Travis Nelsen, longtime Okkervil River drummer, dies

The cause of death is currently unknown

Travis Nelsen, drummer of Okkervil River from 2003-2010, passed away on Tuesday (April 7) his former band members confirmed.

Okkervil River broke the news in a statement on Instagram on April 9, writing Nelsen was “a radiant, hilarious, charismatic, generous, passionate human being with a heart that was completely open”.

“He played drums like no other person on earth. If you ever saw him play live you remember it — maybe more than anything else about the show,” the band said.

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“He was very very deeply loved by everyone in the Okkervil River family and by so many others. His family has very generously asked that in his honor you donate to Health Alliance for Austin Musicians or @myhaam, a wonderful organization that offers health care to working musicians living in Austin.”

A cause of death is currently unknown. Read their full statement below:

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Travis Nelsen, Okkervil River’s drummer from 2003-2010, passed away on Tuesday. He was a radiant, hilarious, charismatic, generous, passionate human being with a heart that was completely open and his special power was his ability to wrap his friends in love and to hurl himself out into the world with everything he had. And he played drums like no other person on earth. If you ever saw him play live you remember it – maybe more than anything else about the show. He was very very deeply loved by everyone in the Okkervil River family and by so many others. His family has very generously asked that in his honor you donate to Health Alliance for Austin Musicians or @myhaam, a wonderful organization that offers health care to working musicians living in Austin. The link is in our bio. Please offer your fond memories of Trav below. I know he would have gotten a big kick out of them. Love you forever Big Trav. #riptravisnelsen

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Travis Nelsen grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin, moving there when he was seven years old. He moved to the state’s capital, Madison, to study computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin in 1993. He switched to elementary education before dropping out to pursue music. Nelsen played in local pop punk bands with his brother Troy, including Coolhand Band, Quencher and Heavy Balls & the Flipoffs.

The drummer went on to join Okkervil River in 2003, after relocating to Austin and touring with the band’s Secretly Canadian labelmates, Swearing at Motorists. Nelsen played on three of Okkervil’s full length studio albums, including ‘Black Sheep Boy’, ‘The Stage Names’, and ‘The Stand Ins’. He was replaced by Cully Symington in 2011. Okkervil River released their last studio album, ‘In The Rainbow Rain’, in 2018.

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A memorial Facebook group set up by Nelsen’s friends and family has seen hundreds of messages, tributes and old photographs posted over the week.

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