Jon Bunch Lives on in the Memories of His Friends

Last week, we reported the death of charismatic frontman Jon Bunch, who passed away tragically at age 45. More than just a singer for Sense Field and Further Seems Forever—which left a lasting mark on the emo and hardcore community—Bunch proved himself to be a loved and respected staple of our local music community in bands like War Generation and his latest project Lucky Scars. In talking with friends and former bandmates, it’s clear that the tender and genuine soul that Bunch strained into his lyrics and his unmistakably melodic vocals was the same one he walked around with every day of his life. Looking through the eyes of those who knew him, we see the young optimist who kept creating through the various ups and downs of his career, and in the end touched countless people with his life and music. This weekend, funeral services for Bunch will be held at Forest Lawn in Glendale followed by a memorial show at the Echoplex. In honor of Bunch’s life, the Weekly talked to a few people who knew him well over the years.

Rich Labbate [Played in bands Insted and Lidsville and was a long time friend of Bunch]

I’ve known him for 30 years. We were close friends, we grew up together, played in bands together, my first band took his first band on his first tour. I was in a band called Insted and his band at the time was called Reason to Believe. That was 1989, We did that and became really good friends through that. When Reason to Believe broke up he formed Sense Field and when Insted broke up, my new band Lidsville and Sense Field played most of our shows together so we really shared the music scene together in OC and LA.

One of the first things we ever did together while we were on tour with Jon’s band, we got to a place in Florida and [Sense Field] got to the place before us. They were touring in an SUV with a UHaul attached to it. We decided to detach their UHaul from their SUV and hide it around the corner so when they came out thy thought it got ripped off. So that was sort of an icebreaker between our two bands. But we had a lot of fun on the road, we had firework wars on the road because they weren’t illegal or anything at that point. We’d buy a ton of them and shoot ‘em at each other whenever we had a chance. Sharing the road with them and sharing the stage with them was really a pleasure and I had deep conversations with Jon about life and things we believed in. We got each other through some really dark times and big celebrations, the highs and lows…we were always really supportive of each other’s music, there was never any competition between either of our bands. We always did shows together with Lidsville and Sense Field because our fans shared the love for both of us so it was a nice combination for people to come see.

When he started his band War Generation, he’d taken a break from music prior to that while he was working for me at and going to school and studying history, he wanted to be a teacher. And I always encouraged him to get back into music, even if he didn’t have a band, he could play acoustically with all the songs he had from his former bands. But eventually he started this new project and they did a record. Anytime he was doing music that’s when he was really his happiest. Looking at it now that he was gone, he was here to make those songs and touch people’s lives, to experience being a husband and a father.

Rodney Sellers [guitarist in Reason to Believe, Sense Field]

During the signing frenzy with Sense Field, different labels were flying us all over the place. We hadn’t signed with anyone yet so everyone was trying to get us. This one time we were at the Sony Club, this super exclusive restaurant at the top of the Sony headquarters in New York. It was kinda stressful, there were all these waiters serving us and executives in fancy suits and we were all kinda nervous. [During the lunch] one of the industry people said something about Miramax and Jon though he said IMAX and he’s like “oh yeah we love those movies, don’t we guys?” Right after that he took a sip of his drink through one of those little plastic stir straws. It was kind of a classic one-two Jon punch…it was kind of a bummer after we ended up signing with Warner Bros and things went south. But I gotta tell ya, leading up to it was one of the coolest times of my life. We were getting flown all over the place and playing these sold out shows. We played CBGBs for this [Revelation Records] show and none of the corporate label guys could get in because the kids all bought their tickets early. So there’s all these guys in suits standing out in the street. It had to be impressive to them if they couldn’t even get in. 

Brett Rasmussen [Bassist for Ignite, toured with Bunch who took over as their singer briefly in 2012]

Jon saved our butts basically. [In the summer of 2012] we had a tour that was slated to happen in less than a week and our singer [Zoli Teglas] injured his back while he was singing with Pennywise and they had to cancel their last few dates. We were stuck and contemplating what to do and we had to tour. We talked to Jon and he told us he knew of the band but when we got together the first night he admitted that he’d never heard a song before. His biggest concern was making sure it was gonna sound right and he was always really concerned about representing the band the right way and making Ignite fans excited. Jon worked really hard that week and we rehearsed for eight hours a day for the whole week.He really crunched the amount of time he had.

It was cool going out on tour with him because he had such a positive vibe and he was so happy to be out there. It’d been a couple years since he was on the road. He was as grateful to us for the opportunity as we were to him for basically coming out and enabling us to do this tour. I’d met him a couple times before but never got to know him personally before he joined the band. He had a really amazing soul and a lot of love and a lot of love for people in music. I always called him a gentle giant. He was this “6’6 guy with a really imposing aura and when you talked to him he had so much love in his heart.

Casey Jones [Longtime punk and hardcore musician and childhood friend of Bunch]

I told his mom recently that when I was 15 in the very first band I was ever in, we played this place called the Olympic Auditorium, it was this notorious old, huge venue in LA where they had all these massive punk shows. We played there once, my band opened up Wasted Youth and Jon was there, he was one of the only guys I still knew who was at that show because that place probably held 3,000 people but there were only like 50 people there when we opened the show at 6p.m. But Jon was there. And I didn’t even know him well then. But if I was 15 years old, he was barely pushing 13 or something. So I was telling his mom that indirectly I was responsible for Jon officially sneaking out of your house one night to go to some grimy concert in LA. And without a pause she goes “no I drove him to that show at the Olympic, I wanted to see what was going on down there and why all you kids wanted to go down to the Olympic Auditorium. So I went in there and, do you remember the guy with the Orange mohawk? And I laughed and said I don’t think that really narrows it down too much for that crowd. That kinda said a lot about Jon, to hear that his mom encouraged that and drove him down there, it just made sense because of the way Jon was, that his upbringing would be someone supporting him and his creativity.

Garrett Klahn [vocalist/guitarist for Texas is the Reason]

I met Jon in 1993 when I was still living in Buffalo New York before I even started Texas is the Reason. I started booking shows in Buffalo and one of the shows we booked was Sense Field and they came in the dead of winter. When they pulled up to the venue and got out of the van it was like seeing living giants. Not only because they were all pretty big guys. But for a bunch of teenagers in snowy Buffalo, New York, Sense Field’s music and their vibe and Jon’s voice…I had an instant connection with him before I knew him. With their long hair and California vibe it was such a trip for us…they were the soundtrack to the end of my teenage years and they were the background score to my first real memories of living in New York.

Our first tour with Sense Field we covered a lot of ground and it was such a treat to be out with them and learning from them, literally studying them from the side of the stage just slack jawed going “oh, okay so that’s how you do it.” I can’t think of many other singers from our world that had the kind of presence that he did. He would just take over every fuckin room. It wasn’t limited to just the stage. He was always interested in what you were up to.

My relationship with Jon was forged in strange cities and on the road. There’s a certain kind of camaraderie that comes with that and I’ve been blessed to share that with a number people with the path I chose in my life. I just kind of ran away with the gypsies, the hardcore, indie rock, emo gypsies. But over the years, in however many failed projects or bands I’ve been in since Texas is the Reason, anytime I went to California or anywhere near Los Angeles, Jon came to see me. It was always guaranteed, whether there were 15 people in the room or 100, Jon would be there.

We didn’t keep in touch that much aside from inside jokes on Facebook or a couple texts here and there, but we could just pick up wherever we left off. It was always like old times with him and I. Those formative years from 19-22, that’s when I was running with him. He was about 4-5 years older than me so just by default I looked up to him. He was this older, wise sage from the west coast with this long, curly hair and he definitely shaped and helped me. He made it okay to sing about love and life and the sea and the wind and now he is all those things. There’s so much heaviness to those lyrics, they were heavy when I was 19, like oh my god, where did this guy come from? I’m 41 now and I can barely  listen to him to be honest, I’m just taking it song by song lately.

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