ROOM SERVICE Before the kids of America danced in groups of thousands, they danced alone to
bands like Braid.
With all of the attention being paid to the fashionable genre absurdities of EDM of late, it's been easy to overlook resurgence in the previous generation's youth music culture of choice: post-hardcore/emo. The past year alone has seen reunions from standard-bearers the Promise Ring, Refused, and At the Drive-In, as well as new music from seminal scene heroes Braid, who arrive reformed at the Middle East on Sunday.
When he and his bandmates began talking about recording together again, says guitarist and vocalist Bob Nanna, the reunion bug hadn't yet infected many of his contemporaries. The way he sees it, all of his bands, including Hey Mercedes — the post-Braid outfit he formed in 1999 — are always on hiatus. "Because if the stars align, and we can create music," Nanna says, "we'll take the chance and do it."
The stars aligned last year when band members found themselves in the same place together for the first time in years. The result was their 2011 EP Closer to Closed (Polyvinyl), a return to their intricate time signatures, math-rock textures, and call-and-response braying punk, but with a poppier edge. "It was so exciting," says Nanna. "When we were a band, we played 600 shows together, so it was like riding a bike." The writing came easily, and Braid are about to begin recording a follow-up full-length due out next year.
Braid's songs certainly made a big mark on the hundreds of groups that would crawl out of the Illinois band's early wake and go on to popularize the genre throughout the 2000s. Nanna says he doesn't spend much time thinking about that legacy — he's not writing his lifetime-achievement-award speech just yet. "I always feel like there's always more to be done," he says. "If nobody ever listened to another Braid song, or the new Braid songs, it's cool, but I'm still going to make them. . . . In terms of legacy or getting the proper due or whatever, I hear it a lot. Sometimes new bands have parts that sound like they were inspired by Braid, and it's cool, I like it, but I don't let myself get too carried away by it."
Today's punk and hardcore landscape is glaringly different than it once was, Nanna says, particularly now that the Warped Tour has presented kids with such a glut of bands from which to choose. He and co-vocalist/guitarist Chris Broach performed an acoustic set at the Chicago date of the festival earlier this summer, where Braid drummer Damon Atkinson is a production manager of the tour. "My God, there are so many bands, honestly 90 percent I had never heard of," Nanna says. "I catch glimpses of their stages, and kids are going nuts. It's awesome, but it's weird. At one point you're envious that these kids have access to all of this music, what they think is awesome — what I think of it doesn't matter — but all this music they like."