“SONG FOR EWE”
with VERN RUMSEY of
Addendum: 6 August 2020
I’ve just heard the sad news that Vern Rumsey of the awesome 90s band Unwound has sadly passed away. I loved Unwound. When I first wrote Velvet Sheep I met them at the Dublin Castle and asked them to play “Broken E Strings” and they duly obliged and I’ll never forget the electrifying performance of “All Souls Day” in the basement of Rough Trade in Covent Garden. I got back in touch with Vern a couple of years back and he kindly chose a song for Velvet Sheep’s “song for ewe” feature. Love to his family and friends. Terrible news. RIP Vern x
“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.
Today’s guest is a bassist who truly knew the score, and the scordatura. From Olympia, Washington band Unwound, whose detuned down key punk frenzy rocked the Neal’s Yard Rough Trade, the Dublin Castle and then my world, he was approachable, yet effortlessly cool. And that cool was taken to eleven by being on my then favourite label Kill Rock Stars, whose impressario Slim Moon I had interviewed around the same time at Gary Walker’s house. He had a zine, he resurrected a zine. In the Pacific North West punk’s not dead! No, not an Exploited b-side, but a statement of fact, perpetuated and supported by cult hero Vern Rumsey!
I was no doubt turned onto Unwound by the brilliant Maggie Vail, Kill Rock Stars publicist, who chose her very own “song for ewe” right here…
…though I definitely remember picking up this 7″ “Unwound” on Gravity Records, below from one of my sojourns to Rough Trade with Saturday job money burning a hole in my pocket, and I bought it on the cover alone…DIY punk special, it looked haunting and hand made, and the noise blew me away. I most probably played air guitar to it in the mirror truth be told. If only the girls I was chasing could have seen me! What a dork! But Unwound was a band I would totally have loved to be in. Even to this day, 2o plus years on.
I definitely got sent/reviewed a cassette of the “Fake Train” album for the original zine, but by the time of “New Plastic Ideas” I was a full on disciple.
It was around this time I’d just joined uni in London and co-opted a wide-eyed new fresher pal to come with me to see Unwound play live in the cramped, sweaty environs of Rough Trade in Covent Garden. Down the spiral staircase, under Slam City Skates, roof full of punk band signatures, its claustrophobic conditions were not advisable for new acquaintances unaware of what literally lay in store. At least Unwound were a 3 piece and didn’t take up too much elbow room, but they sure did bring the scribbled roof down. A few people shouted “All Souls’ Day” and that’s when all hell broke loose. My mate was dazed and confused, but he got it. We kept shouting to each other “All Souls’ Day” at least all day.
A couple of days later I saw Unwound again at the Dublin Castle. I was there to interview the hardcore band Fabric through Gary at Wiiija. Here’s a reminder of Gary’s “song for ewe”
Fabric were supporting Unwound, and given the success others had had with shouting requests I thought I’d get one of my own in. I was really into the Jabberjaw comp which had the Unwound song “Broken E Strings” on. I saw guitarist/vocalist Justin Trosper at the bar, and asked him if he could play it. He said maybe or something like that. They played it. I was chuffed to say the least, and to me it’s still their anthem. Justin has chosen his “song for ewe” coming soon, but to me Vern was the one I could identify most with. A frenzy of motion, a darker floppier fringe that I someone relatively challenged of follicles even in my early twenties could only dream of rocking.
When I found Vern through mutual friends on social media, and he was kind enough to agree to get involved in the reborn Velvet Sheep I was made up, particularly as we had something more in common…
“I’m relaunching my old zine and label from the 90’s, Punk In My Vitamins, as well. Cool.”
You can get the latest “Punk In My Vitamins” comp plus zine bundle here, featuring music by: Fuzzy Math, Huron, RedRumsey and more.
Before I get even more misty eyed over the nineties, and Olympia flavoured punk supplements, it’s time for an obscure song Vern has enjoyed lately, cos he’s chosen his “song for ewe”…
IT’S OVER TO VERN:
“My song would be Steel Pole Bath Tub’s “Borstal”
Even after all this time, Steel Pole remains my favourite band and “Borstal “is still my favorite song. They reign over The Who, Kinks and Beatles as my other favourite bands. Dale did more to teach me bass than anyone.
THANKYOU VERN! STILL VITAL AFTER THESE YEARS.