Rasputina Toxicodendron radicans. Poison-ivy. Sure, you’ve seen someone with a poison-ivy rash, right? But have you ever really seen a really, really, really bad poison ivy rash? Where arms and fingers look more like charred meat and sausage links? Have you? No?

Well then, if you’d had the opportunity to see Melora Creager of Rasputina last summer you would have seen some meaty looking limbs and digits because she came down with a medical book worthy case of poison-ivy. Considering this medical misfortune, as well as her trip to the emergency room where she was being treated for Lyme Disease on the morning of the day we met up in Hudson, New York, it seemed like just another part of her new country living life. Does this have anything to do with her position as the recently-outed forerunner of the freak folk scene by Antony of Antony and the Johnsons? Such freaky events are expected of this folky by her minions. Right?

But how does Melora defend Antony’s allegation? And does she feel guilty for having unleashed the likes of Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and Animal Collective on the world?

I was deeply flattered that Antony said that, but he also said that… I don’t remember the exact wording… but it was like, ‘a forgotten band that played for a day in the 90’s’. So it was quite, quite backhanded. But his description of what the music, what freak folk is, was a big compliment. People making the sounds they want without thinking about what is popular. Being honest… and weird. That’s good.

And though honesty may not be the best policy… Rasputina’s latest release Oh Perilous World is… weird. With it’s tale of Mary Todd Lincoln as Queen of Florida, with her blimp armies attacking Pitcairn Island, where Fletcher Christian’s son Thursday emerges as a resistance icon.

How did Rasputina go from writing songs about history, to writing a musical about the destruction of Fallujah?

I applied to an ASCAP musical theater workshop with Stephen Schwartz who wrote Godspell, one of my favorite shows, and some Disney songs… and so I had to write a story line and a few songs for this proposed show. I was rejected from the workshop of course, and at the same time I was asked to audition for the new Sweeney Todd on Broadway. That was very exciting. I had to learn a Stephen Sondheim song and I had some limited contact with some Broadway people, and it all seemed kind of synchronicitous, that I would be rejected from all of these programs … yet I learned a lot… and was intrigued. So I was listening really closely to classical musicals and how they’re constructed and what kind of devices do they use over and over. I like, that with the musical soundtrack, you could pretty much figure out the story, and I saw all the story lines in musicals could be written in one line, and I thought, ‘Okay I have to do that with my crazy story that I’m working on here.’

And at roughly the same time, I saw a little animation on the internet about how the Pentagon on September 11th was… weird. And I had never thought there was any question about that stuff. So I was really… like, ‘What?” You know? Thinking I know everything also. How come nobody told me until three years later?’ …I was just devouring information, and you know you can go on tangents with that stuff, and I was never political, but it really opened my eyes to what’s going on in Iraq and how messed up our government is, and all of these… webs of stories… it was really upsetting and crazy… plus climate change. All this at once. And I had to you know … do something. ‘We gotta call somebody! Tell somebody to save everything!’ You know, but that’s not realistic. For me I can only make something to communicate to people about an issue I might care about. Then I studied some authors, like how did George Orwell come to write 1984?

Are you calling yourself the modern day George Orwell?

Orwellia. That’s the new band name! Anyway. No. I wondered how do people do this? How did George Orwell come from a radio announcer doing propaganda, to writing an important allegory about propaganda? Because he knew what he was talking about. And I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I read about people who do!

And how has moving upstate affected your song writing?

Part of why I wanted to move was because I spent my whole musical career in New York City surrounded by neighbors on all sides who could hear every peep I ever made in trying to write songs, and if they’re not telling you to be quiet, they’re writing notes about how it’s so beautiful, but you’re aware that they hear everything. So I used to do vocals under a blanket… it was really mentally constricted, and I thought, ‘that’s not right and if I could be somewhere where I knew no one could hear me, what would I do?’ That’s the way to work, so I pursued that.

And then I was studying a lot of different things at once and I wanted to combine those and make a project and it turned out to be this record. I didn’t know if I was going to write a book or a play or what I was going to do with these themes… but I made ‘Oh Perilous World’. A lot of the lyrics are collaged out of the news, and I’ve never copied like that before… like, actually copied. But it’s so broken up and put back together again that I feel I didn’t copy-copy.

Oh Perilous World is Rasputina’s latest release… and in addition to being available for digital download, and on compact disc, it’s available on vinyl, because vinyl is fuckin’ pure.www.rasputina.com–D.W. Friend