It was one of my first days working at Wax Trax, and I was talking to Duane Davis," recalls Jimmi Nasi. "It was a slow moment, and I just said something about liking Journey, and he pretty much fell off his stool laughing. Then he said, 'That is the first time anyone has ever admitted to liking Journey at Wax Trax, in these hallowed halls.'"
This was in the first half of the '90s, and Nasi was still playing bass in the locally revered alt-rock band the 40th Day. But his musical roots didn't exactly begin with a steady diet of Joy Division and Comsat Angels. "The first concert I saw was KISS in '77," Nasi remembers. "I had begged my parents the year before, and I couldn't stop bugging them until they finally said yes, and then a friend's dad took us to see them at McNichols arena.
"Before that, I saw the Paul Lynde Halloween special and I knew," he continues. "I was like, 'That's what I want to do with my life.' From that moment, it never changed. I read Spiderman comics, nothing else, and my parents listened to the Beatles, and my favorite Beatles song is 'Day Tripper,' one with really heavy guitar, and on TV, there was Spiderman playing the Beatles. That's what KISS is, essentially: rock and roll and a comic book."
I'm a Boy
I'm a Boy, with Thief River, Fleeting Matters, Medicine Jones and Joey Michel, 6 p.m. Saturday, October 20, Herman's Hideaway, 1578 South Broadway, $4-$8, 303-377-5840.
Nasi started playing guitar at age five, when his dad sat him down and taught him a couple of John Denver songs on a family acoustic. By fourth grade, Nasi had talked his parents into getting him a Japanese copy of a Gibson Les Paul — the same instrument played by his guitar hero, Ace Frehley (though Nasi identified more with the Starchild, Paul Stanley). "I would listen to Alive and soak it in," Nasi remembers. "Electric guitars are the sound of excitement." Musically, he was more aligned with the super musicianship and overall image of the power-pop band Cheap Trick. "Rick Nielsen had a kind of mystery about him, and he was sort of a geeky guy," Nasi points out. "I was a Woody Allen fan, too, so Rick Nielsen was the perfect kind of rock-and-roll nebbish."
During high school, Nasi formed Screaming Locusts on Diving Boards, a band that drew a bit more from the new-wave music his brother Steven enjoyed. "We were in Westword's Best of Denver in 1987," he notes with a laugh, "for best-named band." That outfit went on to win a high-school battle of the bands, followed by a songwriting contest with the now-defunct radio station KPKE. During that time, Nasi also saw a good number of shows at the legendary Rainbow Music hall, a mere half-hour walk from his childhood home.
Then one fateful day, Nasi was at work and met a guy slightly older than him, a drummer by the name of Sid Davis. "We started talking," Nasi recalls, "and he said, 'Yeah, we have this band called the 40th Day, and we're going to play at DU if you want to come.' They were great, and they had Screaming Locusts open for them at Cafe Alternative." One of the band's members, Todd Howell, took Nasi's band under his wing and ultimately recruited him to play bass for the 40th Day, telling Nasi, "I love you guys because you're like the Replacements minus the drugs and alcohol."
Replacing future Sissy Fuzz bassist Jody Schneider, Nasi found himself in a kind of cult band that didn't necessarily have as much draw as some of the bigger names of the day, including Jux County, Twice Wilted and, later, Sympathy F. Because of the affability of its membership and the quality of its songs, however, the 40th Day landed some prime opening slots in an era when that sort of thing wasn't so commonplace, including warming up for Smashing Pumpkins on that band's tour for Gish in August 1991.
The 40th Day was on the brink of signing to a management deal when singer Shawn Strub quit the band. "We realized pretty quickly," says Nasi, "that those guys weren't interested in us with another singer." Nevertheless, the group carried on and auditioned other singers, eventually bringing Tammy Ealom on board; Ealom, of course, went on to later fame with Dressy Bessy. But after what ended up being a final tour, Nasi parted ways with the band he'd joined nearly a decade prior. "Tammy and I drove to Austin," recalls Nasi, "and the rest of the band drove home."
In the fall of 1995, Nasi moved to New York, where he worked as a barista for roughly nine months in midtown Manhattan. But then he got an offer from his old friend and studio engineer Kyle Jones to move back to Colorado and live in a room at his house. Nasi took him up on the offer and was soon writing his own songs with more conscious intention.
"I was nervous about the lyrics," he says, "because I had been in a band with great lyricists in the 40th Day." Even so, Nasi persisted, writing songs for a demo recorded by Jones. Within a year, however, he and his significant other, Christy, moved to L.A. after Nasi started playing music with aspiring pop/rock star Toddy Walters. During his time in L.A., he played on one of Walters's records and hooked up with a band called Ghetto Blaster. That band had management and even garnered a record deal with Elektra before being dropped before the first album could be released.
Switching up management, Ghetto Blaster somehow got a second record deal, only to be dropped that time as well. It seemed to be a good time for Nasi to return to the Mile High City. "I never feel quite right being away from the family and friends and all the drama that really sort of drags you down in a lot of ways," muses Nasi. "But that's your family and your friends, and I felt pretty strongly about coming back home."
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In 2003, Nasi ran into an old friend, John Shipe, during a solo show he was playing at Old Curtis Street Bar. Shipe still had his drum set, and the two soon started working on songs. Around the same time, Nasi saw Dearly Beloved, an outfit that included another friend, Whitney Rehr. The band was without a bassist at the time, and Nasi offered to fill in. He and Rehr talked, and she revealed that she had been wanting to play bass in a band, too. Nasi, Rehr and Shipe got together and formed a trio, and a few years later, I'm a Boy played its first shows.
This year marks Nasi's first release of a full-length album since 1992's Lovely Like a Snake with the 40th Day. Sensation has all the hallmarks of the music Nasi grew up loving and coming to love as an adult: textured melodies like those you'd hear in an R.E.M. song, or something by the Beatles but with the occasional punch of a Cheap Trick, or the Who with Lou Reed's flair for literary lyrics. It has the sound of a mature rock record without the sense of surrendering to the inevitable compromises of adulthood.
"I guess basically what we're talking about is just years and repetition of the act," Nasi concludes. "The act of writing songs, the act of playing guitar, the act of recording — I think it's in the grooves."