Bianca’s a born writer. Now 25, she was writing nonstop by the age of 9. “My first idea for an occupation was to be a songwriter,” she says. “But I didn’t imagine myself singing. I thought I would try to get my songs to other people to sing.” Like who? “Madonna,” she admits. Sierra, meanwhile, immersed herself in classical music. They bickered as kids; their mom, who had divorced their father when the girls were 4 and 2, threw Sierra out of the house when she was 14. “My sister couldn’t communicate with words. She only knew how to be musical,” Bianca says with a shrug. “It started to drive my mom crazy.”
For close to ten years they were estranged. Then, on a whim, Bianca, who’d morphed from wannabe songwriter into poet, looked up her sister, who was studying opera in Paris. They glommed on to one another fiercely and veered into the unexpected creative enterprise of record making. “Music was just a new medium, a new vehicle, a new exploration,” Bianca says. “Even though we took our first record very seriously, we thought it was just this art project and we weren’t going to do anything with it, probably.” But the revered Chicago indie label Touch and Go tracked them down, and they wound up in the nascent freak-folk movement, sharing a stage with the likes of Devendra Banhart, whom Bianca also dated for a while. In February, CocoRosie played Carnegie Hall on a Devendra-centric bill curated by David Byrne. “There’s been this strange momentum that’s happened,” says Bianca, still sounding slightly dazed by it. “We’re both pretty dedicated to following this mysterious path. Doors open, we kind of just go through.”
What I find most intriguing about Ghosthorse and Stillborn isn’t how far CocoRosie are willing to go to create something new—it’s the willingness of audiences to shimmy out on a limb with them. Music stands or falls, ultimately, not on its intrinsic value but on the passion and belief it inspires in listeners. If it successfully manipulates our gullibility, more power to it. On the phone with Bianca and Sierra, I lose track of what’s real and what’s image. Maybe they’re not the fabulous, semi-feral creatures I thought they were. Maybe they’re just a couple of talented babes with a good backstory and a Madonna-like knack for self-invention. But what fun is that? Forget Sierra’s delicate debunking. Those fairies were real, and I’m putting my hair up at night, just in case they get around.