Unwound Bassist Vern Rumsey Dead at 47
News of his death was confirmed today by Conan Neutron, who played with Rumsey in his current project Household Gods. On Facebook, Neutron wrote: "Absolutely stunned and shocked. Vern Rumsey is gone. I have no details at all. One of the sweetest and most pure hearts I know and one of my favorite bass players of all time. I can barely process this right now. I was such a fan of what he did, one of my favorite bass players of all time. He was a compatriot, my Household Gods bandmate and my friend of many years. I'm devastated."
As of press time, Rumsey's cause has not been revealed.
Rumsey founded Unwound with Justin Trosper and Brandt Sandeno in 1881 and played on all of the band's albums. He also contributed to the 1997 Blonde Redhead record Fake Can Be Just As Good.
More recently, Rumsey had performed solo under the name RedRumsey. His myriad projects also included the band Household Gods, in which he performed alongside David Pajo, Conan Neutron and Lauren K. Newman.
In recent years, Unwound's catalog was treated to an extensive reissue campaign by the Numero Group, whose Ken Shipley has shared the following statement:
My longtime friend, and Unwound bassist, Vern Rumsey passed away this morning outside Olympia, Washington. He was 47 years old. I had known for some time that he was not well, but his passing has created a new void in these already dark times. I first met Vern over the phone in the fall of 1993 when he was booking a Karp and Long Hind Legs tour. The two bands showed up in San Jose and played a wildly under-attended show, and had watched "Saved By The Bell" reruns in my teenage living room in the hours before the gig.
I was a massive Unwound fan and had seen his muscular bass thunking several times that year, but up close and off the stage he was quiet and gentle. He smoked incessantly, much to my mother's chagrin.
Vern spent the next seven years holding it down in one of the most under-appreciated underground bands of the 1990s. To have seen Unwound was to watch a calculated attack of noise, volume, and infectious riffs. Vern was at the center of it. There would be no Unwound without him.
He made seven albums with the legendary trio, a slew of singles and an LP under the Long Hind Legs banner, and played bass on Blonde Redhead's Fake Can Be Just As Good. He was nothing if not always busy.
In 2013 Numero began pursuing Unwound for what would become a massive reissue series. We recognized each other as warriors that had stayed in the game far longer than either of us had intended.
Our talks over the past seven years were a mix of reminiscing and plotting—Vern was always pushing himself into some new project or another. His willingness to throw everything he had at what seemed like endless walls of indifference was inspiring. Losing Vern Rumsey is a reminder that an era has ended. That everyone gets old and and no longer fits into their shredded and ring-stretched punk band tees. Should you ever require a time machine back, I can think of no better transport than his chugging bass lines.
Rumsey is survived by his partner Ana and his daughter Lola.
Read various tributes to Rumsey below.
Vern Rumsey 1973-2020— numerogroup (@numerogroup) August 6, 2020
My longtime friend, and Unwound bassist, Vern Rumsey passed away this morning outside Olympia, Washington. He was 47 years old. I had known for some time that he was not well, but his passing has created a new void in these already dark times.
I do not have words right now. We spoke on the phone days ago; he was happy and sounded good. My heart is absolutely broken.— Katy #SaveTheUSPS Otto (@exfkaty) August 6, 2020
I love you Vern Rumsey. This is awful.
So sorry to all who loved him. pic.twitter.com/P9IDjq1p2D
terrible terrible news. a tremendous musician in the band i would've most liked to see reunite. RIP vern rumsey 💔 https://t.co/A38Gwv4Hd2— speedy ortiz ÷ haunted painting 9.25.2020 (@sad13) August 6, 2020
This is shocking news. I honestly can't believe it. We both played the @exfrecords 20th Anniversary livestream on Friday. Like everyone else who plays music, I've always been a huge fan of Unwound. Vern had a beautiful energy. He will be missed. ❤️🙏🏼 https://t.co/3noWiFbWOU— Geoffrey Rickly (@GeoffRickly) August 6, 2020
Unwound - Nervous Energy https://t.co/FXSANBblbP— graham coxon (@grahamcoxon) August 6, 2020