Bob Nanna of Hey Mercedes
Tom Bastian

Bob Nanna - photo from

Tom: Could you give me a break-down of who is in the band, what they play and what band/bands they have been in previously?

Bob: I am Bob Nanna, guitar and vocals, previously in Braid, Friction, Sky Corvair, Orwell, and City on Film. Todd Bell, bass and vocals, Braid, Mary Me, Lowercase N. Mark Dawursk, guitar, Alligator Gun, Compound Red. Damon Atkinson, drums, Braid, Figurehead, Little Elvis, Altered State. Tom: Since Hey Mercedes is 3/4's of Braid's line-up why not just keep using the name Braid?

Bob: It was sometime during our last west coast tour that we started to get the feeling that Chris (guitarist of Braid) didn't want to tour anymore. He was very interested in going back to school (he had dropped out soon after he had joined the band). At that time, the three of us made the decision to keep playing together. At no time did remaining Braid ever come up. We had gotten so far and created a big name for ourselves and Chris was an important equal part in that. Hence, we just decided to leave the name Braid behind and pursue our new projects.

Tom: What are the major musical differences between the music of Braid and that of Hey Mercedes?

Bob: The biggest difference is the addition of a new guitarist into the fold (Mark). He is seriously one of the best guitarists I've heard and songwriting with him has been an amazing experience. Very positive. With Braid, we would throw together songs on a whim. With this band, we are trying very deliberately to take our time and wait for songs to naturally mature. Everything falls into place if you give it enough time.

Tom: Is music a full-time thing for all of you, or do you have other occupations or jobs besides the band?

Bob: Both. Music is a full-time thing, because it's on my mind constantly, even when I'm here at work! Unfortunately we all have jobs outside the band. I process stock certificates at a brokerage firm, Todd and Damon work at a bakery, and Mark works at a coffee shop. Do I want there to be a time when we don't have to work all day? Absolutely. To be able to devote all of my time to the one "work" that I truly love is an absolute dream. Do I ever see that happening? Yes, and not soon enough!

Tom: You just released a 4 song EP on Polyvinyl Records. Do you have plans for a full length? Would the full length also be released by Polyvinyl?

Bob: Yes, we have plans to release a full-length late spring 2001. It most likely will not be released on Polyvinyl. We love Matt to death; it's just that we'd like to talk to as many people as possible before making a quick rash decision. We're in talks.

Tom: With only having an EP out at this point, how many songs do you have available to play in your live set?

Bob: We have 12 songs, but we've only been playing 9 a set. The other three need some work before they're ready. We're also focusing on writing over the next two months. Our goal is to record 17 or so songs, and then pick the 12 best for the album.

Hey Mercedes - photo from
Tom: How long have you guys been playing together as Hey Mercedes?

Bob: Todd, Damon, and I have been playing on and off since October 1999. The first official Hey Mercedes practice was April of 2000. Our first show was August 2000.

Tom: Is it hard to play shows under the title "ex-braid"? Do people expect something that you're not?

Bob: One would assume so, but it really hasn't been that bad. Aside from getting falsely billed as "formerly Braid" or "aka Braid", it hasn't had too much of an effect. Obviously, being billed as "ex-Braid" will get some people interested and out, but people are overwhelmingly responsive to Hey Mercedes. The other day, I got recognized at a zoo as "the guy from Hey Mercedes". That felt pretty good.

Tom: What do you think about the current state of music? Do you like where it's headed?

Bob: Not to sound like an old foagie or anything, but the current state of popular music is a total disaster. I'd much rather listen to the 80's radio station or my Elvis Costello CDs than watch MTV or see whatever is on alternative radio. It's sickening. Conversely, I think that makes the time more than ripe for an underground explosion, and in that sense I like what's happening. Bands like Get Up Kids, Promise Ring, Jets to Brazil are getting huge without the support of the usual mainstream channels and this is very significant. Even the appearance of Get Up Kids and the Promise Ring on MTV was received with sparse fanfare.

Tom: Since most of you have probably had the opportunity to go out on the road and see most of the USA. What are your feelings on the current state of today's youth? Like as far as violence drugs, spirituality, etc. goes?

Bob: The kids that I run into every day at shows are usually the friendliest. This is a plus to being in a band that doesn't try and stir up overwhelmingly violent emotions or testosterone. I can honestly say (from experience) that these kids have got their heads on straight and the music that they listen to was a big part of it. Listening to punk rock music as a kid really opened my eyes to a lot of what I had been missing. I grew up in a middle of the road neighborhood in Chicago, and I saw first hand some messed up kids. That was over 15 years ago, and I don't think too much has changed. I'll just say that every kid should be open to that one enlightening experience, be it punk rock, cooking, or building houses.

Tom: For the young music fans that go out to see your band what is it that you want them to walk away from the show remembering?

Bob: I always want people to have fun at our shows, so in a perfect world, they'd walk away remembering how much fun they had and also, how much fun Hey Mercedes had. How fun.

Tom: Where do you get your own personal morals?

Bob: I grew up in Chicago and I went to a Catholic grade school and a Catholic High School. Even though I am not a practicing Catholic now, I'll always let people know how glad I am that I went the route that I did. (I guess I didn't really have a choice at birth!) Very early on, I had some doubts about my religious education, but overall, the experience provided me with a very positive outlook. When I started to get into punk rock, that only strengthened my morals and helped me develop into who I am now.

Tom: Do any of the members of the band hold any specific spiritual beliefs?

Bob: I can't speak specifically but we all are pretty spiritual people. Not religious, per say, but spiritual.

Tom: What is your opinion of religion in general?

Bob: I believe that in some instances, religion is very important. I had the opportunity recently to travel to Brazil with my girlfriend and go on some missions with her great aunt, who is a nun. It was just incredible the impact that this woman had on these people, who lived in such poverty. What really amazed me about her, was her focus and great care for the people. She runs fun youth programs for all of these amazing kids (who were so excited to meet us) and makes sure that everyone is staying healthy. We went with her to a gathering of young mothers in a village where all of the babies were weighed and examined. All of this centered around the staunch belief in their religion and it is literally keeping these people alive and positive. This is very very important.

However, there are a lot of people who use religion as a mask to harbor very negative feelings and actions. Whether it be towards homosexuals, criminals, gun control, birth control, some of the people that I have seen or heard have just staggered me with their narrow minded and negative viewpoints. That really infuriates me (and millions of others) and since when was the point of religion to infuriate? I see religion in a much more positive light when it actually physically helps people.

Tom: What are your feelings on Christianity?

Bob: They are very mixed. As I said before, I'm grateful that I was given the opportunity to see how it all worked, but I can't say that I was very happy with what I saw. There were just so many conflicting viewpoints from teachers in grade school and high school that at one point I just said "ok, I think the point of all this is: I am a free to think for myself and develop my own personal beliefs that are right for me." So that's what I did.

Tom: What are your feelings on bands such as Pedro the Lion, Huntingtons, Ghoti Hook, MxPx, POD and the Juliana Theory, just to name a few? Bands that many people feel don't belong in the "punk rock" scene due to their faith in Jesus Christ? For example many times I read in zines, hear at shows, or see on message boards (Jade Tree Board especially regarding Pedro the Lion) how the message of Christianity does not belong in "punk rock".

Bob: I think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and you should really know that the people that post on message boards aren't exactly the most trustworthy bunch. If they don't like what Pedro the Lion or MxPx is saying, then they shouldn't listen. I don't think your average Pedro the Lion fan even cares really about any Christian overtones as much as sports teams care about the homosexual overtones of Queen's "We Are the Champions!" When I say "doesn't care" I merely mean that the message there isn't so accusatory and in-your-face that the listener is going to blindly say "oh, gee, I should be a Christian." Or in Queen's case, "oh, gee, I should really be a homosexual." Give people some credit. It's just a DIY attempt to get a viewpoint across and people shouldn't let it affect them if they don't want it too. That's my opinion!

Bob: Thanks.
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