Melora Creager talks about the new Rasputina album, “Sister Kinderhook”
Like all of your albums, “Sister Kinderhook” doesn’t sound quite like any of its predecessors. What would you say inspired or influenced you in making it?
“I had an intention to make something beautiful and elegant, kind of earthy and natural. I’ve been living in the Hudson Valley almost five years now so I’m pretty interested in and involved with nature. That had an influence on what I’m thinking about, and maybe how I wanted it to sound. Earlier in my career, I had pressure to always try to get onto the radio and it’s taken me years to get that out of my brain and just write what I like. Not trying to be catchy, or have a chorus, or this or that.”
In making an album, do you ever come up with musical ideas that get scrapped because they don’t fit in with the rest of the material?
“Not really. I might have whole avenues of ideas that I want to happen that don’t happen. Like ‘Oh I want to use recurring themes and melodies that come in an out.’ An idea like that might not survive or get made. On past records, I’ve had an intention like, ‘Here’s the heavy metal song, here’s the ballad.’ I seem to have all these different kinds of songs, doing that on purpose. I didn’t have that intention on this one. This was more – I don’t think ‘cohesive’ is the right word because the other records were cohesive as well – but I didn’t have this intention of ‘here are these different genres of song all expressed with the cello.”
What was the line-up for this album?
“Daniel DeJesus is playing cello and singing with me. He is really delightful to work with and he and I have a lot of chemistry together. We communicate really well, and I love singing with him, I love to hear his voice. Catie D’Amica, who did the percussion, was a totally inexperienced, unprofessional young girl. But the good attitude and excitement from both of them just by being so young kind of just makes things fun. Because I’ve gotten older, and just the way the industry has changed … it used to be more mercenary / ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude from other people. But these guys are really innocent and excited, and I get the energy too.”
How did you come to work with them?
“Daniel heard a rumor that I needed a cellist and emailed me, never thinking that I would consider a guy. And I would have said that I wouldn’t, but he is just so talented and into the ideas. He’s a great visual artists, and well-suited to this. And Katie I worked with at a jewelry manufacturing place. She’s just a neat girl.”
Does Daniel have his own project as well?
“He does his own music. His band has been called the Dejesus. He’s out of Philadelphia. It’s a rock band, and he’s the front person playing the cello and writing the songs.”
What are the pros and cons to having a regularly changing line-up?
“The negative part of that has been that it looks bad, it looks like I’m hard to work with. But actually in twenty years of doing this, I think it’s only natural that people would come and go. It [the story behind it] is not that interesting. People get tired of doing it, touring is really hard, and most people have their own musical projects that they are actually focused on. If their own projects get attention, that is the first priority. And the worst part about it is that people usually quit right before a big show or a big project for Rasputina. So then it’s rush to find somebody, and a really stressful thing. But musically, it doesn’t affect me too much and maybe that’s part of why people don’t stay too long.”
How does it affect the performance of older material?
“That’s something that does change in a good way depending on who I’m playing with. Something that I played to the ground with this line-up …. now there are different people and it’s going to sound different and be fresh. There is so much material that I haven’t gotten tired of anything. I’m always curious about what people want to hear. Older songs can sound brand new to me. For the ‘Pregnant Concert,’ we learned ‘Old Headboard’ and ‘Dig Ophelia’ which are songs that people wanted to hear. They were fresh to me. It’s stressful more than anything, realizing that they are hard songs that I don’t remember!”
Do you think that rock music has become more open to the use of cello over the years that you’ve been doing this?
“I think so, and I think Nirvana had a big part of that. I had a connection with that (they had another cellist too), but I think that was a big thing in exposing cello to rock. Yeah, I think it’s totally normal and acceptable and not surprising now, and I like to think I had a hand in it. I’ve always heard from people who were inspired [by Rasputina] to pick up the instrument.”
How is it going with your own label?
“I wouldn’t call it a vanity label, but certainly not mogul looking for anybody else. I can barely get my own work done! I’ve always had good distribution with these records. I’ve never had to worry about that. It’s been a funny career in that we started on a major label and over the years have gotten smaller. But it’s gotten more fun and rewarding and lucrative as we got smaller. The major label just sort of sucks up a lot of money, or the artist doesn’t see much money out of the whole endeavor. But it’s the only experience I’ve had, and I like it. Columbia gave us a big push at the start and gave us a big tour bus and lots of exposure. That was a good start.”
With the new baby, are you able you tour to support “Sister Kinderhook”?
“We did some test shows out of town in April to see, ‘Can the baby handle this? Can the baby’s dad be the tour manager AND the dad? Is it possible?’ And it was a very successful experiment, since she is a pretty laid back baby, a relaxed baby. So we’ve got a pretty extensive tour booked for the summer around the country. We’re headlining and Larkin Grimm is opening for us on all the dates. She is a very interesting woman, so we’re glad to have her.”
Are you only looking to headline these days, or would you consider hooking up with a larger band to get exposure with new audiences?
“That was so beneficial to us as we started, we opened for all kinds of people. We had a blast opening for Siouxsie. But it’s a weird business proposition because you’re really just doing it for the exposure and the honor, and it’s really hard to fund it since you’re not making much money. I don’t really have the luxury of exposing myself at a loss.”
You’ve done quite a few limited edition releases. What is the motivation behind that?
“It’s really fun. I really enjoy it, and I think the audience does too. Some of them were really hand made, like making each cover individually. With those releases, I did get steadily smaller, again. First we had 1000 in a manufactured special package. Then 50 of a hand made one. It’s kind of all the same to me. I prefer the little releases. My hands are really on it. It’s direct.”
Are you concerned about upsetting fans who miss them?
“Yeah, but that’s part of the fun. It’s something so exclusive and you really have to pay attention to know. It really is limited edition, and I’m not going to do it again. I think that’s part of the fun.”
Do you think that might lead to people pirating them? Do you care?
“I do care about that. It’s a reality I’m not involved with. I don’t download stuff. I don’t appreciate it. People think that if they’ve heard of you and you’re famous that you have money and are fine. But I’m just a weird little woman out here making my stuff, and that’s all I have. To make this stuff, and to sell it to people.”