into an unmistakable and often poignant sound. Starting with 2004's Noah's Ark, the duo balanced Bianca's percussion and rap-inspired delivery and Sierra's classically trained vocals and harp, piano, and guitar stylings with heartfelt intimacy and bold ambition. Initially compared to Animal Collective, Devendra Banhart, and Joanna Newsom, over the years CocoRosie stood out from their contemporaries thanks to their intuitive songwriting and spontaneous sound. On albums such as 2007's The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn and 2010's Grey Oceans, the Casadys' musical sophistication came to the fore. With 2015's Heartache City, they celebrated the more whimsical, acoustic side of their music, while 2020's harder-edged, more experimental Put the Shine On proved CocoRosie remained sonic adventurers who could create fresh sounds that were one of a kind.
The Casady sisters grew up in an artistic family that moved frequently. Eldest sister and vocalist/guitarist/harpist Sierra Casady was born in Iowa and began operatic vocal training when she was in high school, moving to New York and then Paris to pursue her craft. Vocalist/percussionist Bianca Casady was born in Hawaii and sang and wrote songs while growing up, but kept them to herself. She went on to study linguistics and sociology in New York and followed her dream of becoming a visual artist and writer. The sisters reconnected in 2003, when Bianca moved to Paris, where Sierra was studying at the Conservatoire de Paris. That summer, they began writing songs together and recorded them in the bathroom of Sierra's apartment.
Though the Casadys initially intended to share these songs with just their close friends, they soon became CocoRosie, a moniker based on the nicknames their mother gave them as children (Bianca was "Coco" and Sierra was "Rosie"). In March 2004, Touch & Go released the songs the duo recorded as La Maison de Mon Rêve, which earned praise for its stream-of-consciousness songwriting and dreamlike atmosphere. For their second album, September 2005's moodier, mournful Noah's Ark, CocoRosie recorded as they traveled, and worked with Anohni, Devendra Banhart, and French rapper Spleen. That year, the duo's first film score, for the French movie Frankie, appeared.
The Casady sisters then worked with Björk collaborator Valgeir Sigurðsson on April 2007's The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn, an album about their family -- in particular, their dead brother -- that they recorded at their mother's farm in France's Camargue region. Another film score, this time for the German film Haus der Wünsche, also arrived that year. After releasing the disco-tinged single "God Has a Voice, She Speaks Through Me" in May 2008, CocoRosie spent the year working on music. During their 2009 tour, the duo sold the self-released Coconuts, Plenty of Junk Food EP. For their fourth album, the more streamlined and polished Grey Oceans, CocoRosie moved to Sub Pop. Released in May 2010, the album featured a collaboration with Neda Sanai and was inspired by the sisters' travels through Europe, Australia, and South America.
In the 2010s, CocoRosie embarked on varied and ambitious projects. Their individual works included Bianca's exhibitions of her artwork at several New York City galleries and Sierra's collaborations with Amsterdam's Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney Opera House. In 2012, CocoRosie released the single "We Are on Fire," while Bianca created the dance-theater production Nightshift and Sierra composed and performed the experimental opera Soul Life for Austria's Donau Festival. For 2013's Tales of a Grass Widow, CocoRosie reunited with Sigurðsson and Anohni on one of their most focused sets of songs. That year, they published the feminist zine Girls Against God and started another enduring creative partnership with avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson. Their music for his production of Peter Pan was the first of collaborations that later included 2015's Pushkin's Fairy Tales, 2017's Edda, and 2019's The Jungle Book. On 2015's Heartache City, CocoRosie returned to a simpler, acoustic-based approach, eschewing electronics in favor of musical toys and antique instruments. That year, Bianca Casady formed another group, Bianca Casady and the C.i.A., a six-piece who also featured multi-instrumentalists Takuya Nakamura and Doug Wieselman, drummer Lacy Lancaster, pianist Jean-Marc Ruellan, and dancer Bino Sauitzvy. The group issued their debut album, Oscar Hocks, in 2016.
As the 2010s drew to a close, CocoRosie's horizons continued to expand. In 2017, they worked with Anohni on the politically minded single "Smoke 'Em Out." The following year, Sierra and Bianca Casady, along with Zakir Hussain and Mahsa Vahdat, performed with the Kronos Quartet at the group's 2018 Kronos Festival. CocoRosie also appeared at the 2019 Kronos Festival and collaborated with Chance the Rapper on The Big Day track "Roo." The Casadys returned with their first album in five years, Put the Shine On, in March 2020. Written and recorded in locations including Hawaii, the album's beat-driven songs took CocoRosie's sound to some of its furthest extremes.
© Heather Phares /TiVo