Not to incite a witch-hunt, but I think Bianca and Sierra – the sister duo who comprise CocoRosie – might be sorceresses. Though despite previous bad press, I think witches are quite admiral. It’s not like everybody or everything has the ability to be a conduit of magic. Not just anybody can make a lullaby out of a nightmare. Or vise versa. CocoRosie, however, has long demonstrated that they are fully dial-in to the ghostly energy of the cosmos. Just like how certain gems and crystals are said to channel energy into healing powers, the sisters have learned to channel the most haunted corners of their own universe into chilling yet beautiful melodies.
CocoRosie newest release Heartache City is a return to form for the sister duo. Unpacking many of the old toys – a friend’s father’s haunted acoustic guitar, a toy piano, an old celesta bell piano — and returning to the 4-track recording approach, the sisters have re-established they’re enchanting, lo-fi sound. In “Lost Girls” they talk of “Witches confused by their own magic / Witches displeased by their own perfume.” And while it might not be fair to read that as autobiographical, the music is aplomb in a spirituality that has nothing to do with religion; and everything to do with the spirit of displeased witches musingly playing with their brew. What I’m saying is, if you support artisanal grade witchcraft this album is a must buy.
BYT recently sent some questions to Bianca and Sierra, and they were kind enough to respond. Responses that only provide further supporting evidence for my sorceress theory.
Brightest Young Things: The fact that you keep returning to the same farm studio in Southern France to write and record so much of your material says a lot about the influence that specific place has on your creative process. What special quality does that space provide you?
It’s very true that this place continues to feed and inspire us. Its simple and broken down with strange abandoned places with cobwebbed objects that have remained untouched for decades… We write many of our songs while walking around there. Intimate observations of animal and ghost activities.
BYT: Heartache City feels like a very retrospective album. What motivated you to break out the old toys and 4-track? Why purposefully create these musical restrictions and return to a more minimal sound?
It was a major craving. We needed to break a years long addiction too technological experiments and ecstasy. We new some jewels were waiting for us across the threshold.
BYT: Was there any instrument/toy that you immediately knew you wanted on this album? I was personally surprised by the amount of acoustic guitar on it. Not since La Maison de Reve has been that much acoustic guitar on one of your albums.
An old celesta bell piano was our favorite. The guitar came later in South America and was quite a surprise. It was a haunted guitar from a friend’s father.
BYT: Also, the use of the toy piano in “Forgot Me Not” is hauntingly beautiful. It transforms the song into a lullaby. Do you think of any of your songs as lullabies?
There are many lullabies and some sound tracks to nightmares. Less nightmares on this new golden-yellow-sunshine record.
BYT: In the past you’ve toured with a full orchestra. How do you approach working with conductors and rehearsing that kind of show? It must be a fairly strong contrast to your more recent striped-down approach to making music.
We love it all. Each new situation and challenge brings opportunity for more creative growth. But being just 4 people on stage now is the most fun ever.
Part of what makes your music so endearing is that it’s highly personal. It makes the listener feel as if we were sharing something intimate with you. And Heartbreak City is certainly no exception; there’s a song literally named after your father and mother, “Tim and Tina.” Has there ever been a time where you wrote something that felt too personal, too confessional to be released?
We have always been artist who shared extremely intimate things in our work. Nothing feels unsafe.
BYT: How is the songwriting process different when dealing with personal material verse something less rooted in your personal experience, for instance the music you wrote for Robert Wilson’s special production of Peter Pan?
Good question. The answer is we made each song completely personal. I for example saw myself in Wendy and projected my own pain around my father into her songs. Actually, The Lost Boys from Peter Pan inspired our song “Lost Girls.” It’s all personal and related and feeding each other.