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Rebecca Gates

Best known as the lead singer, guitarist, and principle songwriter with the Spinanes, Rebecca Gates was one of the leading figures on the '90s indie rock scene before moving on to an eclectic career in the arts. Gates first began making music when she was a young girl; she taught herself to play a guitar that belonged to her father and worked out how to write songs, but by her admission, she didn't begin taking the instrument seriously until she was in her early twenties. Gates did have a keen interest in music, editing a fanzine, working at a music store, and volunteering at a college radio station in Portland, Oregon before taking the plunge and forming a band. Teaming up with drummer Scott Plouf, the Spinanes were an early guitar-and-percussion duo, and the group made their live debut at the 1991 International Pop Underground Convention, an event organized by the founders of the influential indie label K Records. After appearing on a live album recorded at the Convention and releasing a handful of singles, the Spinanes signed with Sub Pop Records, and their debut album, 1993's Manos, was a significant indie success, topping the college radio charts. After touring in support of the Spinanes' second album, 1996's Strand, Plouf quit the group and joined Built to Spill; Gates relocated from Portland to Chicago and recruited a handful of noted Windy City indie musicians (including John McEntire of Tortoise and Sam Prekop of the Sea and Cake) to give the final Spinanes album, 1998's Arches and Aisles, a fuller sound. Many observers (including Gates herself) considered Arches and Aisles more a Rebecca Gates solo effort than a real Spinanes effort, and in 2001, Gates released a proper solo disc, Ruby Series. During her run with the Spinanes, Gates showed a keen interest in collaborating with other artists, contributing vocals to albums by Elliott Smith, Ben Lee, and the Mekons, and after going solo, Gates worked with the likes of Califone, the Aluminum Group, the Minus Five, the Decemberists, and even Willie Nelson, popping up on his 2006 album Songbird. But while Gates began recording a second solo effort in 2004, the project took a back seat to other creative pursuits. Gates was one of the curators of The Marfa Sessions, a series of audio art installations in Marfa, Texas, and edited and helped launch The Relay Project, an audio magazine devoted to the arts; Gates is also an accomplished visual artist and has shown her work at galleries across the United States and Europe. She continued to occasionally record material when time and circumstances permitted, and in 2012, she finally put the finishing touches on her second album, The Float. Credited to Rebecca Gates & the Consortium (a floating group of musicians that includes members of Quasi, Wild Flag, the Decemberists, Blue Cranes, and Garland of Hours), The Float was released on CD by Gates' own Parcematone label; a vinyl edition was issued by Gerard Cosloy's 12X2 imprint. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
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