For the past decade-plus, Rob Laakso was a key component of Kurt Vile’s band The Violators, juggling instruments from guitar to synth to bass and generally helping form the bedrock of the ensemble’s singular soundscapes. Tragically, the Boston-rooted musician passed away last Thursday, May 4th, from cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of bile duct cancer. He was 44 years old.
Yesterday, Vile shared a heartfelt post on social media paying tribute to his friend and collaborator, noting his admiration of Laakso’s old band The Wicked Farleys, as well as his work in the seminal Massachusetts psychedelic indie rock band Swirlies, to his time as a Violator — joining as a live member around 2011’s Smoke Ring For My Halo, coming on board as a studio member for 2013’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze, and being a fuller production collaborator on 2015’s b’lieve i’m goin down… and 2018’s Bottle It In.
“…but Wakin 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,” Vile wrote, saying that Laakso “was quiet but there was so much to him. Musical genius. Recording whizz. Best husband and father.”
Read Vile’s full post here; it continues from the caption into the comments. Laakso’s family is running a GoFundMe campaign to cover the cost of his cancer treatment; read more and contribute here.