Posts Tagged ‘Bully’

A very old saying goes that no one saves us but ourselves. Recognizing and breaking free from the patterns impeding our forward progress can be transformative — just ask Bully’s Alicia Bognanno. Indeed, the third Bully album, SUGAREGG, may not ever have come to fruition had Bognanno not navigated every kind of upheaval imaginable and completely overhauled her working process along the way.

“There was change that needed to happen and it happened on this record,” she says. “Derailing my ego and insecurities allowed me to give these songs the attention they deserved.”

SUGAREGG roars from the speakers and jumpstarts both heart and mind. Like My Bloody Valentine after three double espressos, opener “Add It On” zooms heavenward within seconds, epitomizing Bognanno’s newfound clarity of purpose, while the bass-driven melodies and propulsive beats of “Where to Start” and “Let You” are the musical equivalents of the sun piercing through a perpetually cloudy sky.

On songs like the strident “Every Tradition” and “Not Ashamed,” Bognanno doesn’t shy away from addressing “how I feel as a human holds up against what society expects or assumes of me as a woman, and what it feels like to naturally challenge those expectations.”

But amongst the more dense topics, there’s also a lightheartedness that was lacking on Bully’s last album, 2017’s Losing. Pointing to “Where to Start,” “You” and “Let You,” Bognanno says “there are more songs about erratic, dysfunctional love in an upbeat way, like, ‘I’m going down and that’s the only way I want to go because the momentary joy is worth it.’”

The artist admits that finding the proper treatment for bipolar 2 disorder radically altered her mindset, freeing her from a cycle of paranoia and insecurity about her work. “Being able to finally navigate that opened the door for me to write about it,” she says, pointing to the sweet, swirly “Like Fire” and slower, more contemplative songs such as “Prism” and “Come Down” as having been born of this new headspace. Even small changes like listening to music instead of the news first thing in the morning “made me want to write and bring that pleasure to other people.”

An unexpected foray into the film world also helped set the table for Sugaregg when Bognanno was asked to write songs for the 2019 movie Her Smell, starring Elisabeth Moss as the frontwoman of the fictional rock band Something She. “It got me motivated to play music again after the last album,” she says. “I loved reading the script and trying to think, what music would the character write? People asked if I’d play those songs with Bully but the whole point was for them to not be Bully songs. It was nice to get my head out of my own ass for a second and work on a project for someone else,” she says with a laugh.

A highly accomplished engineer who ran the boards herself on the first two Bully albums, Bognanno was ready to be free “from the weight of feeling like I had to prove to the world I was capable of engineering a record, and wanted to be content knowing for myself what I can do without needing the approval of others to validate that.”

So for SUGAREGG, she yielded recording and mixing responsibilities to outside collaborators for the first time and trekked to the remote Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minn., an unexpected return to her home state. Behind the console was John Congleton, a Grammy-winner who has worked with everyone from St. Vincent and Sleater-Kinney to The War on Drugs and Modest Mouse. “Naturally, I still had reservations, but John was sensitive to where I was coming from,” Bognanno says. “He was very respectful that I’d never worked with a producer before.”

The studio’s rich history (classics such as Nirvana’s In Utero, PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me and Superchunk’s Foolish were recorded there) and woodsy setting quickly put Bognanno’s mind at ease. Being able to bring her dog Mezzi along for the trip didn’t hurt either. “I had never tracked a record in the summer, so waking up and going outside with her before we started each day was a great way to refresh,” she says.

SUGAREGG features additional contributions from longtime touring drummer Wesley Mitchell and bassist Zach Dawes, renowned for his work on recent albums by Sharon Van Etten and Lana Del Rey. Dawes and Bognanno met at Pachyderm to work on parts just two days before tracking, “but it ended up being so much less stressful than I had expected and I loved it,” she see says. “Zach wanted to be there to help and make my vision happen.”

With 14 songs on tape, Bognanno and friends left Pachyderm thinking SUGAREGG was done. But once back home in Nashville, she realized there was more to be written, and spent the next five months doing exactly that. Moving to Palace Studios in Toronto with Graham Walsh (Alvvays, METZ, !!!), Bognanno and Mitchell recorded “Where to Start” and “Let You,” which proved to be two of the new album’s key tracks.

Ultimately, SUGAREGG is a testament that profound change can yield profound results — in this case, the most expressive and powerful music of Bognanno’s career. “This is me longing to see the bigger picture, motivated and eager for contentment in the best way,” she says. “I hope the happy go lucky / fuck-it-all attitude shines through some of these songs because I really did feel like I was rentering a place I hadn’t been to in a while and was excited to be back there.”

releases August 21st, 2020

2020 Sub Pop Records

Alicia Bognanno channeled the 1997 Chumbawamba classic “Tubthumping” when it came to writing her new single, “Where to Start” The first song off of Bully’s upcoming third album, Sugaregg (out August 21 via Subpop records).

“I was listening to ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba and picking apart the melodic structure and sort of trying to mimic that,” Bognanno tells us. “I’m not even joking; it still makes me laugh to think about. But let’s be real, that is undeniably a solid song. ‘Where to Start’ addresses the frustration that comes along with love having the ability to fully control your mood and mental state for better or worse. It was therapeutic to funnel some lightheartedness into what can be an otherwise draining state of mind.”

“Where to Start” boasts Bully’s characteristic high-energy snarl, as growling guitars lead into Bognanno’s raspy-throated condemnation: “I don’t know where to start/I don’t know where to start with you.” Decidedly more jangly guitars then usher us all the way into the guts of the song — a mixture of sweet and sour, soft and frustrated.

Wow wow wow SUGAREGG is finally available for pre-order today and officially out August 21st. I spent the past 3 years working on this record and am so very excited, proud and terrified haha. Sometimes ya just gotta take a big leap, do all you can and hope for the best ya know what I mean? Anyhow the most greatest thanks to everyone involved: Wes Mitchell, John Congleton, Zach Dawes, Graham Walsh, Heba Kadry, Ryan Matteson, Madelyn Anderson, Tony Kiewel and everyone else whomst I absolutely adore at Sub Pop. More soon!

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Bully – “Where to Start” , Sub Pop records

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Bully and its frontwoman, Alicia Bognanno, have been getting Kurt Cobain comparisons since their 2015 debut, Feels Like. (It doesn’t hurt that she studied at the feet of Nirvana producer Steve Albini.) So hearing the Nashville band cover Nirvana is almost too obvious but, good God, is it glorious.

Their spin on 1989’s “About a Girl” strikes a perfect balance of raw and melodic, without ever sounding like the output of a cover band. Bognanno’s home-recorded production and instrumentation definitely capture the original’s energy: The guitars come in grunge-heavy before her voice slumps onto the scene, voice tearing on the high notes.

Still, it’s not just a skilled copy of a classic. She mixes in some experimental guitar squeals on the instrumental and a truly trippy solo that keeps the sound from going thoroughly Nineties. Plus, Bognanno differentiates herself from your average karaoke crooner with her stellar delivery. When she wails, “I’ll take advantage while/You hang me out to dry/But I can’t see you every night/Free” you almost forget that she was a kid when Cobain ripped through the track in 1993 for MTV’s Unplugged.

“I do” becomes a chanted mantra at the end of the song, before it ends abruptly, futuristic time-warp complete.

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Normally during this time I’d be running around trying to promote the upcoming record and rehearsing to get ready to tour again but given the circumstances I’m trying to work with what I can do at home alone. I picked a couple sub pop songs to cover to release something in the meantime. I played everything on these songs (for better or worse haha) and tracked them in my living room. Gotta do what ya gotta to spice it up sometimes. Anywho more soon!!
Released May 1st, 2020

While Bully’s 2015 debut ‘Feels Like’ tumbled headlong into the precarious nature of Alicia Bognanno’s young adult life, its follow-up Losing is their first for Sub Pop (which in many ways feels like their spiritual home; Bully’s sound is an outgrowth of the bands the label championed in the late ‘80s and ‘90s). Losing is a document of the complexity of growth: navigating breakups with sensitivity, learning not to flee from your troubles but to face them down no matter how messy they may be (“Well, this isn’t the summer I wanted,” she muses on “Blame,” before admitting that she’s trying to “cut down on booze and you”). Written as the group slowed down from touring constantly and Bognanno attempted to adjust to how different a home schedule is from a road schedule, her songwriting has matured from the quick one-two punches of Feels Like to tracks that contemplate the necessity of space in both song structure and emotion. Bognanno’s gruff yet dynamic voice is allowed to bloom, and it has a tenderness and openness to it here that’s new. There are multiple layers of wistfulness and care to her delivery of lines like “It just takes one disagreement for you to remember the one time I fucked up,” from “Spiral,” turning songs that could be one-dimensional kiss-offs into warm and complex expressions of regret.

The group returned to Electrical Audio in Chicago, another home for Bognanno, to record Losing. Their core—Bognanno, guitarist Clayton Parker and bassist Reece Lazarus—truly solidified during the process, a detail-oriented push for perfection in which each moving part was labored over and polished. Emily Lazar’s mastering adds the perfect cap to Bognanno’s engineering; this is a record that has both shimmer and heft. There’s power in the guitar attack, delicacy and toughness in the melodic hooks, precision in the drums, and backbone in the bass.

While Bognanno wouldn’t call this a political record, she doesn’t deny that the current political atmosphere and its urgency and tension haven’t shaped some of her ideas on this record, too—though she does not want that to be its focus. Mostly, this is an internal record, a universalized diary and an exorcism—not of any one specific demon, but of the host of them that characterize contemporary anxieties. Bully are growing up, sure, but their fire is in no way diminishing.

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The 12 new songs on Losing feel like perfect anthems for a generation still learning to harness the power of resistance. With a vocal style that is as pretty as it is powerful, and emotionally resonant lyrics, Alicia channels the loss of innocence and reveals a raw honesty in songs that are distinctly hers. I love Bully the way I love Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr and the Breeders.  A good reason to be with Sub Pop, who have always been associated with this type of music . Alicia says I feel like all my best work has been born of heartbreak and upheaval; maybe most musicians feel that way. “The title of the record – Losing – kind of says it all,” Alicia says. “After being on the road so long and coming back to Nashville we all had a lot of changes going on in our personal lives that we were trying to deal with / adjust to and that was really the motivation for this one.

“‘Cause what I want with you is none of your business,” Alicia Bognanno sings in a soft bedroom voice, layered above a repeating and driven guitar riff in the opening verse of “Kills to Be Resistant.”

This release off of Bully’s sophomore album, Losing, is not hard to identify with. The drums in this song lay down a foundation, perfectly mirroring Bognanno as she ebbs between gentle verses tip-toeing around the topic, and choruses riddled with gravel, grit and the pain that comes with accepting circumstances as they are. With just drums and bass to hold the words, Bognanno confesses, “When I’m alone, I stare at your picture,” a habit with which most of us are all too familiar. When the guitar riff comes back in for the bridge, it’s an embodiment of that cyclical, anxious thought process that’s attached to facing an end to or a shift in a relationship.

“It won’t stop / Do you feel nothing?” she asks in the chorus leading into an outro that matches the built-up frustration in the lyrics with dissonant chords and skillfully-played drum fills.

This is all anyone could have hoped for when anticipating new music from Bully. The sound is full, but nowhere near overly-complicated. Every necessary element is there, coming together to sound so effortless and raw. The only thing more to ask for is a ticket to a live performance.

Lately Alicia has been lending her voice as an advocate for gun control, women’s rights and speaking out in support of animal rights.

Bully frontwoman Alicia Bognanno was always drawn to music, but it wasn’t until she enrolled in a sound-engineering class her senior year of high school that she felt it was really something she could do. She enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University’s audio-engineering program, and was surrounded by music for the first time. It was there that she picked up guitar and taught herself to play by simply being around other musicians. After finishing school, she moved to nearby Nashville, joined a local band, and met Stewart Copeland. But she quickly found that singing someone else’s lyrics wasn’t what she wanted to do, so she and Stewart decided to star their own band. Bully was born.

With a new album that came out June 23rd. Recorded at Electrical Audio studios in Chicago . Alicia says, because I’d interned there in college and loved it, so I knew I would feel comfortable recording there. I wanted to mix the album myself, and I knew that I would have all the support I needed. We recorded everything on tape so every sound is just as it was recorded. There’s no pitch correct or anything like that—all of the sounds are real, and they were a moment that happened. I hope that people can appreciate that. And I hope that when people listen to the album they can connect to it in some way, that they’ll hear a lyric and say, ‘I’ve been there.'”

 

BULLY: “At first I was kind of nervous to share my songs with the band, especially when I wrote ‘Trying’ and with that line about waiting for my period. After I played that for them I said, ‘What do you guys think of that?’ and they said, ‘Definitely leave it in, it’s cool.’ And that kind of set the bar for how personal our music was going to be. It has been really positive.”

“I think we’re different from a lot of other bands, in that we don’t have a trendy sound— we don’t sound like other music happening right now. Not that we sound like we’re from another era, we just sound like Bully. And I think we take chances as far as being honest and getting really personal with our lyrics, which isn’t easy to do. It used to be easier to hide behind lyrics and write things that are more abstract, but it takes guts to be direct and say what you mean.” Check out Bully’s electrifying performance of “Trying” at SXSW.

Bully is putting out pretty much the only new rock album I care about this year. The Nashville band is fronted by Alicia Bognanno, a girl who is just as fearless when she’s screaming about her period over seething guitars as when she’s producing the group’s entire album new album “Feels Like”. There’s just something about the women that orchestrate their music to that level of detail, and with this amount of ferocity, that is completely exhilarating where so much of modern rock falters. “Too Tough” is a blood-curdling evisceration of male weakness. It flips the myth of masculinity’s tough-as-nails exterior over and exposes the toxic, cowardly underbelly. But you could never accuse Bognanno of sounding mad per se as she wails “You’re trying to wear me down.” Instead, she sounds like the rest of the incredibly tough women I know: tired of it. So she took up her guitar and wrote a song about that exhaustion. It courses with enough crackling power to buoy the rest of us. Later this month, Nashville rock group Bully will release one of the most accomplished debut albums of the year with “Feels Like”, a collection of alt-rock angst and thrillingly aggressive lyrics. “Too Tough” is one of the album’s most intense pleasures — and Billboard is giving it to you first. Listen to “Too Tough” below: Like the previously released track “Trying,” “Too Tough” finds Bully leader Alicia Bognanno oscillating between defeated warbles and enraged cries over a collection of chugging guitars. Bognanno also serves as Bully’s producer and engineer, and has given Feels Like a gritty sound to match her gleefully unhinged vocal performances.

“‘Too Tough’ was recorded at Electrical Audio,” says Bognanno of the Chicago studio owned by Steve Albini, “and is about people who don’t have the nerve to live up to mistakes they’ve made.”

“Feels Like” is due out June 23rd on Startime International/Columbia, and Bully has been on the road supporting Best Coast‘s latest tour,

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“‘Cause what I want with you is none of your business,” Alicia Bognanno sings in a soft bedroom voice, layered above a repeating and driven guitar riff in the opening verse of “Kills to Be Resistant.”

This release off of Bully’s sophomore album, Losing, is not hard to identify with. The drums in this song lay down a foundation, perfectly mirroring Bognanno as she ebbs between gentle verses tip-toeing around the topic, and choruses riddled with gravel, grit and the pain that comes with accepting circumstances as they are. With just drums and bass to hold the words, Bognanno confesses, “When I’m alone, I stare at your picture,” a habit with which most of us are all too familiar. When the guitar riff comes back in for the bridge, it’s an embodiment of that cyclical, anxious thought process that’s attached to facing an end to or a shift in a relationship.

“It won’t stop / Do you feel nothing?” she asks in the chorus leading into an outro that matches the built-up frustration in the lyrics with dissonant chords and skillfully-played drum fills.

This is all anyone could have hoped for when anticipating new music from Bully. The sound is full, but nowhere near overly-complicated. Every necessary element is there, coming together to sound so effortless and raw. The only thing more to ask for is a ticket to a live performance.

When Alicia Bognanno came forth with her debut album Feels Like under the pseudonym Bully in 2015, it was relatively easy to compare her lucid, diary-entry songwriting and throaty head-screams to dozens of 90s’ indie powerhouses.

These comparisons were appropriate at the time – Feels Like was 31 restless minutes of explosive indie guitar-rock, with a timeless appeal boasting 90s’ nostalgia and emotional self-revelations. But as time passed, Feels Like aged adequately, and each listen felt more refreshing than the last. Minute production details that were once unnoticed began to show – courtesy of Bognanno’s tenure at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studios in Chicago – and Feels Like became a vital document for heady 90s’ indie-rock revivalists.

Now two years wiser, Bognanno has returned with the follow up, and her Sub Pop debut, Losing – an album even more focused and emphatic than its predecessor.

US trio Bully like to mimic their live performance on record; a sound that’s frenetic, raw, vulnerable, and pulses with tension from start to finish. For frontwoman Alicia Bognanno, this year feels like the perfect time for the band’s return, with their sophomore record, Losing – the band’s first release with legendary label Sub Pop Records (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Sleater Kinney).

The same raw intensity that made fans fall under Bognanno’s spell in 2015 is still very much present, but this time around Bognanno sounds more self-assured. Whether it’s the muscular bass riffs on “Running,” the despairing chorus of “Feel the Same,” or the repetitive drum-rolls and cries on “Not the Way,” Bognanno is her finest and purest self on Losing.

Per usual, Bognanno’s perennial hooks and screams are felt with a stubborn sense of irritability and angst, ripping off old emotional band-aids in attempts to decipher the complexities of aging. Suffice to say, Alicia Bognanno is in her prime as a musician, songwriter, and producer, and somehow comes out of Losing better than before, proving herself as one of the most consistent and impressive artists of the decade.

‘Losing’ (Release Date: October 20, 2017) LP version of ‘Losing’ from the Sub Pop Records.

Bully is definitely not losing these days! Get it? Anyway, they are putting out a new album entitled Losing from the Sub Pop label and this is as in your face as their previous album Feels Like which was highly acclaimed. The difference between their previous album and Losing is going to be refinement and perfectionism. Their first album was gritty, angry and beautifully chaotic stemming from Alicia’s protest on the crap that is life. Losing is coming from a similar place and doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does polish it and give it new tires and such. Check out the single “Feel The Same” below and enjoy Bully. You can get the album at their Bandcamp site or from Sub Pop’s Mega Mart.

Limited edition Clear w/Black Swirl-colored vinyl LP, available while supplies last.


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