Bassist Vern Rumsey has died at 47 years old. He was known for playing bass for post-hardcore / art rock band Unwound. Rumsey was a founding member, and stuck with the band from 1991 until they disbanded in 2002. During the course of their career, Unwound released seven albums. Their entire discography is well-loved, and Fake Train (1993), New Plastic Ideas (1994), Repetition (1996) and Leaves Turn Inside You (2001) can all be considered post-hardcore classics.
Most recently, Rumsey recorded bass on Household Gods’ album, Palace Intrigue, which came out on June 12, 2020. Household Gods was a collaboration between Rumsey, Conan Neutron, David Pajo (of Slint fame) and the late Lauren Newman, who died last year from complications of Crohn’s Disease. Their last track was titled “Rest in Power,” and was dedicated to Newman. Unfortunately, it has now become both Newman’s and Rumsey’s last released recording.
Neutron was the one who broke the news about Rumsey’s passing earlier on Facebook. Alongside a picture of the two of them, he wrote, “Absolutely stunned and shocked. Vern Rumsey is gone. I have few details. 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.”
Ken Shipley of Numero Group (who reissued most of Unwound’s catalog as well as some compilations and archival live recordings) had a lot to say about Rumsey. He finished a thread of tweets with “Losing Vern Rumsey is a reminder that an era has ended. That everyone gets old 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.”
Vern Rumsey 1973-2020
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.
— numerogroup (@numerogroup) August 6, 2020
Rumsey’s bass lines were essential to Unwound’s style. The atmosphere created by their rhythms added a lot of power to the recordings. While guitarist Justin Trosper and drummer Sara Lund would go off on little tangents, Rumsey made it his responsibility to ground the songs, tying the whole band together.