Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Morning Show Host John Richards, is “Secret Chiefs” by Big Spider’s Back from their debut full-length Memory Man available from Circle Into Square.
Around here, we have a lot of excuses to stay indoors but making, playing, or listening to music seems to be one of the best ones. It definitely was for Yair Rubinstein, also known as Big Spider’s Back, a solo electronic artist who caught the ears of some notable folks both here in Seattle and across the country. His debut EP, Warped, was featured on Pitchfork (and KEXP podcasts!), which isn’t bad for a debut home recording. Next week Rubinstein offers up his debut full-length, Memory Man, out on the Portland label/magazine/collective Circle Into Square.
Today’s song, “Secret Chiefs,” weaves synthy horns, repetitive loops, and layers of atmospheric sounds into a tapestry of dreamy psych pop. Vocals are minimal and are used as another instrument rather than a method to communicate lyrics. There’s definitely a visual element to Big Spider’s Back, and it’s easy to see why he frequently collaborates with visual artists.
Though he still has strong ties to the Northwest, Rubinstein recently moved across the country to Brooklyn, NY. He took some time this week to talk about his new hometown and about today’s song.
First and foremost, how could you leave Seattle right before summertime? Isn’t that why we all live here?
Haha, yeah that’s probably what I miss most of the city. In the summertime, Seattle is arguably the most beautiful place on the planet. But on the other hand, if I left after summer, I’d be thrown right into the post-apocalyptic hellscape that is New York in the wintertime.
You recorded Memory Man and the Warped EP in your home studio right? Did that allow you to obsess over the songs or was it more liberating than working in a traditional studio?
Recording at home is a double-edged sword for that exact reason. I love having the freedom to develop my ideas without the time pressure you’d get in a studio. At the same time, pressure is often a good motivator for getting an album done. If I didn’t have deadlines, I could probably work on a record for the rest of eternity.
As a solo artist, how do you translate your music to your live show? What do you feel is the most important element of a live performance?
Over the years, I’ve realized the most important thing for a live performance is to keep it relatively simple, especially if you’re an electronic artist. That way you can put more focus into the music and the space you’re playing in, as opposed to just canoodling with your laptop in front of a bunch of people. Also, I put a lot of time into reinterpreting the songs from my recordings into a live setting. It really weirds me out when bands play an exact carbon copy of their records. Especially in my case, since the recording environment is so radically different from the live environment, I try my best to reflect that change.
Were you surprised at the level of support you received for your debut EP?
It was definitely a surprise. Up to that point, I’d just make music on my own and hand them to friends when I was done. So I had no idea what to expect with the EP. It was nice to see people were into it. Also, KEXP was probably the first place that really embraced my music on a wider level, so thanks dudes!
What can you tell me about “Secret Chiefs?”
“Secret Chiefs” was one of the first songs I wrote for my album. It was kind of a breakthrough for me, because at that point I was still struggling with how I wanted to define the record, what themes and sounds I wanted to pursue, etc. So it really helped set the tone for the rest of the tunes I’d go on to record. The title is a reference to The Invisibles by Grant Morrison, who’s a comic book writer, and quite possibly a shaman.
What’s next for you/Big Spider’s Back?
I’m going on a West Coast tour with my good buddies USF, which starts in Seattle at the beginning of August. I’m super stoked about that. I also have a few collaborations in the works, which will hopefully see the light of day before the year’s out. I’m also itching to get back in the studio and start working on my next record.
Keep an eye on the Big Spider’s Back website for those August dates as they haven’t been posted yet. Folks in NYC can check him out next Friday July 8th for the Big Spider’s Back album release party at Coco 68 with Alaskas, Corbu, and BLANKS.
Until then, here’s a video for “Dead Channel,” another track from the upcoming album made by labelmate Tom Filepp (Cars & Trains):