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Tuesday September 2nd 2014

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Rasputina: Cello Rock Trio

A Musical History Lesson with Corsets and Hoopskirts
Erica House

Colonial federalism, feral children and the Anti-Rent Wars of 1844 are not the typical sources of inspiration for most musicians, but Rasputina is anything but typical.

The Victorian cello rock trio formed in Brooklyn, New York, in 1992 and has been through many different members, but retains founder Melora Creager with newcomers Daniel DeJesus, cellist, and Catie D’Amica, percussionist. The band has produced seven studio albums and has recorded a documentary this summer aptly titled “Under the Corset,” which is a raw look at life on the road for the trio during their 2009 West Coast tour.

Creager is a 20-year veteran of the music industry—playing with acts such as Nirvana, The Pixies, and Marilyn Manson—and describes Rasputina’s music as “heavy or tender, often in the same song. It is emotional and sophisticated, but not avant garde.”

She began playing cello at the age of nine while growing up in Kansas and moved to New York City at 18 to study photography at Parsons School of Design. It was in New York that she began playing with drag performances and eventually the 4AD band, Ultra Vivid Scene.

Her love of history is evident in the music she writes, the costumes the band members wear and the style of music itself. “Part of why I’m so interested in history is that people have been making the same mistakes, having the same emotional reactions, for many, many hundreds of years. I search for the human aspect in the driest accounts,” she claims.

Earlier albums feature songs about the Donner party, Howard Hughes, and the Little Ice Age, among other notable people and historical events. The interests of the band revolve particularly around the Victorian era, in which Creager is attracted to because of the stark contrast, in that “Rasputina girls are uptight and straight-laced, but appearing in a rock club wearing bloomers and playing rock and roll music” at the same time.

Creager strives to create both for herself and for her fans. She continues, “I make sounds and harmonies that please me. When writing lyrics, I feel like I’m having a conversation or really communicating with listeners, like, ‘Hey, check this out, or what about this idea?’”

Rasputina’s seventh album, “Sister Kinderhook,” was released June 15 and displays the harmonious balance of showcasing their evolving sound while also returning back to their earlier, more organic work.

“For those unfamiliar with Rasputina’s music, imagine two cellists and a percussionist accompanied by the most vibrato-ish voice you’ve ever heard telling you stories and history—Brothers Grimm and all—of the human struggle before this modern, technological age. But Rasputina will not bore you with mere textbook reading,” music reviewer Michael Faires explains, concerning the band’s latest album.

Compared to their prior albums, the latest venture reflects that Creager’s “many years of writing and recording music have finally come together on this one. It’s unique, but not hard to like or understand. I think it’s less disjoined and more fully realized.”

Songs on the album explore subjects such as the New Netherland settlements, early American portraiture, and the prehistoric Mound Builder giants of Ohio and Illinois.

As for the future of Rasputina, Creager adds, “I can do it all my life long: little movies, fewer live shows, and many, many more recordings.”

With the extensive and diverse musical history already present in her background, there is no question that the band will continue to provide entertaining, intelligent and diverse albums.

Rasputina’s show at Vinyl Music Hall could not be more appropriately timed for the season and will be an experience that any music lover wouldn’t want to miss.

When asked about her favorite Halloween costume, Creager responded that “Halloween is the only costume opportunity of the year for most people, but a costume is just another part of my workday. Anytime I’ve worn a giant hoopskirt—that’s my favorite costume. I think they’re hilarious.”

Creager hopes that her fans will not only enjoy the show, but also have a genuine experience. “I hope they feel exhilarated and that they feel included in a unique experience. Live music is amazing in that it’s a real experience—a moment in time that will not happen again.”

I definitely plan on embracing the moment, hoopskirt and all.

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RASPUTINA
WHAT: Rasputina with User Assumes Risk and Long Division
WHEN: Doors open at 7:30 p.m., show begins at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox Place
COST: $14-$18
DETAILS: vinylmusichall.com