Michigan Daily Online - November 15th, 1996
Rasputina Brings Unique Style To Pontiac
By Heather Phares
You might think the idea of a ladies' cello society is about as modern as a whalebone corset. The women of Rasputina, one such musical society, would beg to differ. Much like the antique underpinnings the group collects and wears onstage, singer / songwriter Melora Creager and her sister cellists mold their genre-defying music with seemingly quaint and historical influences.
On the group's debut album, "Thanks for the Ether," Rasputina sings of cannibalism in colonial times, uses old love letters as song lyrics and records with an Edison machine - all in the pursuit of creating something entirely new. The group succeeds; "Thanks for the Ether" is disorienting, disturbing and certainly different. And the group brings this unique style to its concert with Kula Shaker at the 7th House in Pontiac on Sunday.
As fresh as the band sounds, Rasputina has taken its own sweet time in perfecting its style. Combined, the trio has more than 50 years of playing experience. In a recent interview with The Michigan Daily, Creager explained how she found the cello: "I started playing when I was around nine. My father played briefly in college, and he made sure each of his kids played an instrument. My dad really wanted me to play cello, so I sort of obliged him that way."
Rasputina "formed four or five years ago," according to Creager, and it was set aside as she toured with bands like Nirvana. Several years and lineup changes later, Rasputina still feels a little like a band in flux: "Julia joined a couple of years ago. Our drummer is from Alice Donut, and he's new to the band for this tour. And Mischka just emigrated to the States from Poland just seven months ago. "It's very exciting for her, and it's exciting for me as well. She's just the complete opposite of your typical cynical New York hipster. It's good to have new eyes and ears in the band."
Creager's songs also seem to have a fresh perspective on things. She attributes this to the spontaneity of her songwriting: "I write on a four-track. I'll come up with a song and I'll either be singing it or I'll come up with a pure cello riff. Lyrically, I'm most inspired by what I read. I read a lot of history and that really influences what I write my songs about."
But she is somewhat ambivalent when it comes to her feelings about her band's debut album. "I enjoy it in hindsight, but it was pretty tense and pretty tedious to make," Creager said. "Everything was very microscopic and we redid everything over and over to make sure it was perfect."
Even though songs like "Transylvanian Concubine," "Mr. E. Leon Rauis" and the band's covers of the classic "Why Don't You Do Right?" and Melanie's "Brand New Key" sound good, Creager is critical. "It's still a little too natural and acoustic sounding for my tastes. I like a more distorted kind of sound, and that's the way we're veering now. The way we're playing live is kind of influencing the way we'll probably sound when we record next," Creager said.
The group's live show is an experience better lived than described. With attention to detail on both the musical and visual fronts, Rasputina captivates audiences no matter who they tour with. "We tend to push the limits of what we can do with our sound when we're onstage," Creager explained. "There's also something very visual about it, with three women bowing cellos intensely. We kind of look down on showboating cellists that toss their heads and roll their eyes while they're playing, but it is pretty energetic."
And where does the group find the delicate, antique undergarments that are its visual trademark? "We are always looking for new additions," Creager said. "We're flea market frequenters, and a lot of the time people end up giving us stuff that they know fits in with our style. It's always a hunt."
But hunt no farther than Rasputina for innovative, unique music.