Rasputina

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:: Fox Theatre :: December 8
:: Bluebird Theater :: December 9
:: Black Sheep :: December 10

 

Rasputina: Historically influenced and constantly costumed cello rockers

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By Cornelia Kane

 

What does the name of a lecherous 18th-century Siberian mystic who was said to have controlled Russia’s tsar with his dark powers have to do with a three-piece rock group that dresses in period clothing and rocks out with cellos? Quite a bit, if that band is Rasputina.

 

“I took the name Rasputin because of all the crazy things people associate with it, and then added an ‘a’ to feminize it, which made it even more disturbing," front-woman Melora Creager told The Marquee in a recent interview. The name began as the title of a song, but developed into the band name at the suggestion of original member Julia Kent.

 

Rasputina has gone through several line-up changes over the years since its inception in 1991, with Creager always remaining the core member. She has been playing the cello since the age of nine, but wrote her first song, a taste of what was to come later, called “The Ballad of Lizzie Borden,” when she was just six.

Rasputina’s current line-up came together three years ago when Creager met fellow cellist/vocalist Zoe Keating through the Internet Cellist Society. “I think what we have now is really something special,” said Creager of the new lineup, which currently consists of herself, Keating, and the top-hat wearing, bespectacled Jonathon TeBeest on drums.

“When I first started, I drew inspiration solely from classical music, coming from that background. Recently, I’ve been listening to more classic rock, trying to dissect the songs to figure out how and why they work,” said Creager, who quickly added that her favorite classic influences are Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. No real surprise there, as the bands all share a similar fondness for mysticism and the occult.

 

The new line-up functions well as a unit onstage probably because, although Creager is the main songwriter and sole lyricist, she always takes her ideas to the whole band to be worked on and filled in. While she does do some drum programming, she prefers TeBeest’s original drum compositions. And in Keating she has found her third, and perhaps best, female cellist collaborator or “second chair.”

 

Since 1991, the band has released four full-length albums in addition to numerous EP’s, 7’s, and compilations. In 1997, Marilyn Manson remixed tracks from their 1996 Columbia full-length, Thanks For The Ether, and released it as an EP called Transylvanian Regurgitations. Over the years they have shared the stage with the likes of Nirvana, Kula Shaker and Porno for Pyros.

 

Their latest, titled A Radical Recital, was released this year on the band’s own imprint, Filthy Bonnet, and was recorded live in 2004 (or, according to the album artwork, “1804”). Asked why they chose now to put out their first live release, Creager responded frankly, “To buy us some time to record. Also, the band has been around for a long time now, and we felt it was the right time in our career to put out a live record."

 

The live release is the perfect showcase for the witty, seemingly off-the-cuff, sometimes nonsensical remarks that Creager is famous for making to pass the time during breaks between songs. This tendency for making comments has sparked such interest that on-line one can now find an archive of them, searchable by keyword, that goes all the way back to 1996! Example: “Last song. This corset is killing me. It must be the uterine plug I'm wearing.” What?

 

“A lot of times I’ll have an idea in mind that I want to refine over the course of a tour. It won’t be the same thing every night, but I’ll change the words or structure of a sentence over and over to make it better,” Creager told The Marquee. 

Creager’s voice sounds like a cross between PJ Harvey and Kim Deal; raw and throaty one moment and then all at once soft and sweet. Her edgy, tongue-in-cheek lyrics contain references to Howard Hughes and Hitler. The songs contain a lot of personality; they are dry, cynical, humorous, autobiographic and pithy. The effect of the band live is eerie. With their gothic look, including dreadlocks, corsets, hair extensions, medieval makeup and facial piercings, they certainly stand apart from their contemporaries. “Historically influenced and constantly costumed” is the band’s mantra, and they certainly look the part.

 

As the current tour winds down, Creager alerted The Marquee that the band will be headed into the studio to record an album of new material.

 

Rasputina :: Fox Theatre :: December 8

:: Bluebird Theater :: December 9

:: Black Sheep :: December 10

 

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