I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

“I could become your princess:” CocoRosie, Children’s Toys, and You

by Anthony Galli
Oct. 2, 2013

The other day, I had a short drive to the supermarket to make. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to listen to Ólöf Arnalds or Os Mutantes on the way over, so I put them both into my CD player. After driving for a block, or so, I felt a little tired and decided that this was a good time to take a little nap. I found the nearest Weeping Willow tree, towering over the motorway, and parked my car beneath its generous shade.

I awoke to the sounds of my 12-year-old sister, and her older sister, frolicking in the breeze, the echoes and vibrations of their musical joy wafting upon waves through my open window. From a giant toybox in the middle of my dream, I could faintly make out my sisters, surrounded by llamas and mating unicorns set against a watercolor and crayon rainbowed sky. Kate Bush was building a snowman in the imaginary sun, and Björk was casting a spell.

My sisters were gleefully rummaging through the toybox, testing everything in the world for what sounds they might make, when a giant proscenium began hovering over the ocean. “CocoRosie is going to play,” my other sister said, and before long the air was filled with angelic voices, concert harps, and the unmistakable rhythms of a human beatbox. CocoRosie materialize onto the stage, amidst a collection of musical instruments, children’s toys, and homemade percussion.

One of them wears a cape with a hood, and could possibly be a witch. The other one wears a bunch of different things, and could possibly be a witch as well. They dance around in ecstasy, because the adults haven’t told them not to do that, but maybe the adults did, and that’s why they do that.

My sisters remark on how beautiful the girls are, and how one seems to be transforming into an older crone version of herself before our very eyes, with her penciled-on moustache, and how the other one seems to embody the eternal sadness of womankind, with multicolored tear streams painted down her face.

They seem to have taken the dramatic presentation of opera and wedded it to the informality of folk music as performed on an astral plane in another dimension. Before long, CocoRosie has the whole crowd, who are dressed like them in tribute to their heroes, dancing in little circles. I thought I saw Emily the Strange shaking her little fists.

CocoRosie consist of the Casady sisters, Bianca and Sierra, who hooked up in Paris in 2003, where Sierra was studying opera at the Conservatoire de Paris, to independently, and surreptitiously, created their first album La maison de mon rêve. Following that, the sisters conjured up Noah’s Ark (2005), The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn (2007), Grey Oceans (2010), and Tales of a GrassWidow (2013), among other E.P.’s and singles, with titles like Coconuts, Plenty of Junk Food and “God Has a Voice, She Speaks Through Me.”

The Casady sisters have also involved themselves with artistic endeavors outside of CocoRosie, including a collaboration with legendary avant-garde stage director Robert Wilson on a Berlin production of Peter Pan, for which Sierra will perform the roll of Tinkerbell in Paris. Bianca recently had a gallery exhibition of her multimedia work in New York City.

CocoRosie also curated Austria’s 2012 Donaufestival, which featured performers Laurie Anderson, Lesbians on Ecstasy, Antony Hegarty, Genesis P-Orridge, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, and Atlas Sound, among numerous other musical acts. In addition, the Casady sisters debuted two separate musical pieces at the festival; a dance recital entitled “Nightshift,” which was written and directed by Bianca, and featuring Sierra as one of the dancers, and “Soul Life,” a theatrical opera piece concerning the transmigration of a human soul music by Sierra and text by Bianca.

CocoRosie has performed their music with Vienna’s Radio Symphony Orchestra, as well as Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Bianca is also a founder of the arts periodical Girls Against God, which concentrates on female empowerment against a historically patriarchal hierarchy.

The girls, obviously, love their work.

As the CocoRosie performance continues, I am slowly seduced by the unselfconscious presentation, the casual demeanor of the girls, who appear as if they were born to do what they are doing. Over a deceptively childlike presentation, I can begin making out some of their lyrics as they bounce off of the sky.

“Tiny spirit in a k-hole/Bloated like soggy cereal”

“This is the afterlife party
And if you want to party with me
Just slip into some PJs
And bring your favorite movie”

“I ain't no Jesus
If you give me a dress
I could become your princess”

“So the moral of the story is
Magic doesn't save your kids
They needed love to grow up tall
Like the purple mountains”

Listening in, among the toy pianos, owl hoot whistles, found percussive instrumentation, children’s gizmos, and tiny tape loops of animal sounds, as well as traditional guitar, keyboard, and percussion, are laments for childhood lost, and childhood stolen, and childhood wonder being redeemed. CocoRosie perform with abandon because nobody is telling them not to do that.

As the concert draws to a close, we all hold hands and dance, children and angels, llamas and unicorns, little baby witches and warlocks alike, singing “Everybody wants to go to Japan,” like it’s the start of a new world and the end of another. Amidst all of the frivolity and merriment, there is a sense that there is something deeper and more primal at work here; something transformative.

Falling awake, I realize that I still haven’t made it to the store, and I don’t remember what I needed anyway. A giant invisible moonbeam spirits me out of dreamland on a lightning bolt of stars into the darkness and past the parted curtains where CocoRosie are, clearly, masters of the universe.

Anthony Galli currently lives in Athens, Georgia. He shares a birthday with his black cat, Magic, and they both claim Wings of Desire as their favorite film. Anthony has published two books of poetry, Amnesia for Insomniacs and Invisible Idiot.