Forever Got Shorter

The release of a double-disc retrospective and a new live album recalls Braid's all-too-brief history

No one told Bob Nanna that trying to watch 365 movies in a year was a good idea. In fact, most of his friends attempted to talk him out of it by trying to lure him out of the house and the theaters to do something -- anything -- else. But for Nanna, who spent six years as Braid's singer-guitarist before the band split up in August 1999, it was too late to stop. He and his then-roommate Brian Shortall found themselves involved in the contest almost by accident, the result of too much snow outside and a Blockbuster Video store located just around the corner from their apartment. Stuck inside for a few days at the beginning of last year with little to do but watch television, Nanna and Shortall realized they were on a pace to watch 365 movies by the end of the year.

It's the kind of thing most people would laugh off. But Nanna and Shortall decided to make a belated New Year's resolution: By the end of 1999, they both would have seen at least as many movies as there are days in a year. So, for the next 12 months, Nanna and Shortall watched movies whenever they could manage, starting with a triple-feature of Roger & Me, Wrongfully Accused and I Went Down. They endured six-movies-a-day marathons at gargantuan cineplexes, 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. runs that involved packed lunches and taunts of, "Hearing about you guys makes me happier about my life." When Nanna went on the road with Braid, he'd drag as many people as he could from whatever town he was in to the local theater, trying to keep up the pace.

And they made it, just barely. For Nanna -- a buff who says watching movies inspires him and who wonders why Cannonball Run II is on DVD, but the original, sadly, isn't -- the experience was fun. He was even excited about having such cinematic classics as Beverly Hills Ninja and Encino Man be a part of his year. But while Nanna is proud of his accomplishment, that doesn't mean he's going to try to top himself.

"At the time, we were like, 'No problem,'" Nanna says, remembering the contest's origins. "I don't know what we were thinking. What was hard for me was that I was going to go on tour for some of it. I was going to be in Japan -- how was I going to watch movies in Japan? And when I actually got home from Japan, I was 40 days behind in movies. That was in May. Around October and November, my friends were trying to intervene in the madness. They'd be like, 'Instead of going to see a movie or staying home and watching a movie, let's go do this' or something. We were just like, 'It's too late. We've come so far. The time for intervention was back in May, or even July,'" he says, laughing. "But we did it, and we did it even with a few days to spare. We ranked them, too. And it's something I will never, ever, ever do again."

Another thing Nanna will never do again: play with Braid, even though Polyvinyl Record Co. released a two-disc retrospective of the band, Movie Music Vol. One and Two, last week. Not that he didn't enjoy the six years he spent in the band, the hundreds of shows they played together, the three albums they recorded and the dozens of singles and compilations on which Braid appeared. Those were some of the best years of his young life, he says, and he'd do it all again in a second. And the new band Nanna, 24, is trying to get going features two of his former bandmates, bassist Todd Bell and drummer Damon Atkinson. Although his new group features three-fourths of his old one, it is not, he stresses, another version of Braid. The songs he played with Braid will never be heard again, nor will the ones he was writing when the band broke up. The group he was writing them for doesn't exist anymore, so the songs don't exist anymore, either, he says.

"They're dead," he says, simply. "There were never really finished songs, but there were three of 'em that I think we might've played once, but then. . . . We weren't really happy with them anyway. You know, they needed some work. There's a new band in the works, and that's what I'm putting all my efforts into right now. We'll probably play out or release something by summer, the end of summer. It's not a final lineup yet, but it's me and Todd, who was in Braid, and Damon, who was in Braid," Nanna says, laughing. "And someone else. I mean, obviously, you know, we got together and we started writing normally what the next Braid songs would probably sound like. But they're different enough to not be Braid songs. And especially once we bring someone else in, they'll evolve more, you know?"

Braid's split came as a surprise to some, but Nanna says it had been "brewing for a few months." While he's quick to point out that singer-guitarist Chris Broach's decision to return to school wasn't the reason the band broke up, he admits the decision did put a crimp in the group's plans. They wanted to record another album and "tour forever on it." They wanted to go to new places, like Brazil and Australia, and return to Europe and Japan. But, he says, "We wouldn't have been able to do that if Chris wanted to go back to school."

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