It's a very, very hot day in Amsterdam. People are strolling around enjoying the midday sun and here I am sitting in an anodyne hotel lobby waiting from the girls from CoCo Rosie, trying not to sweat too profusely and cursing the fact that the bar is shut. A sweltering 45 minutes of waiting later and the girls finally arrive, jet-lagged and rather jaded, bringing tales of delayed flights and hassles with customs. Luckily the hotel staff has been alerted to the fact that a hotel without a working bar is by no means to be classed as a hotel of any repute. I drank a long draught and waited for CoCo Rosie to refresh themselves after their arduous passage. Once they reappear they are separated; Bianca is apportioned off to two sweating, maudlin young Dutch journalists, and Sierra sits herself down opposite me.
IN: You have a new album, Noah's Ark, out in September. Can you tell us about it from your own perspective? Is it anyway different from La Maison?
S: It's a lot different... We've been surprised about the correlations and connections people have made between the first two albums. We were concerned and nervous maybe they wouldn't resemble each other whatsoever, and it's very hard to have perspective right now. We haven't detached ourselves enough to be objective about it; we are still recovering from being in the middle of the chaos, the storm of trying to understand the process of, say, gathering songs for the album, because there was a whole bunch of songs that didn't make it on the final cut.
In some kind of general way I do feel that La Maison was an intensely personal experience; a turning inwards from the world. It was about a living moment. It was an experience based purely on imagination. With this next record, there's something to say for it being inside-out comparatively. It's facing the world. There's a struggle on the recording and I think you can really hear it where we try to retain our innocence, whilst we are out in the world working with and relating to other artists.
IN: I'm sure a lot of people know that you recorded La Maison in a bathtub in a secluded Parisian garret. There was one aspect of that experience I wanted to ask you about; namely your seclusion, which you found so conducive to writing songs. On Noah's Ark, you say you are out in the world. How difficult was it for you to find a new creative process to write songs?
S: Well. There is something about forgetting the world. We were literally in a room, and never left the room, maybe very rarely to go and buy pasta or water and then we'd return immediately.
It was more... we found it absolutely necessary for us that it must occur, this feeling of seclusion and isolation. With this new album I suppose that we failed and succeeded at the same time in trying to recreate the seclusion on a conceptual level. WE tried to do that on the road. We would take these moments in our hotel room or in a hall way or in a subway, or an aeroplane or on this strange little farm that we were staying on – just anywhere – we would take these very personal moments in time and try to create stuff.
IN: It sounds like a lot of work...
S: It was an adventure, it really was. We learnt a lot of things, we really did.
IN: Enough of the serious stuff. Another thing that always strikes me about CoCo Rosie is you seem very Bohemian. Do you have a particular Bohemian ideal?
S: Well... I don't have it in my intention but I grew up, like, kind of on the road, and I have what sometimes has been deemed a wonderful habit, and at other times been deemed as a horrible habit, which is, I really need to keep moving. Completely. I've got better about it since we've been touring. I've really wanted to settle down for some time now.
IN: You've got itchy feet...
S: Completely. Now I've ended up spending quite some time in New York. Kinda coming and going but spending some years there, in and out. But... we've moved around our whole life and my mother has moved around her whole life, just like a gypsy. Like crazy. And my father doesn't know why, but he just likes to drive around...
IN: My dad's the same, but there again he was a surveyor for the Ordnance Survey... Bohemians are seen as people who are very restless with their surroundings; people who always want to challenge or alter whatever is around them, whether it be through their clothes, manner of speaking, or actions.
S: Both Bianca and I really value this process that's been a way of life for us – recreating oneself constantly, re-finding oneself, maybe redefining, or recreating one's own personal myth... That is an artistic process that has really complemented the travelling and the constant moving on.
IN: Maybe that's the defining thing about your music, the recreation of a certain something, but using very different ingredients to recreate it. The other thing I loved about your records was the similarity to stuff that Captain Beefheart did on Trout Mask Replica. Total and secret concentration on the work in hand. It's the utter opposite of Miss Havisham is it not?
S: Miss Havisham?
IN: Out of Dickens' Great Expectations.
S: I haven't read it I'm afraid.
IN: Well, Miss Havisham is a very strange character who is spurned by her fiancee on her wedding day and decides... hey, are you taking your socks off?
S: Yeah! I wanna feel some sun!
IN: Okay, well Miss Havisham keeps everything as it was on her wedding day; the wedding feast, the clothes, her entire house and watches it slowly decay around her. Plus she tries to recreate her unhappiness by seducing two children under her care, Pip and Estella, to fall in love with one another, all the while hoping that they will break each others' hearts. She uses seclusion in an entirely destructive way. Whereas with CoCo Rosie it is entirely the opposite.
S: Yeah! It really is! One of the favourite things we like to do is to throw everything away. Become a new person, start again.
IN: Okay, enough of the music. Who do you think would be the best dressed person out of the following people? Elizabeth I, Louis IVX, the Duke of Wellington and Virginia Wolfe.
S: Oh my God! The best dressed?
IN: Or the dress sense that you'd aspire to.
S: Uhmm...I'm kinda shooting in the dark here... Louis.
IN: He was reputed to have mice living and nesting in his wigs...
S: I like wigs. I like hairpieces a lot. What was Louis' wig like?
(Incendiary at this point tries to describe Louis IVX's wig, using hand signals at times)
S: (screams) Oh My God! Is this a joke? It's the most incredible thing I've ever heard.
IN: We could talk about Charles II. His spaniels used to live on his bed. When they gave birth he often acted as an impromptu midwife.
S: I think that's awesome. I would also die to have a hair-piece like Louis'. Okay... so you wanna ask what my favourite is, uhmm... this is pretty far out there, my fantasy, but I would love to have a hairpiece that was actually a bird's nest with real birds living in there.
IN: What, your own personal, organic tree/wig?
S: Right! Right! They could stay with me and feel safe there and that's my dream. I've thought about it a bit (Sierra is momentarily lost in contemplation)
IN: To come back to the present century... I read about the peyote camps that you both went to when you were kids. Do you want to chat about that?
S: You know, I've blocked a lot of that out of my memory... It's not a bad thing; not at all. It's just my father's such an eccentric person, and it was kind of hard to deal with as a child because he's so out there, and so extreme and bold in his actions. He couldn't really communicate with anyone, let alone children, even though we had some really beautiful experiences with him, especially when he would take us out into nature. We were with him at traditional and Native American ceremonies a lot. He was really into it. But I think that peyote sweat lodges were a little too much for a child, though we did experience them... I don't remember them extensively, because our time with him was so dramatic, we had to kind of protect ourselves from it in the true sense, because it was a very intense period. I don't really remember all of it as I was pretty young.
It's definitely in me and it does tend to seep out in a lot of things through the subconscious, into my art and music.
IN: The creative process can be described as a drawing on and a manipulation of things you can't otherwise define... To change the subject again, what would you think your favourite biscuit would be?
IN: Don't hold back...
S: Well... we love English scones, with clotted cream. I am a big fan of English tea times. We are so obsessed with tea times. We love only the best tea. When we are on the road we drink Yorkshire Gold tea, and we are really lucky because Bianca lives round the corner from the best tea shop in the world. And the tea there is just so strong.
We use tea in a very naughty way. We get so high on tea. We get so fucked up on tea. We go in there (the tea shop) and just start screaming. I mean we are so straight, we don't use drugs or anything. Once we've drunk our tea we just run out of there screaming. We just go insane. We usually have Lady Grey and Lady Black. The proprietor makes it with rose petals. We never put the milk in first; (she sighs, and emits a long, low whistle). I am feeling it. I am so into getting high, getting crazy like that.
We use tea a lot in the creative process. Most of the time we are working we get fucked up on tea.
IN: (feeling the grip of the record company man on the shoulder) I've got to go now, I'll send you my mother's scones recipe.
S: You do that!
Words: Richard Foster.