Posts Tagged ‘Losing’

Bully

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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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.

“‘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.


J. ERIC SMITH

Slow molasses drip under a tipped-up crescent moon.

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