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Charming Disaster comes to Chico: macabre, humorous music for the masses

This is the second time this year Charming Disaster has performed in Chico
Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris pose for a photo. Taken by Krys Fox.

Charming Disaster, a goth-folk duo out of Brooklyn, will be coming to the Winchester Goose on Dec. 7. The doors will open at 7:30 p.m. and the 21+ show starts at 8:30 p.m.; tickets are $10.

The singing, foot-percussion, guitar and ukulele-playing duo, Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris — dressed in snazzy gothic and cabaret-inspired outfits — perform dual-perspective songs rife with macabre humor, snappy twang and a sense of adventure.

These musicians introduced their unique sound and look back in 2012 after they were brought together through mutual admiration and “instinct,” Bisker said.

One fateful night Bisker, at the time in a band named Sweet Soubrette, saw Morris playing with his band, Kotorino, and she was enamored with Morris’ songwriting.

After their performance was over, Bisker suggested their bands get together to play. However, they agreed getting both bands together would be a nightmare, so they settled on writing songs just the two of them.

A few weeks later, Morris stopped by to see Bisker’s band perform and the next day the two musicians met to create the concept for the duo. Morris said they wanted a purposeful two-sided project, both musically and narratively.

“We ended up staying there very late, like talking, and the subject of the conversation was dead cats,” Bisker said. “We were kind of bonding over these sort of macabre stories that were funny and dark. And so I could tell right away that we shared a certain sensibility.”

From then on, during their first couple band meetings, they would just write lists of potential songs. Most of the songs ended up on their first album, “Love, Crime and Other Trouble,” released in 2015.

Most of the songs from this album were written in an almost epistolary style or like a relay race, according to Bisker and Morris.

“The most exciting email to get is the one with, like, the next verse of the song that you started writing,” Bisker said.

Now, the two generally write songs in the same space since they know each other better, but when creating an album they play it more as catch-as-catch-can.

Bisker and Morris said they let their songs collect and when it’s time to form a new album, they find the “organizing principle.” The only exception was their concept album “Our Lady of Radium,” released in 2022 and based on Marie Curie, which they deliberately wrote.

The duo’s albums have interesting and fun characters, however, two of them have stuck with Bisker and Morris.

Their song “Deep in the High,” off their first album, follows a trapeze artist and his snake charmer wife who sabotages his act out of revenge. 

These characters are particularly memorable to Bisker and Morris due to their live performance of it, which sometimes entails chasing each other around the venue or having a “marital spat” in front of the crowd.

Charming Disaster’s live performances are another aspect that sets the duo apart from the crowd. They consider their performances to be theatrical and always revolve around the characters in each song.

“We like to ham it up and we like to include humor and sometimes some more Ted Talk-style, informative context for the songs. It really varies from song to song,” Bisker said.

They are also highly influenced by “circus and vaudeville-style performances.”

Bisker and Morris will be bringing a unique show to the Winchester Goose in December. 

Bisker said there will be a 60-card tarot deck divination ritual for the audience, where members will choose cards that decide what songs the duo will perform. They also said kazoos, blindfolds, handcuffs and other items could be used during the performance as well.

“It’s the right amount of connection with the audience, but no one feels like they’re put on the spot,” Morris said. “No one’s sitting in anyone’s lap, mostly, or doing anything that they don’t want to do.”

This is the second time this year Charming Disaster has performed in Chico. They played the Naked Lounge in March and Morris said they met a lot of “wonderful folks” in town, including their previous opener The Empty Gate, a local dance-goth-punk-pop band, who will perform after Charming Disaster at the Winchester Goose.

Ken the Revelator will also be opening for Charming Disaster.

Their unique fashions also play a role in their performances. Bisker and Morris said they always like to coordinate on stage and most of their clothing comes from thrift stores. However, since pockets are a necessity for Bisker, she sometimes gets her fashions tailored or simply adds them herself.

If Morris doesn’t have a similar outfit, he often goes hunting for something complimentary.

Bisker and Morris hope their audience walks away with a sense of wonder and curiosity.

“I love getting to be a gateway drug for further reading in like ancient mythology,” Bisker said “It’s fun to be a path for people who might wanna do further reading.”

The duo’s songs all have a variety of stories regarding “death, crime, myth, magic, folklore, science, and the occult,” so research goes into some of these concepts.

Aside from being influenced by Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, according to their bio, they also rely heavily on a variety of literature.

“We love books and we love reading and we get influenced by a lot of literature. If there’s a subject we wanna write on, we’ll go out and get the books, read it, and take notes and, you know, have some of that raw material at hand when we’re writing,” Morris said.

Recently, Bisker and Morris have been listening to the “Dracula” audiobook.

Charming Disaster recently released a single, “Cherry Red,” which is about “haunted houses or carbon monoxide poisoning,” according to Bisker. 

They also released an album, “Super Natural History,” in March that features songs “inspired by both the natural world and the metaphysical realm, exploring subjects like witchcraft, monsters, and the underworld alongside bats, plants, poisons, pigments, and parasites.” It’s available on all platforms.

The duo is working on a new single called “Stockholm Syndrome.” They also have a stop-motion music video in the works, but it’s unknown when it will be released. To check out their other music videos, go here.

Chico is just one stop on their Sinister Coast Tour. To see all tour dates, go here. You can buy tickets for their Chico performance here.

Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ariana Powell
Ariana Powell, Editor-in-Chief
Ariana Powell is in her fourth year at Chico State as a media arts (criticism) and journalism (news) double-major. Now in her fourth semester on The Orion and having assumed the editor-in-chief position, she is prepared to continue helping upcoming journalists and endeavors to continue building her repertoire of multimedia and writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and analyzing films, reading and spending time with her loved ones.

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