Kurt Vile has paid tribute to his late bandmate Rob Laakso in a lengthy and touching post on Instagram following the latter’s death earlier this month.
Laakso, a guitarist and keys player who joined Vile’s The Violators in 2013 as a full-time member, died last week (May 4) from cancer at the age of 44. Rob Laakso is survived by his wife and their two children.
Kurt Vile has now uploaded a lengthy post on Instagram, reflecting on his relationship with Laakso. Vile wrote in the post, which features an image of the two musicians together: “Tributes are never easy but this one is just too close to the bone I guess.”
Vile continued: “Thank you to everyone who reached out. It’s been beautiful seeing all the nice things written about Rob, because yeah he was quiet but there was so much to him. Musical genius. Recording whizz. Best husband and father.”
He also addressed Laakso’s wife, writing: “Mamie-Claire we love you so much you’ve always been the greatest. All the things you’re writing are beautiful and killing me at the same time.”
“Rob and I worked close together on the albums B’lieve [I’m Going Down…] and Bottle [It In] (him coproducing many of the tracks alongside me, engineering often, playing many different instruments, slaying with ease.)”
“But Wakin [On A Pretty Daze] was his first full time violator record and you can see the shift to epic proportions from smoke ring to it. I’ve clocked in so many hours on the road and in front of amps with him but so have the violators Jesse first and Kyle later.”
Vile praised Laakso’s dedication to recording: “I often see the image in my mind of Rob shaking his hand in pain after playing the same two bass notes while I sang and played lead [guitar] on skinny mini for over 10 minutes (but every note from Rob solid as hell, what ya need). That was right after coming off a tour of the sea lice with Courtney [Barnett] where Rob was the glue (you were often the glue, brother).”
The tribute also includes Vile’s reflections on the last few times they recorded together. “By Watch My Moves, you were recording parts remotely from home but still nailed everything as usual… but I’m so grateful we did get you in person for a few epic nights while we recorded ‘say the word’ at Mant with Schnapf in LA: you in the control room playing bass next to me while I sung and played acoustic… the rest of the violators in the other room playing, the whole thing captured live.”
“Later you added those angelic backing vocals from home (‘Chaos Comin…’ Mary Lattimore’s favorite!)… strangely the only time you sang on a violators recording but now I find that cosmic and fitting and magic.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up on the Laakso family’s behalf, which you can donate to here.
Laakso contributed to a majority of Vile’s albums including 2013’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze, 2015’s B’lieve I’m Goin Down…, and 2018’s Bottle It In. Laakso most recently worked with Vile on his 2022 album Watch My Moves.
The musician also played in the shoegaze band Swirlies and the indie rock group Mice Parade.