Neal Langford, Former Bassist of The Shins, Dies at 50

Neal Langford, former bassist of The Shins has died. He was 50. Langford was found in the water near a private dock in Bath, North Carolina on Friday (July 21), according to a report by a local NBC affiliate in NC, and that foul play was not suspected. No cause of death was revealed.

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The Shins’ singer James Mercer confirmed Langford’s death on the band’s official Instagram page.

“Just want to let you guys know one of the best friends I’ve ever had has passed,” wrote Mercer, along with a black and white photo of Langford playing on stage. “He was in several bands with me including the Shins. A very important figure in my life you could say. I mean this is the guy who talked me into getting over my shyness and up on the stage. He put me in front of the microphone.”

Mercer added, “He was the catholic school kid who showed me how to sneak into the back of the old El Rey theatre and get a “free” beer. An invaluable person. Who turned me onto Dinosaur Jr. and Interview Magazine and the Cocteau Twins and countless other piles of cool stuff. He would pick me up in his stepdad’s El Camino and we’d listen to his latest mixtape. With our swerve on. Driving when we probably shouldn’t have been. Where we shouldn’t have been. We were like that. A long time ago.”

Before The Shins, Mercer and Langford played together in a band called Flake—later renamed Flake Music—in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1992. Together, they released one album When You Land Here, It’s Time to Return in 1997 while The Shins were developing as a side project by Mercer and Flake Music drummer, Jesse Sandoval.

In 1999, Langford joined The Shins after Flake Music disbanded, and in time to play on the band’s 2001 debut, Oh, Inverted World, which peaked at No. 19 on Billboard‘s Top Alternative Albums chart and was later certified platinum by RIAA.

The band’s lead single “New Slang” was later featured in the 2004 romantic comedy Garden State, starring Natalie Portman,  Peter Sarsgaard, and Ian Holm.

Langford left The Shins before their second album Chutes Too Narrow in 2003, and would not appear on any subsequent albums by the band since then.

“There’s too much to the story, but I loved him,” Mercer said at the end of his post on Langford. “And I owe him a lot. Neal Langford, you were always loved and you always will be.”

In June 2023, Langford, who was also a well-known hot air balloonist and co-owned of IBX Balloon Flight, revealed in a final post on Instagram that he had completed a treatment program at Walter B. Jones Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Center in Greenville, North Carolina.

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