Rasputina flashes back to the 19th century

The aesthetic concept Melora Creager imagined back in 1989 was rather unusual: a society of Victorian-corseted ladies who played Gothic folk-rock exclusively on cellos. But, it had staying power. Her outfit, Rasputina, released its 16th album, “Sister Kinderhook” (on her own Filthy Bonnet label), which delves into such lyrical arcana as feral children, Emily Dickinson and the anti-rent wars of 1844. She brings her latest Rasputina lineup to The City on Sunday.

Where do you live now? I live in Hudson Valley, outside of Hudson, N.Y., which is a really interesting small town. It’s very beautiful and very rural, and the original part of my house — which is called an eyebrow colonial — is from 1830. So it’s very old, and it’s on an acre of land with fruit trees and a raspberry patch.

You heavily researched the history of your area for this album, right? Well, when I first started coming here years ago, my friend bought a house, and in the basement he found something like a phone book from around 1870. And it was a directory of everyone in the county and their occupations, which was just amazing. But, I learned about the anti-rent wars because there was actually a system here with real serfs and lords, but it wasn’t until the 1840s that they finally got sick of it and rebelled. But, what really got me was how they dressed up because they wanted to be disguised. So, they wore calico dresses and really thick animal masks as they rode through town, ringing bells, and my song “Calico Indians” is a description of their costumed disguises.

You also learned about itinerant portraitists, prephotography painters who traveled from town to town. Yeah. And a lot of great examples of that are from around here. But, I got into this painter Amy Phillips, who was actually a man. And, there was a lot of mystery and anonymity surrounding those people because they weren’t like any of the great artists; they were more like traveling salesmen who did portraits. But, I just loved their pictures and was really inspired by them for this record. Their work wasn’t very polished, and they might have strange proportions to their human bodies.

What guides you as an artist? I really like to write through a historical story — maybe that’s how I work out my own stuff. But, I think it’s important to keep that spirit of a child in your creativity, to maintain that innocence. In my experience, that will get you far.



Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $16

Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.gamhtickets.com

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