In an age when left-of-center lady-rock started flourishing (like that of Tori Amos, who eschewed plucking guitars in favor of tickling ivories), the premise of a cello-centric rock ensemble wasn’t terribly farfetched. And from that germ of an idea, eventually Rasputina formed, a rock band that slyly avoided constraints of a single genre and found itself winning admirers everywhere — even goth rock stalwarts like Marilyn Manson. Despite a constant revolving door of collaborators, the spirit of Rasputina remains sure-footed as ever, with Melora Creager still at the helm. And although Rasputina’s next album won’t surface for awhile, this Sunday marks a one-off recital at Williamsburg’s Knitting Factory, where the setlist has already been pieced together by song requests e-mailed by fans. However, motherhood — Creager is pregnant with her second child and has been combing through her wardrobe trying to figure out attire for the show accordingly — hasn’t mellowed her in the least.
What was the inspiration behind the one-off fan request show? It was by request from Knitting Factory. In a way, this sort of show covers the band’s history. There have been many line-up changes.
What strikes you the most about the band’s current configuration? It’s a real nice change for me. Because these players are pretty young and inexperienced. It’s a good attitude. With people I’ve played with over time, everyone’s looking to make their own career and seeing what they can get out of it. I never wanted to play with a guy, but this guy, Daniel [DeJesus], who plays the cello with me, he grew up listening to the music.
Have any of the line-up changes ever been the result of friction within? A lot of people have thought that the band is going to blow up and get big and they’re going to be there when it does. So in 15 years, that doesn’t come to pass. We have toured so hard, and that’s hard on people. They don’t have the energy for that. Most people have their own project they would have to be doing. They learn things from me, and they’re ready to apply that to their own project. Rasputina has always been my project, and it has always had a passive attitude. I write all the songs and it’s my idea, but it’s like, “How can I please you?” I think that attitude is destructive. Like me feeling guilty. Like someone else can never be satisfied. They don’t want to be in all the pictures — they want to write songs.
Do the line-up changes affect your own relationship with older material when you perform those songs with newer members? To some degree. But also because of this weird fluid passive attitude I have. I was with my drummer for a long, long time. We did so much touring together. From working so closely with him, I went down a rock avenue. He was a metal guy and I enjoyed it.
And do those same changes influence the style of the material that’s being composed, despite the fact that you do the songwriting? I think the ideas have been steady. Even when I was a tiny kid and I’d write songs for the piano — the subject matter stays the same. But I do care about what other people want to play. And what their strengths are. And if they’re fast like a maniac.
Despite taking cues from Victorian fashion, are there any contemporary figures in fashion you look up to? I look at the shows online — just for ideas. I look at Comme des Garçons, Alexander McQueen. My best friend James Coviello also. We incorporate a lot of his clothes into our outfits.
What other projects do you have in development? When can we expect your next album Sister Kinderhook? I think realistically it’s going to come out in February. We had a great time recording this summer. We’re going to mix it next month. I think, business-wise, we’re trying to time it so I can play it live. We’re also going to release a collection of b-sides and oddities. We are going to record the fan request show and make it available later. I’m also going to make a three-song CD with ancient folk songs about female cross-dressers. Girls dressed as men.
You’ve performed with Belle & Sebastian and Marilyn Manson in the past — does this, plus Rasputina’s ever-changing line-up, inspire you to pursue other collaborations with different musicians? Who would you like to collaborate with in the future? With Faun Fables — we have similar ideas and we long to collaborate together. Also, Emily Dickinson. I would like to put her poetry to music. It sounds like a good after-baby-get-back-to-it job.