I first heard Braid while I was a student at Kenyon College. Unfortunately, the band released what would be their final album during the second semester of my sophomore year. The following fall, songs like "Killing a Camera" found their way into my weekly radio broadcast from WKCO's basement studio. At age twenty, the urgency and immediacy of Braid's music was important to me, and listening to Frame and Canvas now, I can still understand its appeal. After a 13 year absence, Braid reunited last year to record the Closer to Closed EP, available now for pre-order from Polyvinyl Records. Guitarist and vocalist Bob Nanna made time to talk about drug-sniffing dogs, the loneliness of the road, and his future touring aspirations in my fourth installment of the Two Minute Interview.
- As a band that's played 597 shows (and counting) in dozens of states and countries, how do you think travel has influenced your musical development? It definitely has but not in a direct musical way. So often when you're touring around the states or other countries even though the cultures can be drastically different, the music still is very similar, very familiar. If anything, all of the traveling makes us more rounded people in general, more rounded bandmates and songwriters, having new experiences all the time.
- When you were abroad, were there specific things from the US that you missed more than others? When Braid was in Europe, we did almost three months over two trips in 1998. This was before the internet was ubiquitous. If you wanted to call home to talk to your girlfriend, family, spouse, etc, you had to wait in line at pay phones cause we ALL did. That was the worst thing. Just missing the people, especially during the tougher times. You couldn't just get on your cell phone or laptop and "Skype it out." You felt a lot more isolated. Things have changed!
- Describe something surprising, humorous, or disappointing that happened in your travels. I used to keep really detailed journals of all of our tours and I still have them. I haven't looked back at them recently though. I do recall during our first European tour getting stopped at almost EVERY border crossing, having to unload the vans and let the dogs go sniffing. One particular crossing, I believe at the Czech Republic, we were searched and the guards found a grungy Ziploc bag of vitamins in Todd's bag. I remember him flexing his muscles at the guards and saying "Make you strong!"
- Many groups compose songs while touring—during sound checks, in the van, etc. Is that also true for Braid? If so, which songs came to life that way? Yes, for sure. We haven't written songs on the road in awhile but we used to do it all of the time. If there was downtime at someone's house before a show, Chris and I would pull out the guitars and start working on something. "Never Will Come For Us" in particular was written primarily on the road. We would also do fun stuff like swap band members with touring partners to create different bands that would play a song at the evening's show.
- As a fan, do you have any enduring concert-going memories? Who did you see and where? Of course! My favorite show ever was seeing Jawbreaker at McGregor's in Elmhurst, Illinois in 1992. I left that show completely moved and exhausted! Another memory I like was when Hey Mercedes all went to see The Notwist at the Metro in Chicago. We all paid full price for the tickets and stood together and just took it all in.
- Do you look forward to touring, seeing new cities through the eyes of a working musician, or would you rather be writing and recording from the comforts of home? Have you been introduced to other great bands while on tour? I love traveling a little more than "touring" if that makes sense. If I could just tour around like a band and do everything a band does other than playing and selling merch, it'd be like heaven! So in that sense, yeah I look forward to getting out there, away from home for awhile, but I do find it easier to write in the comforts of home. Using the travels as inspiration of course. And we're always learning about new bands on tour. The aforementioned Notwist for example was introduced to us when we were in Germany in 1998. A friend gave us a cassette for the van and said "this is the best band in Germany right now." We listened to it constantly!
- You returned to Canada, Europe, and Japan a few times as a band. What are some of the most memorable places you performed and why? Where would you go back first now? We were super fortunate to be able to travel to all of those places on numerous occasions so in terms of memories, I'd say the first time we were in each of them. I'm most proud of the outlying areas we were able to hit—Halifax, Croatia, Hawaii all come to mind. While I'd love to go back to those places, I'd be more interested in places Braid hasn't gone: Australia, Brazil, Alaska even!