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Emilie Autumn’s Dark Struggles Come to Light on New Tour

Published: Saturday, February 4, 2012

Updated: Sunday, February 5, 2012 13:02

Emilie Autumn is a teatime loving human vortex – a portal between the Victorian era and modernity. At first glance, she's a white-faced, red-lipped pin-up girl for the steampunk movement. At first listen, it's apparent she was a violin virtuoso from a young age, a prodigy who demanded to learn the violin at the age of 4 then to be home-schooled at 10 in order to focus on her musical pursuits. Along with releasing a string of lovely "Victoriandustrial" albums, she has also toured with Courtney Love and worked with Billy Corgan and Otep.

Autumn's music is performance-driven. Her vocals are dramatic, the arrangements intricately drawn up on a harpsichord or violin. Her songs, inspired by the darker side of life – well, death – often touch on suicide, abuse and her struggle with bipolar disorder. (Factoid: On her double-disc album Opheliac, she covers an interpretation of the so-called Hungarian suicide anthem "Gloomy Sunday" made famous by Billie Holiday).

Her albums are a mix of poetry, instrumentals, lyrical songs, interviews and excerpts from the book she wrote while a patient in a mental institution, "The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls."

On the road, Autumn is backed by her Bloody Crumpets – only to be likened to drop-dead gorgeous ladies in waiting. But behind the scenes, it's primarily a one-woman show. She creates the costumes, hunts down and collects authentic antique props and plans the cabaret and burlesque-inspired concerts with skits and a storyline before she ever meets up with the Crumpets. Plus, everything is entirely D.I.Y. and self-funded.

"I just got on my bus and have already completely ruined it by putting costumes and glitter and things everywhere," Autumn said over the phone, proudly.

Autumn's upcoming Fight Like A Girl tour, named for an album she plans to release later this year, promises to be her most dramatic effort yet. The tour will consist of all new material based "very literally" on her autobiographical novel "The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls" and the Broadway musical she intends to pen based on the book (for those familiar with the novel, the show begins with the Tea Party Massacre).

According to Autumn, the songs are extremely theatrical and bleed together like a film or musical score.

"It's a completely new experience because for the last five years anywhere we've been in the world, regardless of anyone's native language, people have known every word to every song so for the first time tomorrow that is not going to be the case," she said, adding she's got a few pre-tour jitters. "I didn't know that it could get that much more theatrical and it just did."

The theatrics tend to run off-stage as well. It's not unusual for fans – affectionately called Plague Rats because Autumn says "fan" is too related to terms like "fanatical" or "maniacal" – to show up to an Emilie Autumn show in hand-made costumes, wielding homemade gluten- and sugar-free muffins and spouting their poetry.

"[The Plague Rats], and I feel this way too, all have a drive to be different and to be together," she said. "You want to be completely individual and you want to be united over something. […] When you come to one of the performances you bring everything that is unique and individual about yourself and for one night you do not apologize for anything.

"It's not about a girl on a stage putting on a show. It's much bigger. It's about this kind of dark Disneyland that we've created and [the fans'] place in it and that's a really amazing thing that I never expected to be able to share in something that began as ridiculously personal and a life-or-death situation for me and now it's become this kind of real estate that other people want to build a house on."

 

Emilie Autumn and the Bloody Crumpets, Nile Theater, 105 W. Main Street, Mesa, 480.834.3709, Monday, February 6, 7 p.m., $15

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