Spin - 1998

Rasputina: Families Valued
By David Daley

   Melora Creager thouht about putting a sticker on the cover of Rasputina's new album, How We Quit The Forest (Columbia), to remind people that, once again, her ladies' cello society still doesn't harm, let alone use, any guitars. She rejected that idea for fear of looking defensive, but perhaps Creager should have considered the sticker just a friendly consumer guide.

   Usually rock bands use cellos as mere color, as the instrument's gorgeous sound brings great emotional response to any song. But Rasputina make the sound of amplified cellos so chunky, confident and craked-up, they prove that the instrument can not just add tragic texture, but that it can do anything the guitar can. They started proving that last year before some of the most difficult fans anywhere, opening for Marilyn Manson.

   "We were just thrown to the lions," says Creager, over drinks at a Brooklyn cafe. "It started out really, really rough. The Manson fans could see in our faces how scared we were. They responded by throwing things, and gradually by cheering. We got used to it, and then the shows got good. It is a big thrill to hear an amplified cello in one of those amphitheaters."

   How We Quit The Forest is a bold step forward from the Victorian lace of 1996's Thanks For The Ether, with grand instrumentation, and cellos as fierce and bracing as they are gorgeous. It's profoundly funny, as well. Creager's grasp of pop culture means she's as likely to borrow lines from cheesy E! network promos as from medieval literature - a song about Rose Kennedy augments Ether's odes to Kate Moss and Howard Hughes.

   "Somebody told me they thought [Forest] sounded like it was easy to make, less painstaking, which is nice. Somebody else told me they think it sounds like a heroin record. People will say anything," she says. "The last record was more isolated, more from a classical background. This record is more coming from trying to rock. Gaining confidence helped that happen. A lot of times we've had a negative attitude carried over from being classically trained girls. We think we're just lame little girls. But goddamn it, people like us!"

   There was once a time when the cello isolated Creager from people. She grew up in Kansas, where she succumbed to classmates' ridicule, gave up the cello and feathered her hair in vain attempts to fit in. Then she moved to New York for art school, and later met bandmates Julia Kent and Agniezska Rybska. Now she hopes that Rasputina will make it cool for today's teenagers to play cello.

   "That's what you do this for. I don't make any money or anything," she says. "Parents and kids listen to our music together and talk about it. In Dallas, there was this dad waiting outside the dressing room. His daughter was too young to come, but wanted autographs. I can just see her saying, 'Daddy, who's Howard Hughes?' It's not alternative - it's father-daughter music."