Sometimes the best ideas derive from the ability to see something from two angles, and Bully serves as example. Before frontwoman Alicia Bognanno, crafted her crucially honest tracks and husky chorus lines, she was pursuing a four-year degree in audio engineering 30 minutes outside of Nashville at Middle Tennessee State University. The interest, which first budded as a high school senior in an audio class, eventually landed her an internship recording artists at Steve Albini’s studio, Electrical Audio. This past year, she returned to Electrical Audio for a much different experience: to record her own material for Bully’s soon-to-be-released album, Feels Like.
“Sometimes when working with other people’s stuff, it’s tricky to really know what they’re asking for. It’s nice to fly pass that whole bridge,” Bognanno said. “I think that I’m a little more laid back when it comes to my own stuff because I know that I don’t really want perfection necessarily.”
That raw nature powers every aspect of Bully’s style, from the blood boiling paced guitar riffs of “Milkman” to the all too familiar feeling of “Brainfreeze” where Bognanno surrenders memory of not being able to bear looking at a person in the room.
Coming from a family with little musical knowledge, her Minnesotan parents were skeptical of her sudden inspiration to take on an education in toying with sounds in a booth, but in Tennessee, Bognanno found a community that shared the spark.
“It’s nice to have friends who are going through the same things and can be there for advice, opposed to the place where I grew up, Rosemount, Minnestoa, where I go back in my van and people are like ‘What’s happening? Why do you have that?’”
Coming off a tour with Nashville friends, Jeff The Brotherhood , Bully will head out to join Best Coast, and appear quite a bit throughout the festival circuit, including Pitchfork, Hopscotch, Pop Montreal, and our very own Boston Calling. Bognanno perked up at the opportunity to mention Bully’s festival experiences. Considering that Bully’s first full length album will be released this month, the band is still pretty fresh-faced and much for many, festivals stand as their first exposure to Bully.
“When we played Bonnaroo last year, it was awesome. A lot of Bonnaroo is electronic, which is totally cool, too, but sometimes people wind up liking Bully because we’re not. It’s just kind of a different thing. We don’t really sound like a band that would play a bunch of festivals, but when we end up playing them, it usually goes over pretty well.”
Sonically, Bully draws in a crowd with a catchy mix of bright and dark tones, but it’s also difficult not to awe at Bognanno’s extension of confidence. The straightforward approach to stating the many thoughts that come with anxiety of living, takes the listener back with a wonder of the courage it takes to take a handle of such realism. Bogananno has admitted to being a little skittish when initially sharing lyrics like those off the new single, “Trying”, where Bognanno soars through the line, “I question everything, my focus, my figure, my sexuality.”
“In a sense, the first time that I sang them at band practice was when they were drawn to my attention, but probably now is when I notice them the most because everybody points them out,” she said. “I thought that they were pretty honest, briefly, but didn’t think too much about it. I remember when ‘Trying’ came out, it was just drawn to my attention a lot more. Now, I probably notice the most.”
Catch Bully on Friday, June 12th at The Paradise while they support Best Coast, and don’t forget to check out their new album, Feels Like, on June 23rd. Bognanno mentioned that she listened to Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville, among other classics, while writing, so it’s just bound to be great!