Gared O’Donnell, singer and guitarist for the influential post-hardcore band Planes Mistaken for Stars, died on November 24 following a battle with cancer. He was 44 years old. The band confirmed the news on Instagram, writing, “It is impossible to express the depth of sorrow in which we must announce that Gared O’Donnell, our brother, our leader, our captain, who has done more to cultivate love and light in this world than any of us can understand, has moved on from his physical form here with us and crossed the rainbow bridge into the eternal ether. In his final days/hours, he was surrounded by the love of his family, his friends, his bandmates, and many others from afar.”
In August 2020, O’Donnell announced that he had been diagnosed with Stage 3 esophageal cancer. In a statement and GoFundMe campaign launched with the announcement, the band’s manager Emily Francis said that the cancer was inoperable.
In 1997, O’Donnell co-founded Planes Mistaken for Stars in Peoria, Illinois, alongside guitarist Mat Bellinger, drummer Mike Ricketts, and bassist Aaron Wise. After releasing a self-titled EP and a 7-inch, the band relocated to Denver, Colorado. They issued their debut album Fuck With Fire on No Idea Records in 2001, following it in 2004 with Up in Them Guts.
After releasing their third album Mercy in 2006, the group disbanded until 2010, at which point they resumed occasional touring. O’Donnell’s final album with the group was their fourth record, Prey, released in 2016.
In their statement, Planes Mistaken for Stars revealed that O’Donnell was working on new music in private and they hope to share it in the future. “Gared spent the last year of his life doing exactly what he loved, writing and recording music,” the band’s statement continues. “We are currently working hard to bring these multiple final projects to completion. It is heartbreaking to do this without him, but we know that he would want for us to complete what we had started together. We will do our absolute best to honor his legacy and spread word of the legend that he embodied.”
Artists including Touché Amoré, Pianos Become the Teeth, and La Dispute have paid tribute to O’Donnell, noting his influence on the punk and emo scene at large. “Wouldn’t be who I am today without the presence of Planes and of Gared in my life over the last 20 years, as an artist and a person,” tweeted La Dispute. “The debt is deep and unpayable, and many of us share it. Requiescat. We ride to fight.”