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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bianca Casady Does It Herself

Fans of avant-garde pop duo CocoRosie probably don't realize that there is anything gay about the band. Sisters Sierra and Bianca Casady released one of 2007's most loved indie albums, The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn, and yet much about them remains a mystery. Bianca, however, is an open book — it's just that no one thinks to ask.

"I am surprised, to tell you the truth, that people don't talk about it more," Bianca said of her being queer. "Maybe we are still living in such a homophobic culture that people [who] like me don't want to hear about it." It is surprising, considering Bianca is quite theatrical in her stage appearance and drag costuming. She is also a visual artist and is well-known as an eccentric in her adopted borough of Brooklyn (Sierra resides in Paris).

Signed to Touch and Go Records (home to debut releases by legendary New York bands Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio), CocoRosie first established their odd eclectic form of pop-rock with La maison de mon rĂªve in 2004. Utilizing instruments such as the piano and harp, the sisters bring together influences from their different backgrounds to create dreamlike scenarios of hip-hop, psych-folk and electro music.

Bianca said that she's played with gender in her work since the beginning of the band, and she doesn't know why others who do the same in the industry get picked apart while she goes unscathed.

"I find it interesting that as a 'female' artist in this time, I can go in complete drag on a regular basis and no one really notices, where as an artist like Antony [of Antony and the Johnsons] was torn apart about his transexuality in all of the first major articles written about him," she said. "I feel free and invisible."

Bianca sees it as more of a societal problem than one specific to music critics and fans, but perhaps the "invisibility and freedom" she has is what has kept CocoRosie somewhat unknown to the lesbian community.

"My sexuality is explored in my work," Bianca said, "[but it's] more my gender than my sexual preference. It's really not about being gay or ungay, it's about being yourself in a patriarchal, heterocentric, heteronormative, monotheistic world. It's always the changing question and answer, and it's the forefront of my work."

CocoRosie tour frequently, though their last tour was interrupted by when they were arrested at the Canadian border (there are no reports on what it was they were arrested for). While not touring or recording, Bianca shows her artwork; runs her record label, Voodoo EROS; or works on her newest venture, Voodoo EROS Museum of Nice.

"It's been in transition for a while, and now I'm opening a gallery in Paris on the first of February," she reported. "We had many different kinds including tarot readings and haircuts [at the Brooklyn museum]."

Bianca's art was recently featured at Art Basel, Miami Beach's famous gathering of artists and exhibitions. Her work is infused with pop culture, reminiscent of Lisa Frank with stuffed animals, balloons and bright patterns. Rainbows and Native American themes were part of the newest pieces on display at Art Basel, as well as a recent solo show she held at Deitch in New York called Lil Girl Slim "Cosmic Willingness" Pipe Dreamz A Revelation.

"There were many new wall drawings and installation elements, [as] being in a smaller space brought out an intimacy that might have been missing in the New York show," she said. "Watercolors with tiny sparkling details, etc. — very personal work working around the theme of afterlife and the end of time."

As a record label owner, Bianca releases albums by queer artists such as Bunny Rabbit, a queer hip-hop artist whose tracks are produced by her partner, Black Cracker. Also on the label is out guitarist-vocalist Diane Cluck and a new artist whom Bianca describes as a "boy/man" named Quinn Walker, who is "very special" and reminds her of her brothers — "imperfect and lovable."

Generally, there is not much rhyme or reason to her label decisions. "It happens on a whim, very intuitively," Bianca said.

But Bianca is very aware of artists' rights to creative control, which is something she said CocoRosie has luckily never had to worry about with Touch and Go. "They never had the chance to take any creative control away, nor did they ever try," she said. "They are amazing in this right, and [it's] the fundamental reason for working with them."

Even those who might not be a fan of CocoRosie's esoteric pop can appreciate the cinematic art of their videos, such as the one for latest single, "Rainbowarriors." Bianca is decked out in drag as a soldier, a juxtaposition to her soft sing-song vocals. A former model, Bianca said she loves being in front of a camera.

"There is an art to it," she said. "I met one of my best friends modeling — her name is Anka, a crazy artist that showed me that it can be very creative. It's acting!"

Bianca said, however, that modeling was also "painful." "It's a real hooker business," she said. "We need shelters for young models who are getting taken advantage [of] by everyone in the industry. It's modern slavery in terms of a never-ending system that the only way out is to quit. This goes for everyone that isn't at the very top."

She also admitted, however, that modeling is self-explorative: "I discovered so much about myself."

As a woman with such strong opinions and unusual ideas, it's hard to believe Bianca could slip by unnoticed — especially sporting her rattail, faux mustache and colorful makeup. It could be that her eccentricity is chalked up to her being an artist and sometimes an expatriate, but Bianca — and CocoRosie — are not only about being, well, queer.

There's something in their lyrics that hint at just being who you are, no matter what that might make other people think: "If you look hard you can find a Rainbow trail/It's deep inside you/Fear not you're a rainbowarrior."


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