BULLY – ” Losing “

Posted: February 5, 2021 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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For Alicia Bognanno, the onset of each tour begins with a familiar ritual. She gathers her 16 distortion pedals (yes, you read that right: 16) and begins a process of elimination – “a distortion off,” as she likes to call it. Starting with a batch of five, she narrows down the winning gritty, aggressive tone and repeats the procedure until just three are left standing. And, as always, her Greer Amps pedal is triumphant.

“For some reason in my head I’ll be like, ‘What if I’m not maximising my pedal tone.’ I hate myself for saying that, but it’s true.” She laughs. “It’s just such a waste of time. I go through it and every time it’s the same. What the fuck am I doing?”

I suggest it has therapeutic benefits. “Clearly it’s doing something for my mental health. So yeah, that’s my relationship with pedals. Maybe we leave that bit out,” she jokes. The singer and engineer behind gritty punk act Bully eases into conversation gently. I can sense we’re both a little anxious, which is oddly comforting. She eagerly offers up pictures of her “ginormous” nine-year-old dog that she lives alone with in Nashville.

We discuss everything from the excess of over-the-top dudes doing pedal demonstrations on Youtube – “there’s a guy noodling on like a blues guitar and you’re like, ‘What the fuck?’ Like, does this translate? … He’s got his foot up on his amp, and it’s like, ‘Okay we get it’,” she says between laughter, – to the need for the representation of friendship between teenage women in film.

“I think that’s why Ladybird was cool. There’s so much you need from [those friendships]. Like talking about getting your fucking period and what’s supposed to be normal,” she explains. The track ‘Focused’ was written about her best friend growing up. She reflects on what they went through as teens; how they confided in one another when they couldn’t speak with their families. “As culture we’re told to hide our tampons when we’re walking to the bathroom, you know what I’m saying? When you’re kids you’re so embarrassed. You’re constantly being shamed for it in middle school,” Bognanno explains.

She misses the depth of those youthful, devious and playful friendships. “Even just having sex when you’re young and being called a slut. I mean, guys don’t get that. Ever. That’s an award for them.” She wishes these dynamics were examined with a greater degree of wisdom in film. And in a way that is truly accessible, so you’re not trawling through the deepest, darkest corners of Rotten Tomatoes to find a story that’s told well.

Having grown up in a small town in Tennessee, Bognanno didn’t start playing guitar until she was 20 after moving to Nashville. She wasn’t raised in a musical family. In fact, she was only exposed to one local band growing up. “Playing music was not a thing,” she explains. She dabbled with piano at home, but found the instrument limiting. “I was really bad,” Bognanno says, comparing it to sounding like the soft and polished pop singer-songwriter, Sara Bareilles.

When she first picked up an electric guitar, her music started to translate into the gritty, high-velocity punk that it was destined to be. “I got my first SG when someone was like, ‘If you can fix this, you can have it.’ And it was just a soldering point in the input jack that was messed up, so I was like, ‘Perfect’,” she says.

She’s noted a sense of imposter syndrome in previous interviews. Asked if this feeling remains, she says it does, but Bognanno is thankful for the team behind Bully and their manager, Ryan Matteson. “[He’s] constantly just like, ‘You’re worth more than that’,” she explains. “I’m [consistently] just in this headspace where I’m like, somebody is going to say what I’m doing isn’t fair or that I don’t do deserve what I’m getting, which I do. I work my fucking ass off.”

Bully have been constantly on the move, having played at least 85 shows across the States, the UK and Europe,

Asked how guitarist Clayton Parker, bassist Reece Lazarus, and herself prevent burn out on tour, she explains, “We are really independent. I think when we’re touring around other bands they get confused, because we’ll just get to places and scatter … Everyone really likes their alone time.” Small acts of thoughtfulness helps to ease tension. “It’s like, don’t crack open a hard boiled egg in the van,” she says, laughing. “We went out to band dinner last night. It’s a lot of silence, but it’s good – it’s the thought that counts.”

Her songs have always been personal, and instilled with whatever anxieties were playing on her mind at the time of writing. However, after Trump’s election, she decided to be more outright. “The election in the states, whether or not it was intentional or subconscious, definitely affected everybody’s art,” she says. “It’s just built up the need to more vocal about everything in general.

“There was a lot of stuff that I kept more personal because I didn’t feel like I needed to talk about it, like my sexuality and stuff,” she explains. “I’ve brought it up this year because it’s just like, let’s just make a safe space for everybody … I think people are just searching for that connection a lot more.”

As for how she’ll connect with her audiences in the future, we’ll have to wait and see: Bully are currently working with five new songs, and Bognanno plans to start demoing fresh material from mid this month to September. “[Whether or not I’ll] think those songs are total garbage in five months is still up in the air.”

“Losing” is out now through Sub Pop Records

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